The Obama White House: Alinsky Reprise

2009 August 26

Many of us first became aware of the influence of Saul Alinsky on the Democrat Party upon learning that Hillary Clinton had written her Wellesley College senior thesis, “There is only the Fight” on Saul Alinsky. When Barack Obama’s experience as a “community organizer” was highlighted in the campaign last year, it was greeted with scoffing and laughter because knowledge of this Alinsky term was not yet widespread. Since his inauguration, as the direction and consequences of his administration’s policies have become increasingly evident, there has been growing consternation and renewed interest in understanding Saul Alinsky and his influence on the Obama administration.

As background, from Saul Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, here is a list of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (HT: Moe Lane for the link) with a brief explanation for each. This short Wikipedia article highlights his rules of the ethics of means and ends taken from a chapter in Rules for Radicals. Discover the Networks has a biography and analysis of Alinsky’s thinking as well as a list of related reading:

In the Alinsky model, “organizing” is a euphemism for “revolution” — a wholesale revolution whose ultimate objective is the systematic acquisition of power by a purportedly oppressed segment of the population, and the radical transformation of America’s social and economic structure. The goal is to foment enough public discontent, moral confusion, and outright chaos to spark the social upheaval that Marx, Engels, and Lenin predicted — a revolution whose foot soldiers view the status quo as fatally flawed and wholly unworthy of salvation….

But Alinsky’s brand of revolution was not characterized by dramatic, sweeping, overnight transformations of social institutions. As Richard Poe puts it, “Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.” He advised organizers and their disciples to quietly, subtly gain influence within the decision-making ranks of these institutions, and to introduce changes from that platform.

Before the election last fall, Dan McLaughlin wrote an invaluable series on the candidates. The second part was the lengthiest and the most detailed:

POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part II of III: Sen. Barack Obama

The first post in Part II is the introduction and contains links to six different sections of Part II, detailing the background and rise in politics and power of Barack Obama. The section titled, Obama’s Rootless Ambition looks at the influences that shaped Obama before he ran for office, contains these pertinent sentences on the influence of Saul Alinsky on Barack Obama:

During law school, Obama “spent eight days in Los Angeles taking a national training course taught by [left-wing theorist Saul] Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation.” * (More on Alinsky and Obama’s community organizer days here, and on the Alinsky’s explicit advocacy of dissembling and moral relativism here).

There are four embedded links, including the asterisk as a separate one.

The first link is to an Investor’s Business Daily editiorial, titled, Barack Obama’s Stealth Socialism. The second link, at the asterisk, is to a column from The New Republic Online, The Agitator. This extensive post outlines Obama’s training in politics and power.

Kruglik remembers this episode as an example of why, in ten years of training organizers, Obama was the best student he ever had. He was a natural, the undisputed master of agitation, who could engage a room full of recruiting targets in a rapid-fire Socratic dialogue, nudging them to admit that they were not living up to their own standards. As with the panhandler, he could be aggressive and confrontational. With probing, sometimes personal questions, he would pinpoint the source of pain in their lives, tearing down their egos just enough before dangling a carrot of hope that they could make things better.

In the 13 years between Obama’s return to Chicago from law school and his Senate campaign, he was deeply involved with the city’s constellation of community-organizing groups. He wrote about the subject. He attended organizing seminars. He served on the boards of foundations that support community organizing. He taught Alinsky’s concepts and methods in workshops. When he first ran for office in 1996, he pledged to bring the spirit of community organizing to his job in the state Senate. And, after he was elected to the U.S. Senate, his wife, Michelle, told a reporter, “Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He’s a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.” Recalling her remark in 2005, Obama wrote, “I take that observation as a compliment.”

By defining himself as a “community organizer” above all else, Obama is linking himself to America’s radical democratic tradition and presenting himself as an heir to a particular political style and methodology that, at least superficially, contrasts sharply with the candidate Obama has become….

Obama so mastered the workshops on power that he later taught them himself. On his campaign website, one can find a photo of Obama in a classroom teaching students Alinskian methods. He stands in front of a blackboard on which he has written, “Power Analysis” and “Relationships Built on Self Interest,” an idea illustrated by a diagram of the flow of money from corporations to the mayor….

…When Obama returned to Chicago to practice law, he joined the board of Rudd’s foundation. Now he was going to the other side. “That’s a switch!” she told him. Obama insisted that nothing would change. “Oh no,” he said, according to Rudd. “I’m going to use the same skills as a community organizer.”

