Opinion: Obama playbook is Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals"

It's hard to make sense of the rhetoric coming from the Obama campaign. That's because the rhetoric is radical, not rational. Photo: Al Maurer

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. - Rules for Radicals, Rule 12.

COLORADO SPRINGS, August 19, 2012 ― In this year’s political campaigns, the two sides seem to operate under different sets of rules. The GOP thinks the game runs under standard rules of fair play. Democrats play under Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.”

Example: About a month ago, conservatives including Allen West called the mountain of debt this administration has accumulated the equivalent of tax slavery. This concept was familiar to our Founding Fathers. The left reacted with outrage and demanded apologies and retractions.

This week, Joe Biden talked not about mere tax slavery, but about chattel slavery, saying that Republicans want to put African-Americans back in chains. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Face the Nation that Biden’s remarks were a blatant appeal to racism. Democrats defended Biden’s remarks.

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” Rules for Radicals, Rule 4.

What are we to make of this? If it is wrong to invoke images of slavery, why do the very people who condemned the analogy then go on to use and defend it just a few weeks later? It does not pass the fairness test.

As Americans, we believe in a sense of fair play, that is, everyone playing by the same rules. That’s not happening today. In the 2008 campaign, Joe Biden said that there are two Americas. Nothing underlines that statement more than the fact that the two political sides are playing by different sets of rules.

If the goal is justice, we get it by treating all sides fairly. 

If the goal is simply to win, we play under Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” Alinsky’s primer might be summed up, “Win at any cost.” Justice is not embodied in the process, justice is assumed to lie in the agenda, or “our side of the story,” if you will. The process is just a means of getting our way. Under Alinsky’s rules, any tactic (and any lie) is fine as long as it serves the agenda: The ends justify the means.

Using Alinsky’s rules, you don’t let the opposition be heard; rather, you drown it out. If the target population gets only one side of the story, that side wins. But as Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

When they figure out they’ve been fooled, look out. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Even Plato—no friend of democracy—wrote in The Republic that in the end the perfectly unjust ruler would be abandoned by everyone.

So how do we know we know when we’re being taken for fools? Jefferson, Adams and others of the Founders believed that there was no substitute for an educated and moral citizenry. In the interest of education, here are a couple of examples of the kinds of things that should trigger a “fraud alert” in your brain.

The first is an appeal to the emotions. The left does this with ads such as a barely-disguised stand-in for Paul Ryan literally throwing granny in a wheelchair over a cliff. The surprise ending of the commercial and the violence of the act cause you to react emotionally. If you listen to the message without the images, or stop to consider the message for even a moment, it seems overblown, fantastic, and surreal. It is. Those peddling the message don’t want you to think, they want you to feel.

When you know the facts, you know that it is the current administration that has cut $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare, and that Ryan’s proposal changes nothing for people over 55. You might even know that the Ryan proposal hasn’t been adopted as a policy proposal by the Romney campaign or the Republican Party.

The second method is to accuse the opposition of exactly what you’re doing. This has two effects: The first is that the opposition may spend time defending a nonsensical charge and get thrown off message. The left knows if they can control the debate, they win. The second effect is that when the opposition accuses you (correctly) of the same thing, people are by now skeptical. You get a pass.

Diabolical? Yes. After all, Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer. Really.

The irony here is that these people are so steeped in their ideology that they can’t help themselves. They are so captured by their ideology that it defines them. Their attacks say more about who they are than they say about the people they try to attack.

Just yesterday Obama used the phrase, “trickle-down snake oil.” It is a perfect example of the sneering, mocking way the left treats ideas not their own. He meant to imply that supply-side economics doesn’t work, although we have seen that in fact it does work. Obama simply does not seem to believe in free market economics. We could reasonably infer that he believes in centralized economies where the government defines success and decides who deserves which rewards.

The use of these and other Alinsky techniques produce these kinds of contradictions over time. Many were fooled in 2008, fewer will be in 2012. The accumulated lies will fall of their own weight. Take the red pill and see things the way they really are.


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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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