The following article was the feature article in my May-June 2014 economics newsletter.
The past election was Saul Alinsky-style on both sides -- Trump used the Alinsky style tactics to win the the election in spite of the electoral count stacked up against any Republican.
It was my opinion in 2014 that Republicans had to do this to win.
I was not in favor of a Republican using the tactics against other Republicans in the primaries, and that almost backfired on Trump.
If Trump seems much more civilized and professional after the election, then his Alinsky-style attacks before the election were an act.
Whether an act or not, Trump acted the way he had to act to win.
And no other Republican could have done that.
”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"
from page 3 of his book RULES FOR RADICALS
Father of Community Organizing
Do you wonder why gay rights activists, feminists, and civil rights activists are so quick to call people who disagree with them homophobes, sexists, and racists?
Blame Saul Alinsky.
I expect the 2014 and 2016 election campaigns to set new records for slander and character attacks.
That's already a popular Democrat strategy, so what's new?
What's new is I expect Republicans to adopt the same tactics.
Alinsky tactics have become more common in the past decade.
Can people beat Alinsky-style slander by defending themselves? That's possible, but difficult, because the main purpose of a character attack is making the target ‘play defense’, while avoiding calm debates with facts, data, and logic. It's hard to win an election playing defense. Republicans have to attack first, forcing Democrats to defend themselves. In 2008 it was very difficult to character attack Barack Obama because the leftist-biased press allowed him to be a blank slate. People voted for him with no idea of what he had accomplished in prior jobs (not much). But Hillary Clinton is far from a blank slate.
If you are a Republican, conservative, or libertarian (my personal choice), you may be thinking you prefer to be associated with a party of principles and rational debate. This is especially common among libertarians. You may be thinking you never want to stoop down to the low level of Alinsky-style character attacks. If you told that to Saul Alinsky, here’s what I think he would have advised you, based on reading his two books and the PLAYBOY interview: 'Would you rather be a member of a party with a polite campaign … or the party in power? If Democrats try to win elections by throwing verbal rocks at their opponents' character, then their opponents ought to use the same weapon.
Democrats control the Senate and the massive power of the Presidency. They are the political "Haves". Republicans control only the House of Representatives. They are the "Have-Nots". One American 'consultant', Saul Alinsky, had good tactics to help Have-Nots take power away from Haves. Quite a few Democrats already use his tactics. President Obama was trained as a community organizer by students of Alinsky. He later taught Alinsky tactics to other organizers. Hillary Clinton wrote her college thesis about Alinsky. He offered her a job. She declined.
Here's how President Obama is connected with Alinsky, from a March 19, 2007 NEW REPUBLIC article -- "The Agitator", by Ryan Lizza: "Organizing remained central to Obama long after his stint on the South Side. 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 US 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.' "
On August 31, 2008 the Boston Globe quoted L. David Alinsky, Saul's son, describing the 2008 Democrat Convention: "All the (Alinsky) elements were present: the individual stories told by real people of their situations and hardships, the packed-to-the-rafters crowd, the crowd's chanting of key phrases and names, the action on the spot of texting and phoning to show instant support … the Democrat National Convention had all the elements of the perfectly organized event, Saul Alinsky style."
Alinsky tactics can be used at a national level too. Today's leftists seem willing to follow Alinsky’s directive to use “any means necessary” to support the march toward their beloved socialism (an economic system with chronically slow economic growth and high unemployment -- 12% in the EU, for example). To oppose leftists you must understand Alinsky and his tactics.
The most common Alinsky tactic is slander.
The use of slander (ridicule and character attacks) is so ingrained among leftists they sometimes attack a person without realizing he's a fellow leftist. George Zimmerman was an example in 2012 and 2013. Did the leftist-biased media ever mention Zimmerman and his wife were lifelong Democrats? Of course not. And we just had another example: Old, white, married, Jewish, lifelong Democrat, billionaire, NBA team owner Donald Sterling was secretly recorded by his half-black girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend). He was telling her not to post pictures of herself with black men, such as Magic Johnson, online, or come to LA Clipper basketball games with them. This NBA team owner had previously given enough money to leftist causes to earn a Los Angeles NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, and he was about to get another Lifetime Achievement Award on May 15, 2014 !
