What Community Organizing Isn’t

January 30, 2009

If you want to make changes in your community, instead of just writing about it, you have to read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

I regret I didn’t get my copy until December, after Obama took the election.  I was quoting it from other people’s writings, but didn’t fully understand the import of the book.  No wonder ACORN was using it, and how Obama successfully came out of nowhere politically to beat all the insiders for the office.

Today, I found an old post by beeveedee on Community Activism, what it is and what it isn’t.  He/she quotes from Alinsky on why Palin didn’t understand the importance of being an organizer.

Advocacy / Activism – Simply being in favor of something does not make you an organizer. In fact, community organizers are, at least in their professional lives, distinguished by not really being in favor of anything except building the power of organized people. Once you’ve built power, then you don’t have to stop at being in favor of things. You can actually get them. Advocacy and activism are about being right. Organizing is about being effective.

This is why we couldn’t understand Mr Obama.  Whatever we claimed he was, he wasn’t.  He acted however he needed to act to build power.  He promised what he thought his listeners wanted, only he did it with more finesse than Ms Clinton, his primary opponent.

Question now is whether he’s got the skills to use that power.  He advocated for a portion of the electorate, most of whom lose interest between elections.  But he didn’t organize Congress.  He wasn’t there long enough.  Alinsky told us:  If you’re not there organizing, you’re just increasing the census.

Let me leave you with beeveedee’s concluding thought:

Let me say at plainly as I know how: If you are building the power of organized people to hold political and economic systems accountable, you are organizing. If you aren’t doing that, you’re not organizing.


How “The West Wing” predicted the future

January 26, 2009

There’s a post from the social networking site digg.com from user “DaviDTC” that contrasted how the 2008 presidential elections seemed to mirror the 2006 The West Wing elections that closed out the final season of the show.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported the connection on Oct 29, but I wasn’t watching closely enough.  (Maybe I didn’t want to see.)

Slate Magazine also noticed the connection.  According to their video, The West Wing writers modeled their candidate on Obama’s Senate bid.  It’s a case of life imitating fiction imitating life.

West Wing => Matt Santos, a young, minority (Latino) democrat becomes the new president
Real Life => Obama, a young minority (black) democrat becomes the new president

West Wing => Santos rises from an underdog position and beats a more experienced candidate (current VP) in a long primary campaign
Real Life => Obama rises from an underdog position and beats Hillary, a more experienced candidate in a long primary campaign

West Wing => Santos runs against an aging maverick Republican (Vinick)
Real Life => Obama runs against an aging maverick Republican (McCain)

West Wing => Santos picks an old Washington insider as his running mate (McGerry)
Real Life => Obama picks an old Washington insider (Biden) as his running mate

West Wing => Vinick picks a conservative running mate to please the Republican base
Real life => McCain picks a conservative running mate (Palin)to please the Republican base

West Wing => Santos picks a major campaign opponent (Vinick) to be the new secretary of state<
Real Life => Obama picks a major campaign opponent (Hillary) to be the new secretary of state

West Wing => Santos picks a jewish, democratic hardliner to be his Chief of Staff (Josh Lyman)
Real Life => Obama picks a jewish, democratic hardliner to be his Chief of Staff (Rahm Emanuel)

Pretty freaky!


Inaugural Racism

January 21, 2009

I am astounded at the quantity of race-related comments surrounding this election.

“I never considered attending an inauguration before.”

“I never thought I’d live to see the day.”

“One of ours has made it to the highest office.”

I know I never envisioned anyone looking like Barack Hussein Obama ever residing in the White House in my lifetime and I am so glad I lived to see it.

Barack Obama has accomplished what was thought to be the impossible and become the 44th and first African American President. This historic triumph transcended race. (even though that person made a point to mention race)

A lot of people had predicted that America could never accept his election. Stealthy forces would buy votes, steal them or otherwise overturn democracy.  Instead, Obama’s opponents have congratulated him graciously, and pledged their cooperation. So far, they even seem charmed. (Does he really think that poorly of White people, to think we think about race instead of character?)

The most telling came from an NPR commentator.

“I looked behind me and the demons of my pasts were only ghosts.”

And that’s the problem.  Most non-blacks got over their racism 20 years ago.  Most Americans under 21 never learned prejudice.  Most of the blacks on the news for the past month are still fighting the demons of their childhood and the battles told them by their parents.

It’s part of the black news experience.  Especially in the Black press.  Black Voice News says “More than a quarter of the 2.6 million jobs lost in 2008 were among African-American, even though Black workers are only 11 percent of the civilian work force….That means that nearly half of all African-American men were out of work or have permanently dropped out of the labor force. What would happen if half of all White men did not have jobs?  … why doesn’t it happen in response to shameful levels of Black joblessness?”

Could it be that, even though there are significantly more  whites than blacks in America, more blacks are in prison than whites, and blacks are less likely (proportionally) to finish high school?  Or is it the white man’s fault the blacks are being held back?

I  believe Mr Obama can indeed rise above race; I hope his supporters can as well.