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Obama's Multiple Crusades Are Straight out of Alinsky Playbook for Social Revolution

Posted on July 6 2009 2:24 pm
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Political strategist Dick Morris, appearing with guest host Mike Huckabee on The O’Reilly Factor last Thursday, spoke about the significance of the confrontational exchange (see video here) that took place at the most recent White House press briefing, where correspondents Chip Reid and Helen Thomas criticized the administration for having pre-selected the participants and questions at President Obama’s health-care town hall meeting. Said Morris: “The media works like a pendulum…. I believe that every week President Obama’s support on health care drops [i.e., will drop] four or five points, and he is going to run out of time and run out of votes.”

Obama, being a shrewd political operative, is clearly aware of this possibility. That explains why he has repeatedly exhorted Congress to pass health-care reform legislation as soon as possible, characterizing it as a matter of extreme urgency that must be addressed within the confines of a narrow window of opportunity.

Americans of all political stripes have marveled at how Obama seamlessly shifts his focus, like a juggler, from one monumentally transformative  item to another—from healthcare reform, to immigration reform, to cap and trade (which would devastate the national economy), etc.  The president’s admirers marvel at his apparently irrepressible work ethic and his ability to multi-task, while his detractors recoil in horror at the degree to which he aims to remake, almost overnight, American society and its economic foundations.

But in point of fact, what Obama is doing is not the least bit surprising to anyone who understands who the president’s political mentors are. Indeed, what he is doing is straight out of the playbook of the late Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals.

Alinsky was a Chicago Marxist who, in the aforementioned books, laid out the techniques by which “community organizers”—like the Barack Obama of 1980s- and 1990s-era Chicago—could lead movements for social revolution and upheaval. Extensively trained in Alinsky’s methods, Obama became a master of those methods. He then went on, in the 1990s, to teach them to an army of agitators belonging to ACORN. At that time, ACORN played a central role in demanding that banks issue subprime loans to undercapitalized nonwhite borrowers—a practice that eventually would lead to our current economic and housing crisis.

According to Alinsky, it was vital for “community organizers”–like Obama–to focus on multiple crusades and multiple approaches, rather than on a single agenda item. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag,” Alinsky wrote. “Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time … New issues and crises are always developing…”

Alinksy advised organizers to be sure that they always kept more than one “fight in the bank.” In other words, organizers should have, in reserve, a stockpile of crusades which they are fully prepared to pursue, and to which they can instantly turn their attention whenever it’s politically expedient do do so–for example, after they have won some type of victory regarding another matter, or after their efforts in that other matter begin to attract some unwelcome scrutiny. These “fights in the bank” serve the dual purpose of keeping the organizers’ momentum going, while not allowing any single crusade to get “stale” from excessive public exposure.

“Multiple issues mean constant action and life,” Alinsky wrote.

Barack Obama, the community organizer-turned-President, is simply practicing, quite methodically, the Alinsky techniques he learned so long ago. It isn’t multi-tasking; it isn’t brilliance. It is, focused, relentless, steel-hearted strategy.

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