Overtly racist comments are rarely heard in public today. You'd think leftists would be happy about that. But they're not happy, because it’s harder than ever for them to call a conservative a “racist”. But their racism slander is so ingrained they immediately attacked that NBA team owner, and once again no leftist-biased media source seemed to have enough space to mention he was a Democrat. Well, at least there was some evidence of racism there, because leftists usually use racism slander to character attack Republicans, even black Republicans, whose only "crime" is merely opposing an Obama Administration policy!
Public attacks by black leftists on black conservatives such as Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Herman Cain, Ben Carson, Colin Powell, etc. is rarely seen as the racist slander it is -- slander so intense that lifelong conservative Colin Powell was pressured to endorse Barack Obama for President in 2008 and 2012, even though Obama had been the most liberal of all 535 people in Congress! Leftists' favorite slanders are racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia (anti-immigration) and greed. Slander is a very old propaganda technique -- Alinsky didn't invent it.
Saul David Alinsky was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1909, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He invented community organizing in the 1930's, expanding on the work of early labor organizers 'unionizing' corporations, especially John L. Lewis of the CIO. "My aim here is to suggest how to organize for power: how to get it and use it". (Saul Alinsky, from page 10 of RULES FOR RADICALS (aka "RULES"). Here's how Alinsky was described by his former top organizer from the early 1950's to early 1960's, Nicholas von Hoffman, in his 2010 book RADICAL: "He loved public fuss and feathers, but when it came to the work he practiced the politics of simplicity. No pranks, no idle tricks, no vengeance, no revenge, no feuds, no pride, no anger, no vain boasting, no side trips, no detours, no self-indulgence, and no ego tripping. He was a good boss." (from pages 212 & 213)
Alinsky published REVEILLE FOR RADICALS in 1946, RULES FOR RADICALS in 1971, and had a long interview published in the March 1972 PLAYBOY. I've read all three. On June 12, 1972, at age 63, he had a massive heart attack and died on a street in Carmel, California. A student of Alinsky, Edward T. Chambers, used the lessons of RULES FOR RADICALS to take over Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation in 1972. It’s still in business.
Alinsky believed the youth protest movement of the late 1960s was obsessed with sensationalism instead of results. He also criticized the civil rights movement: "Periodic mass euphoria around a charismatic leader is not an organization." (from page 51 of Marion Sanders' 1965 book: THE PROFESSIONAL RADICAL) … Alinsky's RULES FOR RADICALS was designed to teach them how to organize.
Alinsky saw three kinds of people in the world: Rich and powerful oppressors ("Haves"), the poor and oppressed ("Have Nots"), and the middle-class whose apathy perpetuates the status quo ("Have-a-Little, Want Mores"). He tried to conceal his far left political beliefs. I found only a few written descriptions: From 1946's REVEILLE FOR RADICALS: "They (we radicals) hope for a future where the means of production will be owned by all of the people instead of by a comparative handful." And from page 177 of the March 1972 Playboy interview:
"… I'm convinced that once the middle class recognizes its real enemy -- the mega-corporations that control the country and pull the strings on puppets like Nixon and Connelly -- it will mobilize as one of the most effective instruments for social change this country has ever known."
Alinsky organized local community groups to pressure politicians and/or corporations mainly to spend money on them. He used one-on-one interviews to discover what neighborhood people were worried or unhappy about. Then he tried to organize "people's organizations", leading from behind whenever possible, and calling himself a pragmatist rather than a socialist.
Alinski formula = Agitate + Aggravate + Educate + Organize
A community organizer starts by agitating public fears and anger, often in poor urban neighborhoods, to get support for incremental changes. "The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people … an organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent; provide a channel into which the people can angrily pour their frustrations" (RULES, pages 116 & 117) … Organizing may start with agitation, but only as a tool to reach the goal of success. A successful organization is one whose actions result in positive changes for members.
