Recently, Newt Gingrich has been bringing up Saul Alinsky in his stumping. Which begs the question (for all of those without a master's degree in political theory) who is Saul Alinsky? The answer will pretty much solidify two facts- Newt Gingrich is a fantastic historian. There is no denying that. And, Newt Gingrich wants to be shocking, flashy, and unconventional.
Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) is widely credited as the founder of modern community organizing, now more commonly known as grassroots organizations. He also wrote the book Rules for Radicals.
He was not a well-loved man, and received as much criticism and he did praise for his pot-stirring. He brought attention to poverty and poor communities in the U.S., focusing on African American ghettos in major cities. In the 1930s, Alinsky organized the Back of the Yards neighborhood and founded the Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago, which trained organizers and assisted in the founding of community organizations around the country.
His activities were notable and memorable. But it was his book (1971), "Rules for Radicals," that this left-wing community organizer outlined his methods for instigating change that he is best known. Many of the tactics he spoke about -- such as exploiting resentment and pitting oneself against the establishment -- are the cornerstones of Gingrich's strategy for securing the Republican presidential nomination.
A few quotes (not taken out of context) from the book-
“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history... the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer. (Introduction to book)
"The means-and-ends moralists, constantly obsessed with the ethics of the means used by the Have-Nots against the Haves, should search themselves as to their real political position. In fact, they are passive — but real — allies of the Haves…. The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means... The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be...."
"The third rule of ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means...."
"The seventh rule... is that generally success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics...."
"The tenth rule... is you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.... It involves sifting the multiple factors which combine in creating the circumstances at any given time... Who, and how many will support the action?... If weapons are needed, then are appropriate d weapons available? Availability of means determines whether you will be underground or above ground; whether you will move quickly or slowly...
Tactics in the Rules for Radicals
1. "Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
2. "Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat.... [and] the collapse of communication.
3. "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
4. "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity."
5. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."
6. "A good tactic is one your people enjoy."
7. "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time...."
8. "Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose."
9. "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself."
10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign."
11. "If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside... every positive has its negative."
12. "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative."
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Alinsky was an unconventional, award-winning, peace activist and community mobilizer. For instance, just before he died suddenly from a heart attack at 71, he gave an interview to Playboy.
PLAYBOY: Having accepted your own mortality, do you believe in any kind of afterlife?ALINSKY: Sometimes it seems to me that the question people should ask is not "Is there life after death?" but "Is there life after birth?" I don't know whether there's anything after this or not. I haven't seen the evidence one way or the other and I don't think anybody else has either. But I do know that man's obsession with the question comes out of his stubborn refusal to face up to his own mortality. Let's say that if there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.PLAYBOY: Why?ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I've been with the have-nots. Over here, if you're a have-not, you're short of dough. If you're a have-not in hell, you're short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I'll start organizing the have-nots over there.PLAYBOY: Why them?ALINSKY: They're my kind of people.
There is no question about it, Newt Gingrich is a Saul Alinsky Republican.
If you read through the tactics, you have the Gingrich playbook- ridicule, push negative, blind side, polarize, and disregard for morals. While these tactics work in starting a revolution and mobilizing a cause, it begs the question- does it have a place within a party race? Sure these tactics make it impossible for your opponent to respond and overcome. But should these tactics be used within the party? Gingrich isn't trying to mobilize a new cause. He is trying to promote himself. But his tactics of insulting and blind-siding his same party members- is that wise? Is polarizing the Republican party the right thing to do when running for the privilege to be their representative and leader? Could Alinsky tactics cause more harm than good within a party? Or is this Gingrich's motive? These tactics build up Newt, but do not help the party. Is he looking to splinter the GOP?
We have had Reagan Democrats, Rockefeller Republicans and even Goldwater Republicans. And now, Gingrich has brought us Alinsky Republicans. Is there room for a lack of decency, so much ridicule, and unethical means in the family values party?? (And how would Ronald Reagan feel about that?)