David again. By nature I can't help being curious when I am confronted with information I don't know much about, but that interests me. That was the case with Saul Alinsky, a man whose name regularly appears in the most vehement of anti-Obama emails as the mastermind of Obama's plot to turn America into a communist day care, guarded over by gun-toting thugs.
While I generally agree about where the Obama administration is leading the country—much the same direction as the previous administration, and the one before that and so forth—I was especially curious about the Alinsky link if for no other reason than that if he truly was Obama's mentor, then insights into Alinsky could tell us much about the president.
So, who was Saul Alinsky and what did he stand for? Casey Research editor Doug French tackled the topic with surprising results. His report follows.
*** **** ***
Reportedly, President Obama has Saul Alinsky written all over him. Since most people have no idea who Alinsky is or was, when the talking heads link the two, the average Joe or Jane is led to believe Obama and Alinsky used to meet at a playground, shoot hoops, and chew the radical left-wing political fat.
While Alinsky hailed from Chicago, and was, like the president, a community organizer, he died when Obama was 11 years old. The president did not learn at Alinsky's knee. Alinsky wrote a book, Rules for Radicals, that did inspire some on the left. However, the book has motivated plenty on the right.
William F. Buckley called Alinsky “very close to being an organizational genius.” FreedomWorks, a DC-based conservative/libertarian political action organization presently in the business of supporting Tea Party initiatives and candidates, uses Alinsky's book as a training manual for its top leadership members. Conservative firebrand, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is said to give out copies of Rules for Radicals to Tea Party leaders.
As much as the right wants to make Obama out as a raving socialist, he no more embraces socialism than George W. Bush or the last few presidents. His going-on-five years in office have been essentially a continuation of the Bush-Cheney administration. Wall Street bailouts continued. The multiple wars continued. Post 9/11 NSA surveillance continued and ramped up. Drone strikes continued and increased.
Alinsky, on the other hand, worked to improve living conditions for the poor and minorities. He would have been all for Wall Street failing, and it's doubtful he would carry on the current crop of foreign skirmishes. The 1972 Playboy interview with Alinsky entitled, “Empowering People, Not Elites,” compares him to Thomas Paine, Henry George, and Dorothy Day. Meanwhile, the current commander-in-chief has reportedly played at least 146 rounds of golf while on the job. Alinsky was much too busy agitating for change to get in any golf.
Alinsky remained a community organizer for four decades. He worked a variety of jobs, dropping out of graduate school. The Great Depression nixed his plans to be a professional archaeologist, and he worked as a criminologist for the state of Illinois before turning to activism.
The current president went to college, was a community organizer for three years, went to Harvard Law School, taught law, and then entered politics. He was a state senator in Illinois before becoming a US senator and then president. Obama personifies the elite Alinsky agitated against.
While Obama is a political animal, Alinsky had nothing to do with party politics. When Playboy asked him about joining the Communist Party, he replied,
“Not at any time. I've never joined any organization—not even the ones I've organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it's Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as 'that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right.' If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless, and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.”
Alinsky is not far away from radical anarchists. Blogger Lisa Richards, no fan of anarchism or Alinsky, wrote in 2010, “Radical Libertarians are equivalent to leftist Saul Alinskyites. Both despise government and the Constitution, seeking to destroy America. Alinsky wanted a community government; radical libertarians want Rothbardian uprisings to destroy government and wealth altogether for communal equality. To accomplish this, radical libertarians demand anarchy.”
Matched with Rothbard, Alinsky sounds like he was a stronger brew of Tea Partier. He was asked by Playboy whether the middle class was conservative. His answer is instructive and doesn't resemble anything Barack Obama would say. “Conservative? That's a crock of crap. Right now, they are nowhere.” Alinsky goes on:
“They're oppressed by taxation and inflation, poisoned by pollution, terrorized by urban crime, frightened by the new youth culture, baffled by the computerized world around them. They've worked all their lives to get their own little house in the suburbs, their color TV, their two cars, and now the good life seems to have turned to ashes in their mouths. Their personal lives are generally unfulfilling, their jobs unsatisfying, they've succumbed to tranquilizers and pep pills, they drown their anxieties in alcohol, they feel trapped in long-term endurance marriages or escape into guilt-ridden divorces. They're losing their kids and they're losing their dreams. They're alienated, depersonalized, without any feeling of participation in the political process, and they feel rejected and hopeless. Their utopia of status and security has become a tacky-tacky suburb, their split-levels have sprouted prison bars, and their disillusionment is becoming terminal.”
This interview was in 1972 and nothing really has changed. Alinsky telegraphed the scandal-a-week Obama administration and the disaster of Obamacare and the president's lying.
Alinsky said of the American public:
“They're the first to live in a total mass-media-oriented world, and every night when they turn on the TV and the news comes on, they see the almost unbelievable hypocrisy and deceit and even outright idiocy of our national leaders and the corruption and disintegration of all our institutions, from the police and courts to the White House itself.”
Government was providing, and still does, a fertile field for organizers to approach the middle class. This is what the Tea Party is all about.
Alinsky's choice for Americans, speaking in 1972, couldn't have been more prescient. “But they can and will go either of two ways in the coming years—to a native American fascism or toward radical social change. Right now they are frozen, festering in apathy, leading what Thoreau called, 'lives of quiet desperation.'”
The right wants us to think Obama embraces social change. He instead represents what Alinsky called “native American fascism,” the same thing many on the right embrace. The real Saul Alinsky, as leader of the non-socialist left, would happily link arms with Rothbardians for true social change. Change that leaves big government behind and leads to individual prosperity.