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Rules for (Conservative) Radicals

In 1971 Saul D. Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation, published Rules for Radicals. Alinsky wrote the book because, as a man who had spent nearly his entire life organizing, he was dismayed at rag-tag efforts of campus radicals and hippies who claimed to be activists and organizers but who had succeeded only in calling a great deal of attention to themselves, and little else. Alinsky believed that the youth protest movement of the late 1960's - early 1970's had great promise, but he also realized that it was ideologically tattered and hopelessly obsessed with shock and sensationalism instead of results. His book was designed to teach those radicals how to organize.

I would venture to say that most conservatives have never read Rules for Radicals. That's too bad. I wish more conservatives would read it because, whether you love or hate Saul Alinsky, this book is an invaluable source of wisdom and practical advice for anyone who wishes to organize diverse and fragmented factions into a unified body that is capable of challenging major corporate or political power structures.

Chapter 7 of Rules for Radicals is called "Tactics." Alinsky defines tactics as "doing what you can with what you have." He then goes on to list various tactics that he believes are useful for challenging power structures. This is the source if the various "Rule Number XXX of Alinsky's Rules For Radicals" memes that are currently running through conservative blogs. Let's look at the thirteen power tactics that Alinsky discusses:

1. Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.

2. Never go outside the experience of your people. You never want your own people to be disoriented, confused, and disheartened by your own tactics. Save that for the other side.

3. Whenever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy.

4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. Alinsky's example is controversial, but effective -- the Christian Church has never lived up to all the rules of Christianity.

5. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition.

6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

8. Keep the pressure on. Utilize a mix of different tactics and actions on a continual basis. Tie them into current events.

9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside. Alinsky illustrates this point with the story about a break-in where his home was ransacked, followed by a break-in at the Industrial Areas Foundation offices using keys taken from his home. The only thing stolen at the IAF office was a set of files concerning a particular corporation that the IAF was targeting. Police noted that "the corporation might just as well have left its fingerprints all over the place."

12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. This is an extremely important goal for the organizer. Organizing isn't about rabble-rousing or agitation; it's about solving problems. Alinsky notes that a successful organizations are the ones whose actions actually result in positive change.

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Rule number 13 is all about ending the "dog chasing its tail pattern" of entities shifting blame from one to another -- it's the CEO's fault; no, I answer to the Board of Directors, so it's their fault; no, we answer to the shareholders, so it's their fault, etc. Blame-shifting is an effective stalling tactic and unless it is undermined it can quickly disorient an organizing program. Alinsky says that when you "freeze" a specific target, you not only end the blame-shifting game, but you also smoke out the other targets as they come forward to defend your primary target. The target must also be personal, not an ideology or some other abstraction.

Isn't it interesting that this is exactly the same tactic that Rush Limbaugh used to polarize Bill Clinton during the 1990's? And a note to Rush, Ann Althouse and others -- this is rule #13, not rule #12.

These tactics, particularly 4 and 5, could be devastating to the Obama White House and to thin-skinned, corrupt Democrats in general. Make them live up to their own rules -- pay as you go, most ethical Congress in history, etc. Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show have done a great job ridiculing Democrats. We need to do more. And we need to make it enjoyable. That's part of what makes Rush Limbaugh an effective talk radio host. He is a genius at ridiculing people, and he has a great time doing it. He can "turn it on" while he is on the air, and then "turn it off" and live a normal live outside the broadcasting booth. He doesn't let political things consume him, and because he broadcasts over public air waves he avoids the profanity, crudeness, and vulgarity that completely saturated the tirades and rants that liberals launched against President Bush.

If liberals utilize these tactics regularly (and we know they do), then why can't conservatives utilize them as well? It is a given that they work. It should not be a given that they can only be used by liberals.

One more thing. The goals that conservatives wish to accomplish by using these tactics must be goals developed after they have spent time listening to the problems and concerns of average Americans. If Republicans want to organize a grassroots movement and challenge the Democrats using these tactics, then the ideas behind the movement have to be gleaned from the grassroots themselves, not dictated to the grassroots from above. People will work hard if they believe that someone is helping them achieve things that are in their own best interest. But a grassroots movement will fall apart quickly if participants end up believing that they are nothing more than unpaid laborers for a group of intellectual elites.