Boycotts, sit-ins, rent strikes, or just threatening them, are among the tools used to confront, embarrass, or ridicule the "target" or "enemy". Organizers search for specific enemies, usually business or political leaders, to be targets for community anger. Unfortunately, targeting often encourages neighborhood people to view businessmen as 'the enemy', encouraging them to hate capitalism, which happens to be the best economic system to lift people out of poverty.
The core belief of most community organizers is: The US is a society whose oppressive capitalist system must be transformed. The US 'corporate system' is designed to benefit the Haves and keep the Have-Nots down. The goal of an organizer is to stir up public anger to protest a specific example of this 'fact'. "Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 percent on the side of angels and that the opposition are 100 percent on the side of the devil. He (the organizer) knows that there can be no action until issues are polarized to this degree." (RULES, page 78)
Organizers never reveal their politics:
Capitalism is never attacked directly. Socialism is never promoted directly. If anyone describes an organizer or community organization' as "socialist" or "communist", that label is strongly denied. Although their local actions are usually incremental steps toward socialism, organizers describe their work as pragmatic problem solving to strengthen capitalism! To hide their socialist or Marxist beliefs, good organizers avoid ideological labels and language, do not publish "wish lists", principles, or long-term goals, never use an ideological rationale to justify a specific local demand, and never allow local actions to be viewed as an incremental march toward big government socialism and redistribution of income (they favor stealth socialism).
Alinsky methods have spread from local groups into national politics. President Obama was a community organizer in Chicago and has even taught Alinsky methods to other organizers. In the past year and one-half you may have noticed he has frequently moved from one issue to the next -- the top 1% not paying their "fair share" of taxes, strict gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, support for same-sex marriage, income inequality, the gender pay gap, a much higher minimum wage, a coming climate change disaster, etc. There is often no specific legislation introduced to address the issue. Even if there was legislation, jumping from one issue to the next wouldn't help get it passed. An observer may wonder why a leader would want an 'issue of the week', followed by another issue in a week or two. That doesn't seem to be a good methodology for 'solving' any of the issues.
After reading the two Alinsky "Radical" books, it's obvious Obama also believes there's a perpetual class war between Haves and Have-Nots. One important community organizer objective is to demonize a person, or a group of people when one person is not feasible, who stand in the way of change. Every ‘issue of the week’ Obama selects is used to divide Americans into Haves and Have-Nots, polarizing the nation. Each issue is selected as an opportunity to demonize people, such as: the richest one percent, the Tea Party, Republicans in general, the Koch brothers, Fox News, etc. … or sometimes specific industries, such as “Wall Street”, coal companies, oil companies, or just corporations in general. I expect the medical insurance industry to be a big target soon after they hike 2015 ObamaCare premiums to account for too few younger Americans signing up in 2014.
The most basic Alinsky tactic is agitating people. Obama is an expert on agitating people with his words. But he is very weak on building coalitions and compromising, unlike Alinsky, so his actual accomplishments are severely limited. His goal of 'fundamentally transforming' America can't be accomplished unless Democrats control both houses of Congress. And even with Democrats in control, their legislation tends to be an Alinsky-style compromise -- a step in the desired direction (such as Nancy Pelosi's complex Affordable Care Act legislation, versus what President Obama really favored -- simple single-payer socialized medicine.)
Hillary Clinton's college thesis was about Saul Alinsky: "There is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Mode", dated May 2, 1969, in Wellesley, MA. Clinton, originally from Chicago, interviewed Alinsky three times for her thesis, and he offered her a job, but she declined. Clinton's thesis included these words:
"In spite of his being featured in the Sunday New York Times and living a comfortable, expenses-paid life, he (Alinsky) considers himself a revolutionary."
