Alinsky, Clinton, Obama

A reader writes:

The principal difference between Hillary and Obama is not race or gender at all, but Saul Alinsky.

I overstate the case, but it is worth noting that where Clinton wrote her thesis on Alinsky's organizational theory, Obama lived it. Where he rejected it as "quaint" and moved on to law school and hitched her wagon to Bill's star, Obama went to the church basements of Chicago; that experience brought him to prominence at Harvard. Hillary became a master of the knife fight, Obama guerilla warfare. Hillary's weapon is influence, Obama's is people.

(And, as an aside, part of why I once again believe he may win is that where his ability to marshal popular support is clear, his skill in the backroom politics is also becoming apparent; Hillary on the other hand seems to draw more support from popular appeals to pity and fear than to the sense of common purpose and individual stake in his success that Obama invokes.  Hillary is waking up to this but only vaguely understands it--she think she has a youth problem, as demonstrated by her almost obsessive use of the word youth in the Couric interview, and the theatre that was the rally in NH, where in fact she has an Alinsky problem.)

Both have considerable talents, both no doubt believe in the causes they espouse.  But there is a difference in the effect of their success--Hillary if she wins will prove Alinsky wrong, Obama will prove him right.  Hillary has invited the voters to install her in the White House because she can fix the country for them; Obama, on the other hand, is inviting voters to vote for him because, in doing so, they can demonstrate the power of people to fix the country for themselves.

So, you see, it has nothing to do with whether Hillary is really mean or nice, vulnerable or steely; it has nothing to do with whether Obama is ready, or holds his own in the debates.  The distinction has everything to do with how it repeats itself in the minds and voices of the electorate.

I heard a man on the radio this morning call in to say that America has lost its innocence already, that we will be in Iraq forever, and that what the voters really need is a "Reality Check"; not surprisingly, he urged other listeners to vote for Hillary.  I, as an Obama supporter, would argue that what America really needs right now is Americans--to get organized and get involved in whatever cause it is they may believe in, even if I don't happen to agree with it.  Which one of is right?  I don't know.  But I do believe that a country filled by citizens who believe that much can be accomplished if we work together would be a better place to live.  This is the genius of Obama's message and what he came to see from his days in Chicago:  it has nothing to do with him, it is about us.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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