I hadn’t given much thought to the term: “Community Organizer” (CO) until Barack Obama. As the Right demonized him, the idea of a CO as something sinister and radical became common. This article on Obama’s Radical Past is a good example. In retrospect, this is especially hilarious since Obama was almost ineffectually centrist.
So when I came across the “father of community organizing”, Saul Alinsky’s, Rules for Radicals, I was struck:
- “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
- “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
- “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
- “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
- “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
- “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
- “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
- “Keep the pressure on.”
- “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
- “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
- “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside”
- “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
- “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
I think I can make a case that Trump has utilized every one of these for his rise, but let me first focus on the bolded.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
Donald Trump might be the most potent ridicule machine the world has ever produced. As a kid I wanted to do something, someday, as well as MJ played basketball. Sadly Trump’s ability & willingness to shamelessly ridicule anyone, is on that level.
“A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
A Trump rally is an explosion of energy and emotion. It was the demonization and grave warnings that the crowds ate up and he basked in that reflected glory. Think back to 2016. Sadly Hillary’s campaign seemed joyless.
“Keep the pressure on.”
Trump lobs a new bomb daily. Everyone reacts. Constantly. It’s frighteningly effective.
“The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
The foreigners. Stealing the jobs. Bringing the rape and the murder. The rhetoric and symbolism of the Wall. Ahead of next week’s midterms, the threat of an amorphous caravan of brown people walking North. The threats are dribbled out constantly. Only an occasional manifestation of them is required, because it’s the threat + odd event is all that is needed to keep people on edge.
“The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
Does the president need to tweet? Yes, if it’s the primary weapon of choice. He’s operationalized the process of creating daily distractions to his opposition — the media.
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
“LOCK HER UP.” I can’t imagine another Republican nominee who would make allusions to jailing their political opponent. Hillary was the target and his bully personality did a fantastic job of freezing it, personalizing, and making the already polarized Hillary, into the most polarizing figure in politics.
Am I on to something here? I think it’s ironic that Trump has used the tenets of grassroots community organizing at scale in building a mass of very, very angry people.