In fact, Obama had already been applying Alinsky’s core concepts–rigorous analysis of an opponent’s strengths, a hardheaded understanding of self-interest as a fundamental organizing principle, a knack for agitating people to act, and a streetwise sense of when a raw show of power is necessary–to situations beyond the South Side….

Speaking of what he learned as an organizer, Obama himself told me, “I think that oftentimes ordinary citizens are taught that decisions are made based on the public interest or grand principles, when, in fact, what really moves things is money and votes and power.”

The third link is to another of Dan McLaughin’s posts, POLITICS: The Organizer-Based Community, which features the photo of Obama teaching Alinsky. It was written prior to his lengthy Integrity Gap series.

The fourth and last link is to another Investor’s Business Daily editorial, Obama’s Radical Roots And Rules:

Alinsky’s writings even explain what often seems like Obama’s oversized ego….

According to Alinsky, “Ego must be so all-pervading that the personality of the organizer is contagious, that it converts the people from despair to defiance, creating a mass ego.”…

Alinsky also readily admitted that he didn’t trust the people themselves. “It is the schizophrenia of a free society that we outwardly espouse faith in the people but inwardly have strong doubts whether the people can be trusted,” he wrote. “Seeking some meaning in life,” the middle class, according to Alinsky, “turn to an extreme chauvinism and become defenders of the ‘American’ faith.”

This is evocative of Obama’s remark during the primaries that small-town Americans are “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion.”…

Obama’s rhetorical window-dressing is easily recognizable as Alinskyesque camouflage….

On August 16th, David Horowitz began a series on Saul Alinsky and radicals. Two continuing themes that I noticed were deception: Horowitz notes the radicals’ core of dishonesty: any means are justified to achieve the desired end; and destruction: of opponents to their cause, of our way of life and of our Constitutional form of government, as radicals work to take power from the “Haves” and give it to the “Have-Nots” (as defined by them).

Horowitz wrote of the deception and destruction of Alinsky radicals; add to those themes the themes of ego, distrust and disdain found in the background material of Dan McLaughlin’s series. Ego is the keystone of the arch of power acquisition.  One branch of the arch is Actions: deception and destruction; the other side of the arch: Attitudes: distrust and disdain.

I have previously stated that I don’t think judgments about chaotic messages or disorder bother Obama. The conflicting messages and obvious lies are simply tactics to move forward in acquisition of power. Logical and cohesive statements and organized government are unimportant except as they further his purpose. The things that I’m aware of that have angered him have been criticisms of his person and fury regarding opposition. It is my opinion this has occurred because these have been directed at the keystone of ego.

This week Glenn Beck is doing a series titled: The New Republic: America’s Future. Sarah Palin has written:

FOX News’ Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House.

Monday night he asked us to invite one friend to watch; tonight I invite all my friends to watch.

Rush Limbaugh will be the special guest on tonight’s program. Tomorrow evening David Horowitz will be talking with Glenn Beck.

Obama has not misread his mandate, for I believe a mandate was a negligible factor to him; all he needed to do was to be able to say, “I won.” He has, however, misread the American people. We the People, need to ensure that we do not misread him.

It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavor to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled. It must be the combined virtue of the rulers and of the people to do this, and to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode or form of government.

1805 – History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution


UPDATE: Late today, August 27th, at Newsreal Blog, David Horowitz posted that his interview with Glenn Beck will air next week.

David Horowitz’ series, Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me:

Part I: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me

Part II: Hell on Earth

Part III: Boring From Within: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me

Part IV: To Have And Have Not: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me

Part V: Post-modern leftism: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me

Part VI: Means and Ends One: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me

Part VI continued: Means and Ends Two: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me

Part VI (continued 2): The Nazi Option: Alinsky, Beck, Satan and Me


H/T: Newsreal Blog, Discover the Networks, Miyamoto’s Public Relations Resource, Moe Lane, Wikipedia, Baseball Crank, Investor’s Business Daily, The New Republic, BizzyBlog, New York Post, FOX News, brucefdb, Conservatives4Palin, Sarah Palin, Politico, The Patriot Post: Founders Quote Database.

Crossposted to RedState Member Diaries.

17 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 August 26 12:50 pm
    justrand permalink

    but the Dems, and especially Obama, have one cornerstone of Alinsky’s playbook down pay: the media. They CONTROL the flow of information to most Americans…and thus are generally able to “shape the battlefield” however they want.

    Here’s a small example from today’s news on Kennedy’s demise. A “source which shall not be named”, but which powers MOST “news”papers, had a 20 paragraph long article on the succession mechanism for Massachusettes.

    This is paragraph TWO:
    Unlike most states, a successor to a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts is chosen by special election, not appointed by the governor.