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Comments (34)

Yup, that's just what peopl... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Yup, that's just what people who are losing their jobs, their homes and their retirement accounts are looking for - folks without solutions whose principal answer is ridicule. Keep it up please.

Another key book to look at... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

Another key book to look at is "Organizing the South Bronx" (copies on amazon, used). It portrays the Alinsky program in action, and highlights the role of Alinsky lieutenant and successor Ed Chambers. The Alinsky book set out what radicals ought to do, but Alinsky did not go the next step to establish a training program for would-be radical organizers. Ed Chambers did that, and he boasts about it in Organizing the South Bronx, in his own words, documented by recorded interviews. The author was a big supporter of the cause.

JFO"Yup, that's just... (Below threshold)
retired military:

JFO
"Yup, that's just what people who are losing their jobs, their homes and their retirement accounts are looking for - folks without solutions whose principal answer is ridicule. Keep it up please."

But they already have folks without solutions whose principal answer is ridicule in the OBama administration.

Also JFO I have ask<p... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Also JFO I have ask


"folks without solutions whose principal answer is ridicule"

Are you volunteering for the job. You meet the 2 main qualifications.

Let's tax businesses so the... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Let's tax businesses so they will not create jobs. Let's give money to irresponsible people who do not know how to budget and pay the note.

How about creating an atmosphere for businesses to grow so they need to hire staff? How about encouraging inovation so energy will be spent in opening and operating a small business?

What does Barry and the liberals want to do? Punish success. stifle growth. Stop inovation. We are going further and further in the tank because the libs voted in an empty suit with no ideas. If you listened to the Treasury Secretary today, you would be certain that there is no plan. They are making it up as they go along. ww

Man....I don't think... (Below threshold)
gracecurl Author Profile Page:


Man....I don't think you have a clue about how out of touch you "conservatives" are.

Consevatism has now become like Scientology or Wicca or 9-11 conspiracy.

Your annoited "leader", hillbilly heroin addict Limbaugh has announced that it is the "conservatives" desire to see Obama fail.

Such failure would mean a collapse of the economy, remaining in Iraq, millions of homes lost, unemployment at 20%, a continued reliance on foreign oil etc.

You people are as insane as it gets. Jim Jones nuts.

That's tactic #13, right, g... (Below threshold)
JB:

That's tactic #13, right, gracecurl?

How much is Axelturf paying you?

WildWillie -The me... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

WildWillie -

The meme is apparently that Bush ran up a horrendous deficit, that Obama now needs to spend much, much more to get us out of.

Maybe it's just me - but I've never been able to persuade my bank to take care of an overdraft on my checking account by writing more checks. And it seems to me like all Obama's really doing is using the Treasury like a payday loan service to get all sorts of 'nice to have' stuff.

I agree - they may have a clue, they may have a plan, but they're not acting like it at all. The financial markets need stability - and they don't see it coming from what we've got.

gracecurl- I am a proud con... (Below threshold)
Kat:

gracecurl- I am a proud conservative that will fight with everything at my disposal to oppose you and your Obamessiah in your efforts to destroy this country.
You can call us any name you want but it will not deter my efforts. There is a storm coming, just keep flapping your lips.

Obama's failure is America'... (Below threshold)
sam129:

Obama's failure is America's success.

Odd how gracecurl (and the ... (Below threshold)
LiberalNitemare:

Odd how gracecurl (and the left in general) tries to emphasize Limbaughs problems with drugs, while neglecting the personal drug history of the last two democratic presidents.

Isnt that hypocrisy?

Are you considering ... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:


Are you considering anyone to replace Steele now that his political demise is eminent?

The clock is ticking.

eminent = imminent ... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

eminent = imminent

Maybe we'll just <a href="h... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Maybe we'll just decentralize, Adrian. Why have a chairman at all?

