Now that Newt Gingrich, newly amplified as a Presidential candidate, is regularly using Saul Alinsky as a club to beat Obama, the conservative obsession with the long-dead community organizer has gone bigtime.
Perhaps overexcited by this new opportunity to lecture America about one more thing that they hate, rightbloggers have begun to accuse not only Obama, but also each other of Alinskyism.
You can Wiki up on Alinsky here, and get more background from such diverse sources as Nicholas von Hoffman and Ronald Radosh. Alinsky is best known for civil rights and labor organizing, and for Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, two handbooks on getting people to get things done.
Obama picked up some Alinsky while doing his own community organizing back in the day, and conservatives of an intellectual bent have been tying him to the President in a decidedly negative way for years — e.g. Peter Ferrara at The American Spectator: “Obama is a very sophisticated Marxist philosopher,” he explained, “combining the highly advanced social manipulation tactics of Alinsky with careful, long developed insights in how to craft a modern, neo-Marxist message to sell to a majority of modern America.” And you thought he was just a successful politician! Psych!
As they’re convinced that Alinksy’s methods are how the left snuck Obama into office, some of the brethren have become convinced that they should fight fire with fire; and so, as a 2010 Politico story outlined, talk about using Alinsky tactics to try and get their own message across.
Michael Leahy, for example, put out in 2009 Rules for Conservative Radicals, described by its publisher as “sixteen rules for conservative radicals based on lessons from Saul Alinsky, the Tea Party Movement, and the Apostle Paul…”
Rightwing agitator Andrew Breitbart talked almost lovingly about Alinsky in his book Righteous Indignation: “He mixed a dash of religious fervor, a sprinkle of American founding talk, and a heavy dose of ‘kiss my ass’ into a concoction that was relatively easy and fun to swallow,” rhapsodized Breitbart. “…He is hilarious, and that hilarity breeds the sort of social change only a Jon Stewart or a Stephen Colbert could bring about rather than a Noam Chomsky.”
(This is why, whenever liberals make fun of conservatives, savvy conservatives get Alinsky rather than the joke, e.g. “Alinsky also observed, ‘Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon’ — a philosophy which the mainstream media has used incessantly in its various portrayals of those who stand up for liberty.” And by repeating that ridiculous statement and exposing it to your lulz, we’re Alinsky too. See how it works?)
They’re still at it, too. “On my first day in my first job as a conservative activist, I was handed a copy of Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals,'” said Yates Walker at the Daily Caller last week. “It was given in part as a how-to manual for organizing political operations and galvanizing public support, but it was also given to show us what we were up against.”
In fact, at this point it could be argued that conservatives know and respect Alinsky more than liberals. Which just shows his evil genius!
Still, to rightbloggers Obama is always the Head Alinsky in Charge. Even when he does something decidedly non-Radical — like keeping the Bush tax cuts — guys like National Review‘s Stanley Kurtz see the Alinsky: “He moves incrementally toward radical left goals,” Kurtz explained. “but never owns up to his ideology. Instead, he tries to work indirectly, by way of the constituencies he seeks to manipulate.” It’s Invisibalinsky!
It recently came to this: A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if there were “some sort of portrait of [Alinsky] hanging in the White House.” Carney patiently answered that “the Predident’s background as a community organizer is well-documented in the President’s own book… but his experience is a broad-based one that includes a lot of other areas in his life.” “This response is CERTAINLY NOT A DENIAL !!!!!” hollered Conservative Clippings. Expect one of these cowboys to break free of a White House tour soon, in search of The Truth.
So when Gingrich started dishing on Obama’s “Saul Alinsky radicalism” in the hot limelight of a Presidential race, the brethren got excited (“Alinsky/Obama vs. Gingrich: what this campaign is really about” — Let Freedom Ring).
But some of them couldn’t stop there, and started suggesting that Gingrich’s nomination rival, Mitt Romney, had a touch of the Alinsky brush in him, too.
Buzzfeed showed pictures of of Romney’s dad, Michigan Governor George Romney, meeting Alinsky in 1967, and revealed that he had praised the organizer’s work. “Mitt Romney’s Dad Was an Alinsky Follower,” announced the Wall Street Journal.
