When Newt Gingrich invoked the name of Saul Alinsky during his "victory" speech in South Carolina, a speech that sounded anything but presidential, I looked at my husband and asked, "how many of those supporters has any idea who Saul Alinsky was
January 22, 2012

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When Newt Gingrich invoked the name of Saul Alinsky during his "victory" speech in South Carolina, a speech that sounded anything but presidential, I looked at my husband and asked, "how many of those supporters has any idea who Saul Alinsky was and what he did?"

The answer we came to was pretty much none of them. Glenn Beck likes to invoke Saul Alinsky as well, as some sort of malevolent force driving Obama's agenda. I can pick off who are Beck disciples at the instant they say "Alinsky". I would love to see a journalist with integrity (HA! What an oxymoron that's become!) actually confront these yahoos and ask them to define "Marxism", "socialism", "Communism" and what Alinsky had to do with any of these -isms, and what makes him so scary to Republicans. For the record, Wikipedia's bio on Alinsky:

Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing, and has been compared to Thomas Paine as being "one of the great American leaders of the nonsocialist left.

Oooh...scary! I'll bet $1,000 that I could take any random tea party nut and they wouldn't know even that much, much less that Alinsky died 40 years ago. The only thing radical about Alinsky--who made it his life's work to help those marginalized in ghettos--was the title of his most famous book, Rules for Radicals.

In the first chapter's opening paragraph, Alinsky writes, "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away."[1]

Outlining his strategy in organizing, Alinsky writes:

There's another reason for working inside the system. Dostoyevsky said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the 40 per cent of American families – more than seventy million people – whose income range from $5,000 to $10,000 a year [in 1971]. They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hard hat. They will not continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging. If we fail to communicate with them, if we don't encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but let's not let it happen by default.[2]

For Alinsky, organizing is the process of highlighting whatever he believed to be wrong and convincing people they can actually do something about it. The two are linked. If people feel they don’t have the power to change a situation, they stop thinking about it.

The only people who find Alinsky's writings radical are the Haves, because it suggests that the Have Nots have the power to equalize the system a little more. That's a scary concept for the one percent for which the GOP is entirely dedicated. But unlike former Reagan Budget Director David Stockman in the clip above, I do think this resonates with those Republican voters notorious for voting against their own interests. Because not one of them will bother to get informed on Alinsky. Not one of them will bother to do any critical thinking but simply categorize Alinsky as one of those nefarious bad things from which to be frightened or suspicious of the liberal agenda.

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