Saul Alinsky died in 1972. He was a Marxist grassroots organizer who spent much of his life organizing rent strikes and protesting conditions of the poor in Chicago in the 1930s. However, unlike Christian socialist and activist for the poor Dorothy Day, Alinsky's real claim to fame was as strategist for anti-establishment '60s radicals and revolutionaries.
Indeed, Alinsky wrote the rule book for '60s radicals like Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Miller and Nancy Pelosi. He considered Hillary Rodham to be one of his better students and asked her to join him in his efforts as an organizer of radical leftist causes. But Hillary had other fish to fry on her climb to national prominence.
Alinsky had a true genius for formulating tactical battle plans for the radical left. He wrote two books outlining his organizational principles and strategies: "Reveille for Radicals" (1946) and "Rules for Radicals" (1971).
"Rules for Radicals" begins with an unusual tribute: "From all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer."
The devil challenged authority and got his own kingdom, and that goes to the heart of what left is really about. That of course is to get power any way you can, including lying, cheating and stealing. The ultimate rule is that the ends justify the means.
Alinsky asserted that he was more concerned with the acquisition of power than anything else: "My aim here is to suggest how to organize for power: how to get it and how to use it." This is not to be done with assistance to the poor, nor even by organizing the poor to demand assistance: "[E]ven if all the low-income parts of our population were organized ... it would not be powerful enough to get significant, basic, needed changes."
Alinsky advises his followers that the poor have no power and that the real target is the middle class: "Organization for action will now and in the decade ahead center upon America's white middle class. That is where the power is. ... Our rebels have contemptuously rejected the values and the way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt. They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the middle class majority."
But that didn't stop Alinsky and his followers from using the middle class for their own purposes. They counted on the guilt and shame of the white middle class to get what they wanted. In order to take over institutions and get power, the middle class had to be convinced that they were somehow lucky winners in "life's lottery."
Alinsky's radicals found a perfect vehicle for their destruction of the American system and more particularly for taking and maintaining power. That instrument was the Democratic Party.
Transition and Transaction
The transition of the old Democratic Party to what exists today should not surprise or confound conservatives. Nor should Alinsky's tactics seem foreign. After all, for nearly 40 years, Republicans and the conservative agenda have been getting hammered by the left through the successful use of Alinsky tactics.
In that cause, radicals and the liberal-left gravitated toward the print and electronic media, toward the university professorate and the law. The left, consciously or unconsciously, adopted Alinsky's rules. The impact changed the nature of the Democratic Party and the direction of the United States. Increasingly, the left is succeeding in changing the nature of the Republican Party as well.
Suffice to say the greatest change has taken place in the relationship between the state and the individual. America is rapidly descending from a representative Constitutional Republic to a collectivist empire controlled by elites of one sort or another.
Alinsky's influence on the modern Democratic Party indicates that the ends do indeed justify the means. As Alinsky states in "Rules for Radicals" it was foolish to believe that means are just as important as the ends. He states that "to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles ... the practical revolutionary will understand ... [that] in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one's individual conscience and the good of mankind."
Sadly, not enough Republicans and conservatives learned Alinsky's rules until late in the game. A sign of hope is the fact that the new media, including talk radio and the Internet, are changing all that. One can hope it is not too late.
In any event, Alinsky's rules include:
"Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat."
"Make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules. You can kill them with this. They can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity."
"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."
"The threat is generally more terrifying than the thing itself."
"In a fight almost anything goes. It almost reaches the point where you stop to apologize if a chance blow lands above the belt."
"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it." (Think Gingrich, Lott and the success of name-calling used by the likes of Bill Clinton, Paul Begala, James Carville, Maxine Waters and others against conservatives and Republicans. Think of how Clinton "enemies" like Paula Jones or Linda Tripp were treated.)
"One of the criteria for picking the target is the target's vulnerability ... the other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract." (Trent Lott comes to mind. Meanwhile, a former Klansman by the name of Sen. Robert Byrd got away with saying "nigger" on Fox News at least three times, and he still maintains his Senate seat and power.)
"The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength." For instance, Democrats imply conservatives are racists or that Republicans want to kill senior citizens by limiting the growth of the Medicare system, they imply Republicans want to deny kids lunch money without offering real proof. These red-herring tactics work.
Of course, Republicans reaction to all this is to immediately go on the defensive. Seldom do they unleash their pit bull orators or strategists. Rather than use the immense amount of data available to prove the conservative case, Republicans tug their forelocks, say "yes sir," and hope the accusations and name calling will go away.
Why is it that Republicans consistently fail to point out the monumental failures of the new Democrats? Failures such as the massive disaster that is the "war on poverty." On that topic alone Republicans should be drilling the public in every media venue and at every opportunity. Then and only then should Republicans offer alternatives to the failed policies of the Democratic left.
Republicans should pound relentlessly on the fact that the Democratic Party was hijacked by leftist reactionaries way back in the early '70s. The reactionary left is the obstructionist left. They do nothing but defend and cling to the failures of the past. That fact makes them reactionaries rather than radicals or progressives.
Unfortunately, Republicans still pretend that nothing has changed regarding the basic philosophy of the political parties. They refuse to understand the horrendous notion that Democrats tell us the U.S. Constitution is flexible. That means the rule of law is flexible. If that is the case the law and the Constitution mean nothing. It means that the law and Constitution are twisted by the whims and fancies of the moment.
In fact, in the 2000 election Al Gore maintained the Constitution could and should be manipulated because it was "flexible." Whatever happened to the amendment process?
Bill Clinton used executive orders to circumvent Congress and the Constitution. He used the agencies of the federal government against his enemies. Clinton set an extremely dangerous precedent. Alinsky would have loved it. It is a perfect example of the use of the Rules for Radicals – ends justify the means.
Hillary and Bill Clinton and other powerful former '60s radicals learned from Saul Alinsky. It is about time that a few more Republicans and/or conservatives did as well.
"People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both."