I hope that President Obama... (Below threshold)

I hope that President Obama succeeds at America's goals, and fails at his own. Clear enough?

Good inspiration tactics.I ... (Below threshold)
Cate:

Good inspiration tactics.I will try to follow those tactics.I think Alinsky was a great philosopher.

If Obama would just use the... (Below threshold)
914:

If Obama would just use them flappin wings on the side o His head, I believe He could lift us all to paradise where its all peaches and herbs and a bit of honeydew melons.

just a thought

gracecurl"Such failu... (Below threshold)
retired military:

gracecurl
"Such failure would mean a collapse of the economy, remaining in Iraq, millions of homes lost, unemployment at 20%, a continued reliance on foreign oil etc.

"

Well change staying in Iraq to failure in Iraq and you have described exactly what will happen if Obama gets what he wants.

I have to laugh at reliance on foreign oil too. Since we will have no nuclear plants, no coal plants, and no new oil wells. Hell I am glad I live in Texas at least I wont freeze my ass off when we have no electricity.

He'll never learn:... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

He'll never learn:

Michael Steele was on The Today Show this morning, where he talked with Matt Lauer about the controversy with Rush Limbaugh. In the interview, Steele STILL REFUSED to say he agreed with Rush Limbaugh that he wants President Barack Obama to "fail."

Adrian and the lefties. I w... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Adrian and the lefties. I wish you would quote what Rush meant. This isn't a childish lefty blog, we know the fact here. Rush said no such thing.

I think Barry is still smoking and snorting cocaine. I hope so, at least it would be a reason for his inability to convince anyone with means that the country is stable. ww

I like your strategy of usi... (Below threshold)
TOhio:

I like your strategy of using the Liberals own strategy against them. Very good! I think I'll get Alinsky's book.

Willie, who would you find ... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Willie, who would you find more trustworthy: someone who dabbled with cocaine while in school, or someone who ingested dozens of tablets of prescription opiates on a daily basis at the height of his influence?

There are better reasons for ridiculing Rush Limbaugh than his addiction to Oxycontin, but to compare Obama's acquaintance with cocaine to Limbaugh's love affair with prescription heroin tablets is pretty funny.

So hypocrisy is now a matte... (Below threshold)
LiberalNitemare:

So hypocrisy is now a matter of degree?

Nobody believes that Barry simply 'dabbled' with cocaine anymore than they believe the Clinton didnt inhale.

Sorry, Hyper, doesn't wash.... (Below threshold)
Chad:

Sorry, Hyper, doesn't wash. Anyone ever been through a 12 step? Once an addict, always an addict. The "I did it when I was young and foolish" excuse doesn't wash. His "judgement" was one of the key selling points. Looks like it's all BAD from here.

Hyper is missing the charac... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Hyper is missing the character issue. He says because Rush got hook on prescribed pain killers his judgement and character cannot be trusted, but Barry's cocaine use, which we do not know when or if he stopped "dabbling" is just innocent. Barry is also addicted to tabacco. Hyper, your litmus test is applied evenly in this case. ww

"Once an addict, always an ... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"Once an addict, always an addict"-chad

A perfect example of why Alinsky's Rules can't work in the enforced situational Bushist Republican coalition of neocons, neocon sympathizers, confused patriots, anti-Democrats, hippie-haters, and nerds.

Because on top of all that, we have the PC pearl clutchers like "chad".

Europe laughs at les Hermaphrodites Americain!

In case you go forward anyway, a reminder:

Have your mothers sew your names and what you are to say at the takeover on the inside waistband of your underwear.

___*what ARE we supposed to say?*___

Rehearsal at lunchtime. Brown bag it.

Doing cocaine is not... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Doing cocaine is not the same as being addicted to it. Most of my friends have tried it--as have I--but I don't know a single person who does it on a regular basis (meaning, more than once or twice a month--shit is expensive!)

Smoking pot and doing blow are par for the course for most people who attend college. However, it's likely not possible to finish a degree if you're addicted to heroin--in needle or pill form.