You might think any politician would be pleased to get tips from a known organizing exert, but Dan Riehl peeled back the layers of deception: George Romney was a “liberal Republican,” he explained, which is pretty close in Riehl’s world to being a Marxist. Also, Riehl had more damning evidence: “In a defense of Mitt Romney against charges of racism,” he reported, “the National Black Chamber of Commerce points out the significant influence the elder Romney had on son Mitt and credits the Romneys for a long history of progressive activism.”
Black Chamber of Commerce! Do we have to spell it out for you? In the bit to which Riehl links, the NBCC says, “The Romney Family has a legacy of pro-civil rights, progressive activism and an understanding of how poverty and inequality can hurt people.” Condemned out of their own mouths!
The story spread far and wide. “The Romney-Alinsky Alliance,” headlined Left Coast Rebel (“Romney will pay a price for his failure to reject his father’s outdated liberalism”). “Mitt, His Father and Their “Family Ties” to Saul Alinsky,” cried Barracuda Brigade. “Mitt Romney’s Mentor, his Father, a Fan of Saul Alinsky,” said Gulag Bound. Etc.
But it all got worse when Sarah Palin — remember her? — stepped in and accused Republicans who’d been attacking Newt Gingrich as an unsuitable candidate of “Alinsky tactics at their worst… we need a fair primary that is not prematurely cut short by the GOP establishment using Alinsky tactics to kneecap Governor Romney’s chief rival.”
Susan Duclos of Wake Up America agreed: “The Republican establishment is doing everything in their power to force their choice of Mitt Romney down our, the voters, throats,” she said, thereby combining Alinsky with “down our throats” and achieving a Wingnut Double Meme Score.
Some rightbloggers, like Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary, thought this went too far. “[Palin] understands little about either Saul Alinsky’s writings or history,” he safely assumed, and then turned the whole thing around on her and Gingrich: “Palin complains that Romney supporters have attacked Gingrich from the left,” said Tobin. “But that is actually the tactic Gingrich has used.”
You can guess what’s coming next, can’t you?
“Newt Gingrich is a Saul Alinsky Republican,” wrote Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner. “Many of the tactics [Gingrich] spoke about — such as exploiting resentment and pitting oneself against the establishment — have become a central part of Gingrich’s strategy for securing the Republican presidential nomination… Gingrich’s clashes against the establishment are classic Alinsky.”
You say that, as a loyal defender of privilege against radicals, Gingrich can’t be Alinsky? Klein answered: “Though Gingrich has spent several decades profiting from being part of the Washington establishment, the fact that he’s been attacked by so-called ‘elites’ has become self-validating. And the way he scolded CNN moderator John King in last Thursday’s South Carolina debate followed Alinsky’s 13th tactical rule, which states: ‘Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.'” Damn, he’s good!
The Lonely Conservative agreed: “The scary thing is,” he said, “it seems to be working. [Gingrich] dishes out the red meat and Republican voters appear to be eating it up, while overlooking his leftist attacks on Mitt Romney.”
“It doesn’t take much knowledge about the ideas of the late Chicago community organizer,” said Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, “to know that the real Alinskyite in the Republican race is none other than Newton Leroy Gingrich.”
No word yet on whether Rick Santorum or Ron Paul are Alinsky yet. But now that the reverse-Alinsky is a thing in rightblogger circles, we expect it to be thrown around like pies in an old Keystone comedy.
Eventually we expect this will lead to its natural conclusion: a rehabilitation of Alinsky by conservatives. At First Things we already see signs of it from Matthew Schmitz: “Alinsky was committed to a politics of subsidiarity that led him to critique the New Deal and support the kind of subsidiary institutions often championed by Catholic thinkers,” he wrote. “Were Obama really committed to Alinksy’s type of radicalism, we would not have seen such anti-subsidiary acts as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the resulting contraceptive and abortifacient mandate… If only Newt Gingrich were right.”
At some point rightbloggers are going to have to confess their secret love, proclaim themselves the real Alinskys (and the liberals mere poseurs), and go back to accusing Obama of following Adolf Hitler. At least then they won’t have to explain who the guy is.