Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt Gingrich and Saul Alinsky

Long ago, Barrack Obama worked with radical agitator and community organizer Saul Alinsky. Most people have forgotten about this, but Newt Gingrich keeps bringing it up; in his South Carolina victory speech, he said, "The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky."

But as Philip Klein points out in a terrific essay, it is really Newt who is a follower of Alinsky:
In his seminal 1971 work, Rules for Radicals, left-wing community organizer Alinsky laid out his method for instigating change. Many of the tactics he spoke about -- such as exploiting resentment and pitting oneself against the establishment -- have become a central part of Gingrich's strategy for securing the Republican presidential nomination. . . .

Gingrich's clashes against the establishment are classic Alinsky. "The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a 'dangerous enemy,'" Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals. He went on to reveal that, "Today, my notoriety and the hysterical instant reaction of the establishment not only validate my credentials of competency but also ensure automatic popular invitation."

Though Gingrich has spent several decades profiting from being part of the Washington establishment, the fact that he's been attacked by so-called "elites" has become self-validating.
And the way he scolded CNN moderator John King in last Thursday's South Carolina debate followed Alinsky's 13th tactical rule, which states: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

Alinsky argued that a faceless target such as City Hall, or in this case, the mainstream media, isn't as powerful of a target as individual person. And by "freeze it," he meant that whoever the target is shouldn't be allowed to pin the blame on somebody else. . . .

After weak showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich's campaign was on life support. So he resorted to unleashing an aggressive attack against Mitt Romney's wealth and career at private equity firm Bain Capital. Many prominent conservatives and Republicans pounced, seeing it as an attack on capitalism itself. Even Rudy Giuliani, somebody who has had harsh words for Romney (his opponent in the 2008 GOP presidential race), likened Gingrich's tactics to Alinsky's.

But though they angered many on the right, the attacks undermined Romney's electability argument -- which had previously been his main asset in the GOP nomination battle.

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