I hadn’t really given too much thought to what a “Community Organizer” (CO) was until Barack Obama. As the Right demonized him, the idea of a CO as something sinister and radical became a common thread. This article on Obama’s Radical Past is a good example. In retrospect, this is especially hilarious since Obama was almost ineffectually centrist.
It’s with this background, that I found it amusing (note: is that even the right word when it’s all depressing?) when I actually read the “father of community organizing”, Saul Alinsky’s, Rules for Radicals:
- “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 for every single one of these, but, for now, let me focus on the ones I 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 I could probably say that about Trump’s ability & willingness to shamelessly ridicule anyone, as well.
“A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
A Trump rally is an explosion of energy and emotion. The demonization and warnings are ones the crowds drink in and he basks in that reflected glory. Think back to 2016. What did Hillary look like she and the audience really enjoyed? Sadly, my memory says they are the mass events with the Obama’s. It was a joyless campaign.
“Keep the pressure on.”
From the campaign till this day, 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 even required, it’s the threat + the odd event all that is needed to justify why anyone should be terrified.
“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? You do if it’s the primary weapon of choice in your arsenal. He’s operationalized daily distractions to his opposition — and make no mistake as to who that opposition is: he opposes the media (more, I’d argue, than they oppose him) and through them the people.
“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.