Apoplectic journalists have spent more than a week now howling with indignation at GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's belittling of Barack Obama's so-called community organizing. To recap, she accepted the veep nod quipping, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities." Neither Palin nor ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, who made similar comments, attacked the honorable American tradition of volunteerism, but the media reacted as if their comments were somehow un-American.
Pious liberal muckrakers ferociously attacked Palin and Giuliani, excoriating them for grinding one of their sacred cows into hamburger. Leading the chorus of indignation was Time magazine's Joe Klein, who described the GOP convention as an "extremely effective bilge festival." It was "infuriating" that Giuliani, who has "come to look like a villain in a Frank Capra movie" and Palin dared to question the value of community organizing whose goal is "to end poverty and promote social justice." Klein ranted: "To describe this service-the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other-as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme."
Of course, anyone who uses the phrase "social justice" with a straight face ought to be suspect, for behind that innocuous-sounding feel-good phrase is an agenda at odds with the history and spirit of America, but I digress.
Here are just a few examples of other journalists on the warpath over Palin's remarks:
ABC's George Stephanopoulos suggested during in an interview with Obama that criticism of community organizers contained a "subtle racial code."
Erin Neff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal echoed New York Gov. David Paterson when she wrote that said criticism of community organizers "injects race" into politics "in code." (The critiques of Neff and Gov. Paterson are also startlingly similar to the one found at SocialistWorker.org)
Ed Sills editorialized in the Houston Chronicle that the criticism of community organizers was "tone deaf" and "condescending."
Ann Fisher of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch defended community organizers in heroic terms, calling them "the fabric behind the fluff of politics, the woof to political warp."
The Boston Globe opined that Palin and Giuliani's "slaphappy" remarks "may have succeeded at exploiting the resentment some voters feel toward big cities, where community organizers do a lot of their work."
But what is this thing called community organizing? As Obama -a lawyer who carefully crafts his sentences- uses the term, it's not about church bake sales, picking up litter, little leagues, or parent-teacher associations. Obama-style community organizing is pure leftist, anti-capitalist agitation. Community organizers, among them the vote fraud specialists at the radical group ACORN, often fashion themselves professional revolutionaries. They believe something is terribly wrong with America and they are the ones anointed to fix it. It's about that nebulous Marxist concept of 'social justice.' It's about making people angry so they push for change.
As Melanie Phillips writes in the Spectator (UK), the "seditious role" of community organizers is to spread "revolutionary Marxism." The kind of change they seek is rarely good. It often artificially creates pressure for government spending on whatever project is fashionable in leftist circles that day. (Interestingly, one of the few honest commentators on this issue in the media, Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle, more or less agrees that community organizing in this case "is synonymous with working for a liberal nonprofit organization.")
The father of community organizing was ultra-leftist Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), a Chicagoan who elevated local-level political agitation to an art form. Alinsky, a significant influence on Obama, believed in "rubbing raw the sores of discontent." In his classic book Rules for Radicals, Alinsky prescribed the tactics and defined the goals of community organizing. Among his "rules": "Keep the pressure on. Never let up" and "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."
Alinsky taught his disciples to disguise their radical ideology. "Camouflage is key to Alinsky-style organizing. In organizing coalitions of black churches in Chicago, Obama caught flak for not attending church himself. He became an instant churchgoer," notes Richard Lawrence Poe. According to Alinsky, an effective radical activist "discards the rhetoric that always says ‘pig' " when describing police officers, and uses other linguistic tricks in order, "to radicalize parts of the middle class." Winning over the middle class is key, Alinsky argued, because "the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority."
Obama's would-be castrator Jesse Jackson is a master community organizer himself who now focuses his efforts on Wall Street. His Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has shaken corporations down for millions of dollars. As Shelby Steele writes, Jackson and his brethren in the civil rights establishment have "pursued equality through the manipulation of white guilt." Those leaders "ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage," Steele writes.
Jackson's less financially savvy competition, megaphone enthusiast Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, have also enjoyed success in community organizing. NAN says "‘No Justice No Peace,' is its motto and its call to all who want to live in a more democratic and just society." Sharpton believes America is fundamentally flawed. On the "Tavis Smiley Show" in March, Sharpton pontificated about "the brutality and viciousness of Americans' racism and America's war on the poor."
The Greenlining Institute, founded by John Gamboa and Robert Gnaizda, is also involved in community organizing, and like Jackson and Sharpton, it has been successful. Greenlining activists have become experts at shaking down deep-pocketed institutions. Picketing banks is a favorite tactic. The group typically takes on financial institutions, pushing them to make more credit available to higher-risk, low-income homeowners and businesses. Timid bankers, terrified of bad press, often cave in to the group without much of a fight. Greenlining's efforts may very well have contributed to the nation's subprime mortgage meltdown.
Then there's the aforementioned vote fraud factory known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN. ACORN describes itself as "the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities." ACORN, Sol Stern writes, "promotes a 1960s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology, and government handouts to the poor."
Obama previously worked for ACORN, directing its voter mobilization arm, Project Vote, a successful voter registration campaign that helped propel Democrat Carol Moseley Braun into the U.S. Senate by adding an estimated 125,000 voters to the rolls. Project Vote claims to conduct "non-partisan" voter registration drives, counsels potential voters on their rights, and litigates on behalf of the poor and "disenfranchised."
Its greatest legislative accomplishment is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly known as Motor Voter. In his book Stealing Elections, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund argues that the law leads to voter fraud:
Perhaps no piece of legislation in the last generation better captures the ‘incentivizing' of fraud... than the 1993 National Voter Registration Act...Examiners were under orders not to ask anyone for identification or proof of citizenship. States also had to permit mail-in voter registrations, which allowed anyone to register without any personal contact with a registrar or election official. Finally, states were limited in pruning ‘dead wood' - people who had died, moved or been convicted of crimes - from their rolls. ... Since its implementation, Motor Voter has worked in one sense: it has fueled an explosion of phantom voters.
In 1995, Obama sued on behalf of ACORN for the implementation of Motor Voter laws in Illinois and won. That secured Obama an invitation to train ACORN staff. Obama later returned the favor when, as a member of the Woods Fund board, he approved frequent grants to ACORN.
ACORN members, leaders and staff are extremely disappointed that Republican leaders would make such condescending attacks on the great work community organizers accomplish in cities throughout this country. The fact that they marginalize our success in empowering low- and moderate-income people to improve their communities further illustrates their lack of touch with ordinary people. Every great movement in the history of the world has community organizing.
Hurd asserted that over the past decade ACORN "has helped more than 30 million American families through our various organizing campaigns: better schools, financial justice, living wages, community improvement, immigration, healthcare, predatory lending, voter engagement and utilities." She cited a 2006 report that quantified the monetary value of ACORN's "victories" at "$15 billion, an average of $1.5 billion per year going directly into low- and moderate-income communities to help strengthen working families."
Of course, Hurd neglects to mention how much of that money came from taxpayers.
And the list of radical community organizer-led groups goes on and on. There are pockets of agitators throughout America. They range from the small illegal immigrants' group Casa de Maryland (which is funded by Venezuela's Marxist strongman Hugo Chavez) to substantial radical funders such as the Gamaliel Foundation and the Needmor Fund.
(This blog post grew out of an earlier post entitled "‘Community Organizing’ Deserves to be Ridiculed," on Capital Research Center's blog.)