I know that the very mention of any narcotics is scandalous to many of you, but the truth is a lot of decent, intelligent people experiment with drugs at various stages in their lives. Those unfortunate enough to become addicted to one or more of them will usually suffer the consequences (no money, no home, no friends/family)--although some will thrive as conservative radio commentators.

Willie: go eat two dozen tablets of Oxycontin and try and form a coherent sentence. Can't do it.

hyperbolist,If lif... (Below threshold)
TOhio:

hyperbolist,

If life is so wonderful, why do you dabble in drugs?

Actually, your drug use explains a lot to me about your posts. I understand now.

Exactly, TOhio, Hyper belie... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Exactly, TOhio, Hyper believes that when people involve themselves in felonious behaviors, they should be punished, IF, IF they are a republican. If they are a democrat, they are innocently experimenting and should in fact become president. Yeah! I see the logic. ;)

Hyper, do you see your own hypocrisy? ww

>I know that the very menti... (Below threshold)
LiberalNitemare:

>I know that the very mention of any narcotics is scandalous to many of you, but the truth is a lot of decent, intelligent people experiment with drugs at various stages in their lives. Those unfortunate enough to become addicted to one or more of them will usually suffer the consequences (no money, no home, no friends/family)--although some will thrive as conservative radio commentators.

Nothing but hypocrisy here - we should accept the decent, intelligent people that experiment with drugs. Unless they are conservative talk show hosts.

Personally, Hyperbolist has crossed over from simple hypocrisy to complete intellectual dishonesty.

Let me ask you a question hyperbullshirtartist, do you have to hit yourself in the head with something before you can type crap like that?

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776<b... (Below threshold)
Trey:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Speech in United States House of Representatives: The War with Mexico [1]

At pages 439 and439
Mr. Chairman: January 12, 1848


Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable,---a most sacred right---a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government, may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much of the teritory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movement. Such minority, was precisely the case, of the tories of our own revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old lines, or old laws; but to break up both, and make new ones.

I'm pretty sure Lincoln rec... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I'm pretty sure Lincoln recanted that statement, at least implicitly, by the time he crushed the Rebellion of 1861-1865, thus becoming the greatest President in history.

I don't mind saying that Li... (Below threshold)
Frank Barker:

I don't mind saying that Limbaugh has some valid points but he also makes the claim that the Republican conservitives are for the working man in this country and how they want us to succeed! I say to that HAH! If that is so then why has nothing been done about the continuing rape of the working class in this country by BOTH parties? If the Republicans are for the working class how come the taxes and cost of everything has kept going up and up and now they are griping about Obama spending money on foolish attempts to pull the Nation out of the mess they made and all the while the are launching a $55,000,000 Ad campaign against everything Obama is trying to do. Hmmmmmm I wonder how many working class stiffs that $55 Million dollars would put back to work or educate for a new job. Heck they could give 200 families $250,000 each to pay off their houses and then there would be that many fewer homeless in the Nation. They could spend it on mainstreet businesses to broaden the job market also and that would definately brace up the market and creat confidence in the Nation's economy. C'mon Mr. Limbaugh this is the same kind of waste that you and the Republican's are jumping the President about! Put your money where your Prophet of Doom mouth is and spend some of that hoarded cash on the country and we will all be back working soon!

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776<b... (Below threshold)
Frank Barker:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Speech in United States House of Representatives: The War with Mexico [1]

At pages 439 and439
Mr. Chairman: January 12, 1848


Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable,---a most sacred right---a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government, may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much of the teritory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movement. Such minority, was precisely the case, of the tories of our own revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old lines, or old laws; but to break up both, and make new ones.


31. Posted by Trey | March 4, 2009 5:04 PM | Score: 1 (1 votes cast)

Yes Tray there are many statments by our founding fathers like this but just try to do what it says in those statments and we will all be branded Terrorists and hunted down under the Homeland Security Act like Osama bin Laden! I think we tried this once before in the Civil War! We all know how bloody that was and we all know where we are today! lol




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