    “Wow”, the average reader might say…”that doesn’t seem fair. They should make it like all the other States!” 14 paragraphs follow as they discuss who is in favor of changing it to be like other States.

    Only the VERY persistent reader would make it all the way down to paragraph SEVENTEEN, whereupon we find out that Massachusetts WAS like almost every other State, until 2004, when they changed it because they thought Kerry might be PResident, and they didn’t want Romney appointing the next Senator.

    Three more paragraphs followed this, and thus the article wound up being long. TOO LONG, apparently, to allow them space to note that KENNEDY himself is the one got the law changed in 2004!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Never forget that the deck is VERY stacked…and not in our favor! 🙂

  2. 2009 August 26 12:55 pm
    INC permalink

    That control of information is a prime example of deception.

    Fortunately, they have forgotten that many Americans are still literate and still able to think for themselves. The reality of the situation the country is in at the moment is driving many more to discern the truth of the political situation.

    We still have people like Glenn Beck and his guests this week who continue to pound out the truth.

  3. 2009 August 26 1:55 pm
    aureliusx permalink

    unions, schools, yes, yes, but don’t forget about the true leftist power base: prisons.

    Think Obama doesn’t know that? Think again!

    3,900 stimulus checks went to prison inmates

  4. 2009 August 26 1:59 pm
    INC permalink

    Prison inmates are generally ineligible for federal benefits. However, 2,200 of the inmates who received checks got to keep them because, under the law, they were eligible, said Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. They were eligible because they weren’t incarcerated in any of the three months before the recovery package was enacted.

    “The law specified that any beneficiary eligible for a Social Security benefit during one of those months was eligible for the recovery payment,” Lassiter said.

    The other 1,700 checks? That was a mistake.

    This is just nuts. These people want to run health care!!

  5. 2009 August 26 2:02 pm
    aureliusx permalink

    All spending is stimulus, right? And if some guy in prison rents a shiv, or a new guy chooses to purchase 3 days-of-not-being-sodomized-with-a-mop-handle, that stimulates the economy…

  6. 2009 August 26 2:02 pm
    conservativetony permalink

    I was thinking ahead to Dec, 2012.

    How long will be the list of names included in Obama’s presidential pardons? Was Alinksy ever charged with anything? Dorn?

  7. 2009 August 26 3:27 pm
    rightwingyahoo permalink

    An unusually excellent post.

  8. 2009 August 26 3:46 pm
    conservativetony permalink


    Don’t you really mean: An excellent post, as usual.

  9. 2009 August 26 4:16 pm
    rightwingyahoo permalink

    umm, no, unusually excellent means more than usually excellent, yes?

  10. 2009 August 26 4:25 pm
    JustMary permalink

    It could go either way, akshully

  11. 2009 August 26 4:54 pm
    conservativetony permalink

    That was an anusually excellent response. 😀

  12. 2009 August 26 4:56 pm
    JustMary permalink


  13. 2009 August 26 5:54 pm
    INC permalink

    Thanks, RWY. I started on this over the weekend and worked on it over several days. I’ve written before on Saul Alinsky and I’ve quoted sections of Dan McLaughlin’s series many, many times in comments at several sites. I decided I really wanted to pull the Alinsky quotes, links and insights together.

    I was especially struck when I read the IBD editorial about Alinsky’s writings on ego. Much has been written by many people about Obama’s narcissism. I could easily see the attraction that Alinsky might have for someone like Obama.

    As I thought about Horowitz’ themes and the themes from Dan’s series, the alliteration came easily to me. In thinking about ego, I realized that this was the center from which the themes emanate.

    As a Christian I am very familiar with the Genesis record of the Fall of man. I was fascinated to see the parallels that Horowitz drew from Alinksy’s dedication of Rules for Radicals to Lucifer. C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity has a chapter titled, “The Great Sin.” It’s about pride. This was the downfall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-14): I will make myself like the Most High, and it continues to be the downfall of man. It is obviously the hallmark of the Left.

  14. 2009 August 26 7:25 pm
    rightwingyahoo permalink

    C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity has a chapter titled, “The Great Sin.” It’s about pride. This was the downfall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-14): I will make myself like the Most High, and it continues to be the downfall of man. It is obviously the hallmark of the Left.

    That’s right. The left says “We shall be as gods”, and goes for the lie, every time.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. J’s Cafe Nette » The Obama White House: Alinsky Reprise
  2. Glenn Beck Interviews David Horowitz:How Radicals Operate and Achieve Their Agenda | Be John Galt
  3. The Honduran Alinsky Policy | Be John Galt

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