Monday, April 16, 2012


"This is going to be a dirty fight, so put your game face on. "

John Hawkins at Right Wing News, like a few people who showed up at Tea Party events, thinks that since the left has found some success by following the principles of Saul Alinsky (whether aware of it or not), then so should conservatives. He's written twice about this, the latest at Town Hall.

In response I'd like to tell a little story.
Imagine you're at a gathering of people and you see a couple sitting together. The husband is charming and easy going, smiling and laughing as he drinks a glass of wine. The wife is uncomfortable, she looks anxious and miserable. The kids seem to favor dad, except the eldest child, who's watching over the younger kids. The husband is the life of the party, as it were, always ready with a glib comment and a friendly smile.

Once, he makes a joke, mentioning how his wife can't seem to cook steak right, and she explodes. She yells at him, begins crying and runs out of the room. The man has a look of surprise and shock, seemingly unable to understand how his comment could possibly have upset her so much. He looks around the room for support, and people watching think what a bitch, how can he put up with someone like that?" The kids just look like they're used to it.
What you don't know or at least truly understand is that the husband is an alcoholic. He drinks more or less continuously and has made a pattern of regularly making little snide remarks and tearing his wife down. Its always her fault, as he tells the tale. Every time he drinks, its because of her. She always is picking on him, never treats him right.

When he's drinking, which is most of the time, he's easy going and charming, likeable. He gets along with everyone but her, who he make sure feels awful so he doesn't. He finds a way to make her feel horrible and seem worse than him so he doesn't feel guilty about his drinking. Over time, the little remarks pile up. The slights and blaming and quips which individually are innocent and tolerable pile up like tiny ant bites until they become unbearable torture.

She puts up with it and tries to make her marriage work and sacrifices and cleans up after him and covers for him with his boss and his friends. Every day she has to deal with living with someone who is effectively nuts and takes it out on her. And sometimes, without warning, it all becomes too much and she lashes out.

And all the while, the world thinks he's a wonderful guy and she's an awful harpy. The kids often think so too, because they can't understand. Dad seems great, if a bit unreliable. Mom seems brittle and angry. She feels alone in the world, abused, cruelly misused, and life seems so unfair, and sometimes, especially when everyone seems to love the guy that treats her so badly and he does it again, she just can't take it any more.

And that's how Alinsky's tactics work. That's how they play out on the national scene. Alinsky's tactics are all about undermining, mocking, tricking. They are about avoiding intellectual discussion, not convincing or arguing a point, but making the other look stupid, weak, and hypocritical. Being truthful isn't the point, being right isn't the goal, its just about winning, no matter what.

Alinsky's tactics are the methods of Wormtongue, whispering in the ears of others, slandering and tricking and underhanded dealing. Its about betrayal, mockery, and lies. In other words, they are without honor or virtue. They are the way to win if you have no strength, have no virtue, and are unethical. They are how to get your way despite not having reason or truth behind you.

And under no circumstances in any case should conservatives stoop to the point of using these schemes to find a way to win if for no other reason than that they deliberately cause division, strife, anger, frustration, and fury in your opponents. People who might otherwise be willing to work with you become your deadliest enemies. Folks who might compromise and find a way to work out a collaborative effort suddenly become entrenched and bitter.

Alinsky wasn't absolutely wrong in every single instance, he was awful in the totality and approach, in why he said to use these tactics. It isn't that he was the first to come up with his Rules for Radicals, he was the first to compile them into a single set of philosophies of how to win without actually convincing anyone of anything.

And while his system has worked with, for example, homosexuality, in the end all it brings is ruin and offers absolutely no method of actually governing once in power. And when the destruction is complete and you've turned potential allies and friends into raging enemies, what's left of the country you allegedly were trying to save?

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