The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published September 16 by Grand Junction Free Press.
President Obama proves difficult to pin down. On the campaign trail, he opposed mandated health insurance; as president, he sought to impose it. He decried deficits even while ramping up federal spending. Obama answers the domestic jobs crisis by throwing ever more money at it; he answers the Iranian nuclear threat mostly with evasion.
What explains Obama’s slipperiness? After all, this is the man who succeeded a wildly unpopular Republican president on the vague and still-undefined platform of “hope and change.”
A hint to Obama’s character comes through an examination of the original Chicago “community organizer,” Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicalsfrom 1971, the Bible for many on the left. As Peter Slevin writes for a 2007 Washington Post article, Alinsky once offered Hillary Clinton a job (she turned it down), and “a group of his disciples hired Barack Obama” to implement Alinsky’s vision.
We have nothing against radicals per se; indeed, many rightly see in us a radical bent. The term comes from the Latin word for roots; a radical is somebody who tries to get to the root of the matter. Our two favorite radical quotes come from Barry Goldwater — “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” — and Martin Luther King — “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
But the term “radical” doesn’t reveal which roots a person seeks. On the good side, America’s Founders became the best sort of radicals in their struggle for liberty.
But radicals can also bear deadly poison. A radical racist dyes the whole world a race-tinged hue; radical socialists slaughtered scores of millions of people during the 20th Century.
Our problem with Alinsky rests in his particular sort of radicalism of class warfare and character assassination.
Beneath his platitudes about democracy and the “importance and worth in the individual,” Alinsky reveals his core goal: to “use power for a more equitable distribution of the means of life for all people.” As Obama reformulates it, the goal is to “spread the wealth around” through political force.
In Alinsky’s world, “Mankind has been and is divided into three parts: the Haves, the Have-Nots,” and those in between. “Rules for Radicals,” he explains, “is written for the Have-Nots on how to take [power] away” from the Haves.”
Observe the unmentioned premises behind Alinsky’s project. He presumes that wealth just somehow arrives around us, and some people unfairly grab it first. On such a premise, class warfare becomes inevitable, and forcibly redistributing “the wealth” becomes the radical’s goal.
But in a free society that protects people’s rights, individuals create wealth by reshaping aspects of the natural world using their intelligence and hard work, then trading on a voluntary market. In such a society, the “Haves” earn their wealth through productive effort, and they provide the employment (and at times the voluntary charity) that enables the “Have-Nots” to get ahead in life.
In a free society, some people produce vastly more wealth than others, and profit accordingly, while all remain free to live their lives by their own judgment and participate in a broadly prosperous economy. In a free economy all can prosper, though to different degrees. The mark of a free economy is peaceful and voluntary association, not the power struggles of class warfare.
Unfortunately, in the power-controlled world created by the presumptions that both Alinsky and Obama share, politicians forcibly transfer wealth from those who justly earn it to the politically-favored “Haves.” We call such programs things like “bailouts,” “stimulus spending,” “quantitative easing,” and “entitlements.”
Alinsky preaches the dogma of class warfare while pretending he opposes all dogma. The community organizer, Alinsky writes, “does not have a fixed truth — truth to him is relative and changing.” You may read Obama’s campaign slogan in Alinsky’s line: “Man’s hopes lie in the acceptance of the great law of change.”
Alinsky’s ever-changing world lacking timeless truths gives rise to his unprincipled pragmatism. He openly mocks those concerned about whether the ends justify the means. “The real arena is corrupt and bloody,” he writes, so “one does not always enjoy the luxury” of upholding “individual conscience.” Moral rhetoric on this view becomes a political weapon; “Moral rationalization is indispensable at all times of action,” he writes.
Guided by such views, the left continually employs character assassination against its opponents; note the groundless demonization of Tea Partiers as violence-prone racists. Alinsky explicitly encourages such tactics; he writes, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” He adds, “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” As for the truth, well, there’s no such thing, and all that matters is the “moral rationalization.”
Everyone who wants to restore American liberty should read Alinsky’s book, not only to better understand Barack Obama and his allies, but to learn the tactics of the left and how to fight them.