All Alinsky, All The Time

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Do you know who Saul Alinsky is? If not, don't fret. There's an entire cottage industry of conservative writers working feverishly to reintroduce the storied community organizer to the world and document how he successfully overcame almost 40 years of being dead to pull the strings within the Obama White House.

Alinsky, often credited as the grandfather of modern community organizing, believed that the poor and dispossessed were ill-served by the political system and that, when united and agitated, could be their own best vehicle for enacting positive change at the community level. He made no effort to hide the radicalism of his prescriptions for achieving meaningful change, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in their youth were students of his methods.

As such, "Alinsky" has become shorthand for conservatives who believe against all evidence that Obama is a secretly a radical whose moderate façade is meant to disguise an ulterior agenda inspired by a dangerous lunatic who believed in helping poor people. Foremost among the All-Alinsky All Stars are the writers of National Review, who in the past three years have described just about everything President Obama has done as an "Alinskyite" ploy.

As ThinkProgress noted, full-time Alinsky fabulist Stanley Kurtz wrote yesterday that Obama probably secretly approves of the rioting in Britain because of Alinsky and an ACORN press release from 20 years ago. That makes absolutely no sense, but it's nonetheless part of the National Review's proud tradition of writing "Alinsky" and passing it off as analysis.

To date, the magazine has invoked Alinsky with regard to:

Obama's 2008 campaign: "The Alinsky Ticket"

The 2008 Democratic National Convention: "Did Saul Alinsky orchestrate Obama convention?"

The entire Obama presidency: "The Alinsky Administration"

The war in Afghanistan: "Alinsky Does Afghanistan"

The White House's Iran policy: "Alinsky's Rules for Obama's Iran Strategy"

The health care reform debate: "What Does 'Reconciliation' Mean? Let's Ask Saul Alinsky"

Everything that Obama does: "Obama: Still the Alinskyite"

Why do they keep raising the specter of Alinsky? Because the right decided a long time ago that Barack Obama is a dangerous extremist, even though Obama doesn't really do anything too extreme. To bridge that gap, they accuse Obama of hiding his true extremist nature, as revealed (they allege) by his tangential connections to people, like Alinsky, who can legitimately be described as "radicals." (See also: Bill Ayers.)

By virtue of their radicalism, Obama himself becomes a radical. It's guilt by association, plain and simple.

National Review
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.