Monday, September 15, 2008

The training of Barack Obama

From an op-ed in Investor's Business Daily, exploring Obama's Alinsky-esque approach to politics:
One of Obama's main inspirations was a man dedicated to revolutionary change that he was convinced "must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, nonchallenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future."

Sen. Obama was trained by Chicago's Industrial Areas Foundation, founded in 1940 by the radical organizer Saul Alinsky. In the 1980s, Obama spent years as director of the Developing Communities Project, which operated using Alinsky's strategies, and was involved with two other Alinsky-oriented entities, Acorn and Project Vote.
Capitalism always was considered the enemy. "America's corporations are a spiritual slum," he wrote, "and their arrogance is the major threat to our future as a free society." Is it surprising that an Alinsky disciple such as Obama can promise so blithely to increase taxes on CEOs?

Obama calls his years as an Alinskyesque community organizer in Chicago "the best education I ever had, and where I learned the true meaning of my Christian faith." But as radicalism expert Richard Lawrence Poe has noted, "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."

Op-ed here. [Hat tip to Jim P. for the link]

Alinsky's roots run deep in the ideological, socialist Left, as the Washington Post noted in an article from March 2007:
CHICAGO -- The job offer to "Miss Hillary Rodham, Wellesley College" was dated Oct. 25, 1968, and signed by Saul D. Alinsky, the charismatic community organizer who believed that the urban poor could become their own best advocates in a world that largely ignored them.

Alinsky thought highly of 21-year-old Rodham, a student government president who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. She was in the midst of a year-long analysis of Alinsky's aggressive mobilizing tactics, and he was searching for "competent political literates" to move to Chicago to build grass-roots organizations.

Seventeen years later, another young honor student was offered a job as an organizer in Chicago. By then, Alinsky had died, but a group of his disciples hired Barack Obama, a 23-year-old Columbia University graduate, to organize black residents on the South Side, while learning and applying Alinsky's philosophy of street-level democracy. The recruiter called the $13,000-a-year job "very romantic, until you do it."

Another article in the American Thinker also notes the influence of Alinsky's teachings on the young Obama:
Barack Obama had just graduated from Columbia and was looking for a job. Some white leftists were looking for someone who could recruit in a black neighborhood in the south side of Chicago.

Obama answered a help-wanted ad for a position as a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project (DCP) of the Calumet Community Religious Conference (CCRC) in Chicago. Obama was 24 years old, unmarried, very accustomed to a vagabond existence, and according to his memoir, searching for a genuine African-American community.

Both the CCRC and the DCP were built on the Alinsky model of community agitation, wherein paid organizers learned how to "rub raw the sores of discontent," in Alinsky's words.

Note, however, that while Senator Obama may have been trained and steeped in Alinsky's ideology and its application to "community organizing", as suggested by a New Republic article cited in this post, his political identity has its own distinct flavor apart from his community organizer past:
But his campaign has taken the point a step further, implying that Obama the politician is a direct descendant of Obama the organizer--that he has carried the practices and principles of community organizing into his campaign, and would carry them into the White House as well. This is the version of Obama's biography that most journalists have accepted.

In truth, however, if you examine carefully how Obama conducted himself as an organizer and how he has conducted himself as a politician, if you consider what he said about organizing to his fellow organizers, and if you look at the reasons he gave friends and colleagues for abandoning organizing, then a very different picture emerges: that of a disillusioned activist who fashioned his political identity not as an extension of community organizing but as a wholesale rejection of it. Indeed, the most important thing to know about Barack Obama's time as a community organizer in Chicago may not be what he gained from the experience--but rather why, in late 1987, he decided to quit. [emphasis added]

The New Republic article quoted above goes on to describe Obama's time as a "community organizer" as mostly a failure, in that he evidently failed, in project after project, to achieve much, if any, of the social "change" he had hoped for.

In the end, perhaps it may be that the smart, ambitious senator with the gift for soaring, silver-tongued oratory may have simply taken and incorporated the tenets of his earlier Alinsky-esque style of community organizing into his own style of politics. To be sure, it appears that the core socialist ideas and tendencies are intact, but perhaps the strategies and tactics have been adapted, and updated (more skillfully camouflaged?), for 21st century America.

Indeed, Senator Obama attempt to peddle well-worn socialist ideas -- wealth redistribution, disdain for business and the free market, bias towards the collective (manifested in admiration for big government) over the individual, etc. -- in a new, sweet-talking package has succeeded, at least with a large percentage of Democrat voters and party leaders, as his nomination as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate attests. Did Obama's "community organizing" experience help him in his quest for his party's nomination? Quite possibly, as the Investor's Business Daily editorial quoted above argues. Note, however, that Obama's socialist ideas find a natural home in the modern Democratic Party, as most of his democratic rivals also embraced similar ideas and policies in their bid for the nomination.

Perhaps a more key ally in his successful nomination bid was a star-struck, and decidedly left-leaning press corps, who early on anointed Obama as their favorite, and treated him with kid gloves. The mainstream media's general fawning over Obama, and their kid-gloves approach to investigating and reporting on his past and his associations with individuals such as Tony Rezko, William Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Fr. Michael Pfleger, and others have no doubt helped Obama get where he is today, as much as, or maybe even more than, Obama's skill in applying Alinsky-style "community organizing" principles.

Will the media's love-fest for their anointed candidate, which continues unabated, help propel him to the highest office in the land? Time will tell, but with Republican presidential nominee John McCain's pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, and with the media's bias becoming increasingly evident to ordinary Americans, a growing backlash is brewing against the media, and by implication, their preferred candidate.

In a close election (think: battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, etc.), turnout will be key in deciding the winner, and conventional wisdom says this will be where Obama's supposed expertise as a "community organizer" may be expected to provide an advantage. The addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket challenges that conventional wisdom, however, and we can expect a newly-energized Republican base, and centrist-friendly John McCain, to make this a nail-biter all the way to election day.

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