"One of the primary problems with the Alinsky model is that the removal of Alinsky drastically alters its composition. Alinsky is a born organizer who is not easily duplicated, but, in addition to his skill, he is a man of exceptional charm."
"Alinsky’s psychodramatics have brought him attention and catalyzed organizational activity, but many sociologists, such as Professor Annemarie Shimony of Wellesley College, regard Alinsky as a showman rather than an activist."
"Another criticism of Alinsky’s catharsis approach is the difficulty in applying it. Alinsky, the master showman, is able to orchestrate it, but other less-skilled organizers … cannot maintain control. Many of the Alinsky-inspired poverty warriors could not (discounting political reasons) move beyond the cathartic first step of organizing groups “to oppose, complain, demonstrate, and boycott” to developing and running a program."
"A good organizer could direct the process of perception as Alinsky did in convincing stockholders to use their proxies to influence corporate policy. Or he could organize around an issue such as tax reform where inequities affect the middle class as well as poorer citizens. There is no lack of issues; what is missing are politically sophisticated organizers. Alinsky plans on erasing that lack with organizers trained in his new school. The Industrial Areas Foundation Training Institute is based in Chicago where the IAF has received financial support from the Midas (Mufflers) Corporation."
Hillary also said about Alinsky (not in the thesis): 'He believed you could change the system only from the outside. I didn't.'
Could Alinsky tactics be used to promote capitalism ?
I prefer rational debate with data, facts, and logic. But the Alinsky-style of character attacking successful individuals or companies can stir up strong emotions among people who are less successful. Stir up people and they'll be more likely to contribute to your campaign and get out of the house to vote for you. This strategy works particularly well with 'low information voters' -- people who read the headlines, but not the articles. “You don’t communicate with anyone purely on the rational facts or ethics of an issue” (RULES, page 89). Alinsky 'confrontation' tactics can get a lot of media attention, especially in the internet age where confrontation generates 'views'. Confrontation plus one simple statistic (usually misleading, or completely false), plus talk of 'fairness', is a combination that easily trumps a calm speech using relevant, properly adjusted, data.
Democrats have increasingly used Alinsky tactics to successfully push for their political wants. Republicans and Christians could use the same tactics. And they should. Following the Alinsky method, conservative goals must be based on one-on-one interviews -- listening to the problems and concerns of average Americans in private. A grassroots platform to challenge Democrats can't be dictated from above. People will work hard and vote to achieve things in their own self-interest. They lose interest quickly if they see themselves as unpaid laborers for intellectual elites.
Alinsky tactics (in quotes) are from RULES,
pages 126 to 133:
"Always remember the first rule of power tactics:
Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have."
In the past leftists got a lot of attention by boycotting advertisers on the Rush Limbaugh show after he called Sandra Fluke a "slut", the Chick-fil-A fast food chain, Exxon Mobil, and Walmart. The potential damage from so many Americans boycotting a business seems high, which scares conservatives, so they avoid this tactic. But the boycotts sounded much worse than they were. After some short-term damage from cancelled sponsors, for example, the Rush Limbaugh show found new sponsors. My first visit to a Chick-fil-A in April 2014 revealed their business is booming. Exxon Mobil and Walmart seem to be doing well too.
Conservatives prefer debating issues on their merits. Character attacks are rare. No boycotts. Christians believe in 'turning the other cheek' when attacked by leftists. Why not fight back? They both ought to boycott a company or two whose owners or management ridicule or offend their beliefs. Or boycott a movie that makes Christians or businessmen look bad (Hollywood rarely makes them look good). Boycotts work really well to get media attention, which conservatives desperately need, and don't damage big, successful businesses.
"The second rule is:
Never go outside the experience of your people."
Most white male Republicans would oppose on principle sending a black Republican as a representative to speak to a black group on their behalf, or a conservative woman as a representative to speak to a women's group on their behalf. So they'll either not communicate at all with such groups or, if they are brave, they'll address the group themselves and risk not being taken seriously because they have the "wrong" skin color, or are the "wrong" sex, or are just not connecting with the audience.
