Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rules For Radicals: A Mid-Convention Booster Shot

With Republicans heading home from Cleveland and Democrats gathering in Philadelphia, the national political convention season has reached its midpoint this weekend. I thought it would be the perfect time to give readers a booster shot of the political tactics we're likely to encounter from now until the election in November. The tactics were developed by Saul Alinsky, long recognized as the founding father of community organizing, and best articulated in his 1971 book, Rules for Radicals. Alinsky was a native of Chicago, trained at the University of Chicago, and a veteran organizer and political activist in Chicago neighborhoods. Alinsky's name may not be familiar to most Americans but they are certainly aware of Chicago's other successful and internationally famous leftist community organizer. Barack Obama.

We've already had an eight-year tutorial on community organizing tactics coming out of the White House. We shouldn't expect the use of such successful tactics to be confined to left wing politics especially given that we have all the ingredients for a vicious presidential campaign in the coming months. 

My copy

To help readers identify, understand, and appreciate the rules as well as respond to their power to influence American voters, here they are as written with supporting information is in brackets:

1. Power is not only what you have, it's what the enemy thinks you have. [Power is derived from two main sources - money and people.]

2. Never go outside the expertise of your people. [It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.]

3. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. [Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.]

4. Make the enemy lie up to its own book of rules. [You can kill them with this because nobody can possibly obey all of their own rules.]

5. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. [There is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating.]

6. A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

7. A tactic that drags on too long become a drag. [Don't become old news. Even radical activists get bored.]

8. Keep the pressure on. Never let up. [Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, recover, regroup or re-strategize.]

9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. [Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.]

10. If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive. [Violence from the other side can become a positive because the public sympathizes with the underdog.]

11. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. [Never let the enemy score points because you're caught without a solution to the problem. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.]

12. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. [Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people, not institutions, people hurt faster than institutions.]

I trust readers will benefit from this information as we face what may well be the most significant national election in our time.

In closing, readers should know that after seven years in Washington in the 1960's I was a lefty radical by 1971.  That's the reason I have a first edition of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals [1971]. It's been read more than once, a bit yellow here and there, and the dust jacket has a few small tears and scuffs; otherwise, it's in excellent condition. Now I look at the rule book and its players from two quite separate points of view as the tactics have become mainstream in the world of politics. Time and experience has taught me well and I've moved right of center on political and economic issues but liberals young and old will be happy to know that I never once liked Richard Nixon. 

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