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Portrait of a Failed Community Organizer

Earlier, Shawn Mallow explored the questionable tactic, now being used by the Obama White House, of singling out Fox News as "a wing of the Republican Party" and not a "news network."

Fox News' own reporting of Sunday's CNN interview with White House communications director Anita Dunn, who made those allegations, is worth reading in its entirety. Here's a sample:

As for Dunn's complaint about Fox News' coverage of the Obama campaign, a study by the Pew Research Center showed that 40 percent of Fox News stories on Obama in the last six weeks of the campaign were negative. Similarly, 40 percent of Fox News' stories on Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, were negative.

On CNN, by contrast, there was a 22-point disparity in the percentage of negative stories on Obama (39 percent) and McCain (61 percent). The disparity was even greater at MSNBC, according to Pew, where just 14 percent of Obama stories were negative, compared to a whopping 73 percent of McCain stories -- a spread of 59 points.

Although Dunn accused Fox News of being a "wing of the Republican Party," she said the network does not champion conservatism.

"It's not ideological," she acknowledged. "I mean, obviously, there are many commentators who are conservative, liberal, centrist -- and everybody understands that."

Still, Obama refused to appear on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace on Sept. 20, the day he appeared on five other Sunday shows. At the time, the White House characterized the snub as payback for the Fox Broadcast Network's decision not to air an Obama prime time appearance. But last weekend, Dunn blamed Fox News Channel's coverage of the administration for Obama's snub of Fox News Sunday.

"Is this why he did not appear?" Dunn said. "The answer is yes."

Wallace has called White House officials "the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington."

On the surface, this tactic appears to be a very shallow manifestation of one of community organizing pioneer Saul Alinsky's most famous and controversial power tactics -- zeroing in on a target, polarizing it, and freezing it out. Alinsky found this tactic to be a very effective way of stopping those in power from shifting blame back and forth among themselves without ever addressing fundamental problems.

But organizing for change requires a lot more than power tactics. Alinsky defined "tactics" as "doing what you can with what you have." His strong-arm methods were meant to be used by organizations that had little or nothing else with which to fight -- specifically, no political connections and no money. When used by the White House and its well-funded political minions, these power tactics seem churlish and immature.

Alinsky also had a lot of other things to say about the process of organizing, most of which seem to be lost on Team Obama.

Alinsky recognized that in America, any effort designed to fundamentally alter the relationship between our existing "establishment" and our poorest citizens would have to be supported by the middle class. Alinsky understood that the American middle class was positioned directly between the "haves" and the "have-nots," and regularly vacillated between their traditional ideals -- the middle class routinely demanded better benefits and working conditions from the "haves," just as the "have-nots" had done, yet they vociferously denounced any effort that might endanger the moderate amount wealth and power that they had acquired, perhaps to an even greater extent than the "haves" defended their vastly greater wealth and power.

Alinsky also taught that organizing around "change" only works if the people are convinced that the changes will create a better system than the status quo. Organization involves "disorganization" -- the dis-assembly of broken and fundamentally unjust systems, in order to replace them with something better. Measurable improvement is the key; otherwise, you are simply creating disorder and replacing one bad system with another.

The Obama Administration seems to be focused only on polarization and disorganization. They have incredibly ambitious plans to nationalize and regulate huge swaths of our economy and personal lives (banking, automobile manufacturing, energy production, medicine) thus establishing a system that they believe will produce more equitable outcomes and more responsible personal choices. Yet in spite of their idealism, the Obama Administration has failed miserably every time it has tried to convince Americans that its policies -- in particular its desire to up-end and completely restructure our existing healthcare system -- will result in something better than what we have right now.

Their rhetoric has been laughable: "In my wildest dreams, I never thought [the Stimulus] would work this well," "Maybe you're better off to tell your mother to take a pill ..." etc. Americans need only to look at current economic indicators, or the incomprehensible health care legislation, in order to understand that the White House is feeding them a line, big time. The more President Obama or the Democratic Party leadership speaks, the more it alienates the American middle class.

Saul Alinsky believed that successful community organizing was the result of careful preparation, patience, and a series of small victories instead of grand battles. He also insisted that organizers gain a thorough familiarity with, and acceptance by, the community at large before beginning their organizing efforts.

Getting America to accept Barack Obama meant that the Democrats had to transform the real Barack Obama, prickly, detached and woefully inexperienced, into The One. How they thought that such a ruse could last any length of time beyond the Inauguration is a mystery to me.