Why not use a black Republican as a representative to speak to a black group? He could talk about the out-of-control black-on-black crime in Chicago, for example, and character attack Democrats in power for not stopping the violence. The Chicago region also has the fewest federal prosecutions for illegal gun possessions in the US (#90 out of 90 US districts) … And why not use a female Republican to speak to a woman's group? She could talk about how the Obama White House staff has a male-female gender wage gap which is larger than the average gender wage gap in the Washington, DC area!
"The third rule is:
Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat."
Three out of four Americans self-identify as Christians. Republicans increasingly avoid social issues, believing they lose votes, or will get attacked by Democrats. You'd think 240 million Americans identified themselves as non-Christians! Any Republican candidate could state his or her Christian beliefs, be proud of them, and attract votes from fellow Christians. Knowing Democrats will use those stated beliefs to scare off other voters, some Republicans won’t mention their religious beliefs, which seems suspicious. The obvious solution is for religious politicians to promise they’ll never try to inflict their religious beliefs on others through the power of the federal government.
Leftists avoid offending fundamentalist Muslims, but seem to enjoy attacking fundamentalist Christians for their beliefs. They expect Christians to sit quietly, take it, and never point out the hypocrisy. Leftists could be taken by surprise if Christians attacked them for their own secular fundamentalist religion -- the climate change cult -- which includes false claims of being able to predict the climate 100 years in the future, and treating the UN's IPCC climate report as if was a bible! Like all fundamentalists, climate change cult members are intolerant of anyone who opposes their beliefs -- even a scientist with a PhD who merely questions their claims.
Climate change cult members use Alinsky-style character attacks ( climate denier!, climate denier!, the science is settled! ) to shut down debate. The attack phrase "the science is settled" demonstrates virtually no knowledge of science. Science is never settled -- that's the first thing a real scientist learns. The leftists' ignorance of real science can be ridiculed again and again:
(1) Predictions of the future are not science,
(2) Computer models are not real scientific data -- they "predict" whatever the programmer wants them to predict. And we all know the programmers must predict a coming climate change catastrophe to get more government grants!
Republicans can fight back by learning a little about climate history. If they don’t, they’ll be allowing the biggest scam in human history to continue. The basics of climate history are:
(1) Earth is always warming or cooling,
(2) The only known correlation of CO2 and average temperature is that CO2 levels peak 500 to 1,000 years after the temperature peaks, per Vostok, Antarctica ice core studies,
(3) Several Ice Ages have occurred with CO2 levels up to 20 times higher than today!
(4) Accurate average global temperatures from weather satellites have only been available since 1979 -- they peaked in 1998, and
(5) The cold 2013/2014 winter was 'impossible' per climate models one decade ago.
Democrats would be taken by surprise if every Republican candidate spent an hour learning climate history, and an hour learning how to ridicule the non-science (complete nonsense) of computer game predictions of the future climate.
"The fourth rule is: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules."
One possible target concerns the alleged "War on Women": The Clintons' bizarre "marriage" is perfect for ridiculing a woman so desperate to 'ride her husband's coat tails' to fame and power that she ignored / denied / never punished her husband's incredible serial cheating for many decades, even with an unpaid intern his daughter's age. Hillary also led slander attacks on every woman her husband had sex with whose name became publicly known. Based on his actions, and her reactions, Bill and Hillary Clinton were in a decades-long 'war on women'. The Clinton "marriage" is a perfect Alinsky-style target. Only two dishonest people could live with such a dishonest marriage.
"The fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage." See the third rule.
"The sixth rule is:
A good tactic is one that your people enjoy."
"The seventh rule is:
A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag."
"The eighth rule:
Keep the pressure on … "
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was really Nancy Pelosi's legislation. It was not until 2013 that people first realized it was much different in practice than what Obama had been promising since 2007. In 2010 Republicans gained the biggest majority in the House they'd had since the 1920's, thanks to voters who ranked ObamaCare as the top reason they voted Republican in exit polls. Calling ACA "ObamaCare" is an Alinsky-style tactic.
