So what is a “community organizer,” anyway? Essentially, a troublemaker. The media haven’t been eager to examine Obama’s role as a community organizer, perhaps because, the more you know, the worse it sounds, and the more it convinces you that Obama’s political orientation is not just liberal but radical. Paul Mirengoff illuminates Obama’s connection to Saul Alinsky and his influential and destructive book Rules for Radicals.
But the more intellectually legitimate (and telling) critique centers on the radical nature of the community organizer role Obama took on. In the neighborhoods of Chicago, there’s nothing nebulous about this job. In that context, “community organizer” has a very specific meaning, one set forth almost 40 years ago by the Marxist agitator Saul Alinsky in a work called “Rules for Radicals.”
In his book about Obama, David Fredosso connects the dots between Alinsky, who died in 1972, and Obama. A friend of Alinsky’s, Jerry Kellman recruited Obama into community organizing. Kellman spoke at the Democratic convention. As a community organizer, Obama studied the principles set forth by Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals.” In essence, Alinsky preached that class hatred, which had worked so well in radicalizing the European working class, was not well-suited for the U.S. The idea, therefore, was to create and fuel resentment in more subtle ways based on specific local grievances presented in less overly ideological terms. Alinsky, who sought to dress up the revolution in suits and ties, wanted to use the idioms, legends, and anecdotes of the masses, rather than relying on a foreign ideology.
Alinsky’s influence on Obama is most plainly demonstrated by a key quotation from “Rules for Radicals,” in which the old lefty explained why the European model for radicalization won’t work with the masses in the U.S.:
Seeking some meaning in life, they turn to an extreme chauvinism and become defenders of the ‘American faith’….Insecure in this fast-changing world they cling to illusory fixed points….The ‘silent majority’, now, are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay.
Obama, of course, said virtually the same thing in his famous comment about how bitter people in small towns “cling to their guns and religion.” I’ve also read, though I haven’t confirmed, that Michelle Obama borrowed a quote from Alinsky in her speech to the convention.
Scott Johnson adds more, including some helpful links.