Must-Read of the Day: Andy McCarthy on Saul Alinsky

Writing in the New Criterion this month, Andrew McCarthy reviews Radical by Nicholas von Hoffman, a new book about the great devil of modern times, the Capone gang member, Marxist community organizer, agitator and social destabilizer — and Obama’s spiritual mentor — Saul Alinsky.

It is a matter of no small amusement for the journalist and agitator Nicholas von Hoffman that his beloved mentor, Saul Alinsky, learned the craft of “organizing” at the feet of Chicago’s most notorious mobsters. This was nearly eighty years before the self-proclaimed radical became a household name, having posthumously inspired an up-and-coming organizer who went on to become the forty-fourth president of the United States. Alinsky’s entrée to the Al Capone gang (which, tellingly, he called a “public utility”) was neither his ruthlessness nor his penchant for rabble-rousing, though a surfeit of both qualities surely impressed his friend Frank (“the Enforcer”) Nitti. It was, instead, his academic credentials.


A freshly minted doctor of criminology from the University of Chicago, Alinsky sought out, bonded with, and closely studied anti-social types. His experience proved invaluable in his lifelong pursuit of “social justice,” the organizer’s panacea. Alinsky even found a Depression-era job at Joliet’s hard-knocks penitentiary, assessing the suitability of inmates for parole. Not every crook had the panache of the Enforcer, and the work soon bored Alinsky, whose promiscuous mind was easily given to boredom. Yet there was an oasis in this desert: the evaluation of an occasional con man. In an unintentionally hilarious vignette, von Hoffman relates that “one of the flim-flam men initiated Alinsky into the secrets of his trade.” We’re never told to which “his” the trade-secrets in question belonged–the flim-flammer or the organizer. It turns out not to matter. They’re both frauds.

If you seek to know why the “Democrat Party” is today essentially a criminal organization masquerading as a political party, you can certainly start with Tammany Hall — OK, Aaron Burr, if you want to go all the way back. But Alinsky’s baleful influence (he puckishly dedicated Rules for Radicals to Lucifer) is crucial to understanding our current predicament, and why we have the man in the White House we do:

… fraud is not a reason to take a pass on Radical but a cause to read it and be astonished. Even here, in this most affectionate of depictions, there can be no camouflaging that an “organizer” is a fraud through and through–in his tactics, in his motives, and in his carefully crafted self-image.

Take the organizer’s underlying premise: he presents himself as a builder of “small-d democracy.” “Democracy” is a codeword. To the unwary, it is drained of meaning, vaguely connoting a benign call to freedom and self-government. But for the revolutionary–and that’s what Alinsky’s radical is about, revolution–a democrat is the heroic Jacobin pitted in a fight to the finish against the evil, moneyed, ruling aristocrat. Life in America is a Manichean war in which the democrat inhabits the side of the angels.


The organizer comes not to build but to destroy. Oh, he talks a noble game. After all, the rules preach that the revolution is all about communication: “social justice,” “racial justice,” “economic justice,” “equality,” “living wages,” “sustainable development,” and so on. These, though, are abstractions, and Alinsky admonished acolytes from von Hoffman to Hillary Rodham to Barack Obama that abstractions don’t get people motivated, marching, and moving. The revolution is about razing, not raising. It is not defined by what it is for. It is nihilism, defined only by what it abhors: the “establishment,” the “system,” in essence, the Haves.

Make sure to read the whole thing, and then think about it:

As a young Alinsky acolyte, Barack Obama worked closely with acorn, schooling operatives of an organization now infamous for its Marxist platform, “direct action” tactics, and rampant election fraud. In a fleeting treatment of the recently discredited organization, von Hoffman allows that acorn may have been “inspired” by Alinsky–you think?–and that its “cheekiness, truculence, and imaginative tactical tropes” have an Alinskyan touch. In any event, Obama represented acorn as a lawyer, successfully weakening voter registration requirements, which laxity acorn proceeded to exploit by flooding the rolls with fake names. acorn energetically supported Obama’s successful political campaigns. As president, in turn, Obama leads a Justice Department that has studiously reversed Bush administration efforts to curb voter fraud and intimidation.

Meantime, the President berates “fat-cat bankers”–the same ones his acorn associates pressured into making the ruinous sub-prime mortgage loans that necessitated their bail-out. To squeeze them into slashing pay, Obama summoned bank ceos to a White House dressing down, admonishing that “my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” To rationalize expanding government control over the financial sector, he had his Treasury Secretary gather together the top executives of the nation’s nine largest banks and goad them (in terms worthy of the Godfather) to accept government capital infusions, whether they wanted the money or not, or risk the wrath of regulators. In muscling in on the auto industry, the administration skirted the bankruptcy laws, orchestrating a takeover of General Motors in which bondholders were robbed blind in order to reward the President’s supporters at the United Auto Workers. And as public outcry over the Gulf oil disaster mounted, Obama summoned BP executives to a White House sweat-session in the ominous presence of his Attorney General; when the parties emerged, BP had been brow-beaten into ponying up a staggering $20 billion escrow fund to be doled out by an administration flunky, Kenneth Feinberg–a leftwing lawyer previously designated the president’s “czar” to police executive compensation at companies bailed out by the government.

The fox has made it to the hen house. The old master would be proud.

Think about it long and hard.


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