The actual ACA legislation signed by the President is very different from what has been implemented so far – the many delays and waivers mean few people will be significantly affected before the 2014 election … but that doesn't mean Republicans should forget about ObamaCare and move on. If the legislation was good news, it would have been implemented faster, not delayed. Keep the pressure on. Not repeated votes in the House to repeal ACA -- that's silly. How about presenting real people and their families on TV, and online, explaining exactly how ObamaCare hurt them. Using scripted ads and professional writers to tell their true stories effectively (most ordinary people can't explain their situation clearly and concisely in their own words). The original medical insurance problem was an alleged 47 million people uninsured. Now Obama is bragging about 8 million ObamaCare "signups", but not mentioning how many made the first premium payment, and not mentioning the 6 million people whose policies had been cancelled at the end of 2013, such as my own policy. The very misleading 8 million number is perfect for ridicule.
"The ninth rule:
The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself." See the first rule.
"The tenth rule:
The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unending pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign." See the eighth rule.
"The eleventh rule is:
If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside … "
Ghandi wrote he was astonished over his people's passivity concerning British rule over India. Ghandi turned that negative into a positive by his tactic of passive resistance.
"To oversimplify, what Ghandi did was to say, "Look, you are all sitting there anyway -- so instead of sitting there, why don't you sit over here and while you're sitting, say 'Independence Now!' " (RULES, page 43)
"The twelfth rule: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative." The alternative to ObamaCare should not be "Repeal ObamaCare", which sounds like partisan politics. Why not cherry pick and support one or two popular portions of ObamaCare? The expansion of Medicaid to higher income families, for example, is the primary ObamaCare route to reduce the number of uninsured Americans. Republicans could latch onto that part of ObamaCare as their own, perhaps increase the income limit even more, and encourage more Republican Governors to sign on. In addition, allowing parents to keep (and pay for) their children up to age 26 on their own medical insurance policies is popular because so many young people can't find appropriate jobs, or any jobs, after graduating high school or college these days. It's not like parents get this coverage for free. These two parts of ObamaCare could be included in an ObamaCare alternative, simply because they are popular and useful. Compromise is an important Alinsky tactic -- he was much more than just an agitator.
"The thirteenth rule:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." …
"… in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil."
(from page 130)
… "The other important point in choosing a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract such as a community's segregated practices or a major corporation or City Hall"
(from page 133)
The target in 2014 and 2016 should not be medical care, socialism, deficit spending, or debt. Those are generic subjects for intellectuals to debate. The Alinsky target would be a specific candidate. For 2016’s presidential race, let's assume Hillary Clinton is the Democrat candidate for President. That would make her the target. She's been in the public eye for many decades. She's no blank slate like Obama in 2008. Her lack of any significant on-the-job accomplishments as First Lady (such as her failed 1993 health care initiative with Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress!), Senator, and Secretary of State, should be ridiculed, along with her bizarre marriage arrangement with Bill.
Remember how the clean-living, successful at every job he had, loyal family man, Mitt Romney, was character attacked in 2012? We were told he cut the long hair off a schoolmate at the Cranbrook Academy (a private high school located a few miles north of my home). He put the family dog carrier on top of a station wagon for a family vacation, and the dog got sick. Those two examples were not much ammunition for character attacks … but Alinsky-style ridicule followed anyway. Not many potential Republican (or Democrat) candidates are such successful, clean living, family men or women. So if Mitt Romney was repeatedly character attacked, then can you imagine the high level of character attacks on Republican candidates in 2014 and 2016?
In addition to using Alinsky tactics, I'd advise Republicans to follow Ronald Reagan’s "11th Commandment" – do not engage in personal attacks on fellow conservatives in public forums. Anything you say will be repeated by liberals. Personal disputes among fellow conservatives should be handled privately.