By Saul Alinsky's own standards, the Obama White House's attempts at policy initiatives and political damage control, which have not only alienated the middle class but have stirred up a mighty grassroots protest movement, and have now managed to make the Nixon Administration's paranoid attacks on the press look sane, are destined to fail. We would do well to remember that Barack Obama is in fact a failed community organizer. His three years at Altgeld Gardens in Chicago left him burned out and ready to try something else. Only this time, as President of the United States, Barack Obama has nowhere else he can go.

(If there is interest, I would like to write a series of posts discussing Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Although Alinsky is a controversial Leftist figure, his work deserves to be understood by conservatives simply because it has been the basis for virtually every political and community organizing effort in America during the past 70 years.)


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Comments (14)

Before you begin your Alins... (Below threshold)

Before you begin your Alinsky review of Alinsky reviews, it's worthwhile to know from whence Alinsky's methods sprung: [Spoiler alert!] Edward Bernays

(I mean, pink poodles with out-sized polka dot ribbons are cheery and all, but what are we doing waiting on the sidewalk again for?)


Kick ass video above.

I, for one, would be greatl... (Below threshold)

I, for one, would be greatly interested in a series of posts regarding "Rules for Radicals" and Alisnky's philosophies behind it.

Are you hinting that Fox "N... (Below threshold)

Are you hinting that Fox "News" is perhaps NOT a wing of the Republican party?

And your source is...Fox "News"?

That's awesome.

Yes jp2 and of course the w... (Below threshold)

Yes jp2 and of course the white house is completely unbiased.

Yes jp2 and of course the w... (Below threshold)

Yes jp2 and of course the white house is completely unbiased. As are the competitors right?

Percentages are Percentages. Fox is labled the way it is because of its commentators. Its news stories on the other hand are clearly shown to be balanced.

Just because they show any party in a bad light when called for, and it is usually the Dems that look bad. Does not mean they are completely biased.

jp2: Actually, it was Foxn... (Below threshold)

jp2: Actually, it was Foxnews quoting the Pew Research Center. Reading skills. Not just for elementary school.

So, any comment on the disparity of the positive/negative news stories? Is MSNBC biased based on independend third party analysis?

Or was Fox just incredibly biased to quote the Pew Research Center report that shows President Pantywaist getting a pass?

BTW, I would enjoy more exp... (Below threshold)

BTW, I would enjoy more explorations into Alinsky, Michael.

For 8 years, Bush put up wi... (Below threshold)

For 8 years, Bush put up with a media that was ragingly biased against him. And he bore that antagonism with good grace - descending rarely (if ever) to a level of complaint that would come anywhere near what Obama and his groupies think necessary in the case of Fox News.

I'm really getting tired of the complaining about how unfair it is that FOX won't play along. Bush put up with ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN against him for 8 years. Would it be too much to ask Obama to just go ahead and man up, and stop snivelling because FOX asks questions he doesn't want to answer?

Michael - I'd like to see more on the Alinsky crap also.

JLawson,I'm not ti... (Below threshold)


I'm not tired of the whining at all. The more he whines, the better it is for the country and the worse it is for the democrats. Plus, his bases hates his sniveling, the moderates hate the cry-baby act and, me, I'm breaking out the popcorn.

But I do agree - George W. Bush, for all his other faults, was incredibly gracious, patient and steadfast.

Anita Dunn what about ... (Below threshold)

Anita Dunn what about

Manning Marable Speaking Truth to Power
Howard Zinn Dissent Is the Highest Form of Patriotism

What about the claim that we have lack of
intellectual curiosity

Do these just work when Bush is in power?

"Portrait of a Failed Commu... (Below threshold)

"Portrait of a Failed Community Organizer'

"The Won" The movie.

"Trials and triumph in Chithugo"


"Presidente in Red"

"Eunice Im Black"

All film clips are in Barney Franks fridgemaster for bipartisan reasons!..

would be very interested in... (Below threshold)

would be very interested in the Alinsky posts.

Please do. It is time to de... (Below threshold)

Please do. It is time to de-construct their "secret code". We must know thine enemy to defeat them.

Good post.And yes, a... (Below threshold)

Good post.
And yes, a series on Alinsky would be great.

As for the failed community organizer, I suspect he's going to end up being a highly decorated man of minimal or no achievement.

Regarding Dunn, she simply mirrors the insecurity of a man who knows he's a fraud and cannot accept criticism. If Obama (and Dunn) had any real principles to fall back on, they'd be able to handle opposing points of view. This is one time it would serve them well to emulate the class that George Bush displayed when attacked from the left, as Jlawson and pvd explained.






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