When a former community organizer with little other experience became the Democratic Party nominee for president in 2008, conservatives began inquiring what, exactly, a “community organizer” does.
That led to a surge of interest in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a secular Bible among Barack Obama’s cohort of left-wing radicals in Chicago. In the White House, as aide Valerie Jarrett so memorably put it, Obama remained a community organizer, using his old tactics to push his agenda.
Now that they have been relegated to the opposition, Obama and the Democrats are not only using the same old Alinskyite tactics, but amplifying them through the media, who will never forgive President Donald Trump for winning the election. (Far from retiring quietly, Obama has been swift to criticize his successor and encourage left-wing protests against his policies.)
Here are just a few examples of Alinsky’s rules being put into practice in an effort to bring down the Trump administration.
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” During the 2016 election, the media tried to stop Trump from winning by focusing on his personal flaws, real and imagined. That failed — so they are targeting the people around Trump.
The most unfortunate victim of this strategy is not former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign this week, but White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is the most accessible member of the president’s media team, and one of the most effective. For making a flippant remark at the end of a Fox & Friends segment, in which she endorsed Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, she is now being singled out for investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics. (What “investigation” is needed? She was on live television.)
The media are simply throwing whatever they can at the people around Trump, whether it is true or not. For example, bloggers and journalists smeared Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka as a Nazi sympathizer, in keeping with the ongoing defamation of White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon (both formerly of Breitbart News) as a “white nationalist” and worse.
Sometimes the attacks are not only false, but also personally abusive, such as a recent article in Fusion targeting White House speechwriter and policy guru, Stephen Miller: “Why does Stephen Miller sound like such a dick? A voice coach explains.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough’s attacks on Miller have become so openly hostile to Miller, and so personal in nature (“my young, little Miller”) that even the Washington Post seemed genuinely taken aback by the Morning Joe host’s criticisms.
It is worth noting that the media did not press for the resignation of any of the Obama administration officials associated with much more serious scandals — Benghazi, the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal come to mind — even when officials admitted that they had misled Congress and the public. Now, the media are constantly searching for personalities they can pillory as proxies for the Trump administration as a whole.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” In the weeks after Election Day, Saturday Night Live contented itself with weepy tributes to Hillary Clinton. Now, however, it has returned to comedic form in ridiculing President Trump and his staff. There is nothing wrong with that — and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is funny — but what is interesting is that mainstream news outlets, such as CNN, often spend the next several days after each new sketch reporting and re-running Saturday Night Live segments as news.
Politico recently piled on with an entirely speculative report that Saturday Night Live could actually force the dismissal of the White House staffers it has been targeting, including Spicer. The obvious goal of such “fake news” stories is turn entertainment into a political weapon against the Trump administration.
“If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its [positive] counterside.” What Alinsky meant was that tactics that would ordinarily be abhorrent — say, rioting on a university campus, or telling the public that members of the government were “Nazis” — would be tolerated, and even celebrated, once they had been proven successful.
The current Democratic Party strategy is not to reach out to the voters they have lost over the past several years, but rather to make the country appear ungovernable, hoping that voters then turn to the Democrats for relief.
In recent protests at Los Angeles International Airport, for instance, Mayor Eric Garcetti not only joined demonstrators in solidarity, but did so at a time when protesters were blocking traffic and disrupting travel. He was perfectly willing to harm his own city for political gain — normally objectionable, except that it worked.
These tactics will not fade because of one resignation. Alinksy, after all, advised his acolytes to “keep the pressure on.” What is happening today will continue throughout the Trump administration. The government, and the conservative voters who are expecting it to deliver, will have to be just as tough, and even stronger, in the face of Alinskyite attacks.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.