Back in 2008, in a piece analyzing Barack Obama’s role as community organizer, Bryan York wrote:
Perhaps the simplest way to describe community organizing is to say it is the practice of identifying a specific aggrieved population, say unemployed steelworkers, or itinerant fruit-pickers, or residents of a particularly bad neighborhood, and agitating them until they become so upset about their condition that they take collective action to put pressure on local, state, or federal officials to fix the problem, often by giving the affected group money. Organizers like to call that “direct action.”
Community organizing is most identified with the left-wing Chicago activist Saul Alinsky (1909-72), who pretty much defined the profession. In his classic book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky wrote that a successful organizer should be “an abrasive agent to rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; to fan latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expressions.” Once such hostilities were “whipped up to a fighting pitch,” Alinsky continued, the organizer steered his group toward confrontation, in the form of picketing, demonstrating, and general hell-raising. At first, the organizer tackled small stuff, like demanding the repair of streetlights in a city park; later, when the group gained confidence, the organizer could take on bigger targets. But at all times, the organizer’s goal was not to lead his people anywhere, but to encourage them to take action on their own behalf.
Is it not interesting to read those words, understand what they meant then, and apply them to that which is happening now?
I think it is… and indirectly, Ted Cruz seems in my view to be suggesting similar things in the shadow of the violence that is now breaking out at Trump rallies. Asked to react to last night’s events in Chicago, Cruz said:
“This is a sad day,” Cruz told reporters. “Political discourse should occur in this country without a threat of violence, without anger and rage and hatred directed at each other. We need to learn to have disagreements without being disagreeable. To have disagreements while respecting human beings on the other side.”
Cruz said that “the responsibility” belonged to the “protesters who took violence in their own hands.” But he also suggested Trump wasn’t innocent either.
“But in any campaign responsibility starts at the top. Any candidate who is responsible for the culture of the campaign,” the Texas senator said. “And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse.”
“I think a campaign bears responsibility for creating an environment,” Cruz added. “When the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face. The predicable consequence of that is that it escalates. And today is unlikely to be the last such instance. … That is not how our politics should occur.”
Community organizer may not fit exactly with what Trump is doing… disorganizing may be more apt and appropriate, but is he or is he not agitating?
Initially posted at Brutally Honest.