There was an interesting discussion on MSNBC’s Hardball last night (1/27/12) between host Chris Matthews, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times and Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post where it was pointed out that Newt Gingrich has referenced Alinsky’s name so many times in his campaign speeches that it would be easy to lose count of same. It was also pointed out that Dick Armey had handed out copies of “Rules for Radicals” throughout his Tea Party umbrella group FreedomWorks so as to better equip his lieutenants and acolytes with Alinsky’s tried and proven tactics. What’s even more interesting is the historical footnote that Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, when Governor of Michigan, called in Saul Alinsky to counsel his political leadership cadre after the Detroit riots in the 1960s. After conferring with Alinsky George Romney told his advisors that they “should listen to Alinsky.”
Now the right has tried to paint Alinsky as a radical bent on destroying American society and in some convoluted way tried to pin the same tag on Barack Obama. But let’s look at Alinsky’s biography: “Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing, and has been compared to Thomas Paine as being “one of the great American leaders of the nonsocialist left. He is often noted for his book Rules for Radicals. In the course of nearly four decades of political organizing, Alinsky received much criticism, but also gained praise from many public figures. His organizing skills were focused on improving the living conditions of poor communities across North America. In the 1950s, he began turning his attention to improving conditions of the African American ghettos, beginning with Chicago’s and later traveling to other ghettos in California, Michigan, New York City, and a dozen other “trouble spots”. His ideas were later adapted by some U.S. college students and other young organizers in the late 1960s and formed part of their strategies for organizing on campus and beyond. Time magazine once wrote that “American democracy is being altered by Alinsky’s ideas,” and conservative author William F. Buckley said he was “very close to being an organizational genius.” Can you conclude from the above that Alinsky has as his goal the complete and utter destruction of the American way of life? I can’t.
Lynn Sweet, a Chicago native stated that “Saul Alinsky never wanted to destroy the system, he just wanted everyone to have a seat at the table” when it came to formulating solutions to this country’s problems. Sweet alluded to two other facts, one is that, in a general sense, the right has fully embraced and employed the tactics of Alinsky’s Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it…In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen’…Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…”One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” Now if this doesn’t sound like the tactics that the right has used against Obama since he arrived in Washington what does?
Sweet’s second conclusion is that of all the Republican contenders it is Newt Gingrich who has most closely adhered to the principles of Saul Alinsky. Gingrich rails against the “elites” in the liberal media, the Democratic Party and even those in the Republican establishment, by tapping into the populist anger on the right in exactly the same manner that Alinsky tapped into liberal outrage back in the 1960s. The great irony of this is that Newt Gingrich is the ultimate Washington insider who has now cloaked himself in the rhetoric of the far right so as to hide his past and hijack the current wave of ultra-conservative populist discontent in an attempt to win the presidency. The leadership of the Republican Party and their major allies within America’s conservative elite know this and you can fully expect that they will work vigorously to derail Newt Gingrich’s hopes and dreams. These conservative elites know that Gingrich is the Goldwater of today, a fact evident in Bob Dole’s comment: “In my opinion if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard-bearer.” The other compelling question here is just what does the far right hope to achieve by throwing their lot in with the political charlatan that is Newt Gingrich? As Joe Scarborough said on Meet the Press recently “Newt Gingrich is no conservative, all you have to do is Google his name to see his record isn’t that of a conservative.” So are America’s fired up conservatives about to be taken for another ride by a professional politician who is more than happy to use them to further his own megalomaniacal agenda while offering them nothing in the way of a guarantee that he will honestly serve them if he gets elected? Looks like it.
Steven J. Gulitti
Saul Alinsky; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky
Rules for Radicals; http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/alinsky.htm