Next Monday, in Kansas City, Missouri, a group of conservative organizers will conduct a most unusual training session. They will teach the "Rules for Radicals" laid down by the god of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. The idea: learn to recognize the footprints of the enemy.
Barack Obama is many things to conservative activists: a socialist, a Nazi, an avatar of a scary new world, a wrong-headed liberal. Some seem to hunger for a more precise definition of their enemy, one that does satisfies a longing to explain how this Obama guy managed to fool so many people.
It's all about Saul Alinsky. Obama's attachment to the legendary Chicago organizer is essential.
Here is the syllogism: Obama fashions himself as a community organizer. Saul Alinsky invented the modern concept of community organizing and was a radical revolutionary. Therefore, Obama is a follower of Alinsky's, and is using Alinsky's methods towards the radical, apocalyptic ends that Alinsky favored. This caricature of Obama as a moderate -- it's all a set-up to cover for his radicalism. Right out of the Alinsky playbook. Right?
Obama discovered Alinsky's teachings in college, and surrounded himself with Alinsky disciples when he worked in projects on the South Side of Chicago. Obama clearly admired Alinsky's methodology and lingo, which stressed self-interest over abstractions and organizing over politics. Alinsky was aware that radicals, branded as such, wouldn't be effective, and so he urged community organizers to pay careful attention to language -- to use common, simple words to draw out commonalities. Alinsky rejected politics, as did Obama -- at least initially. It is inconvenient for his supporters to acknowledge that Alinsky is part of Obama's identity, but Obama has conceded this. Writing in The New Republic, Ryan Lizza noted that Obama did not object to the Alinsky comparisons. Michelle Obama once said of her husband, "Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change."