Saul Alinsky's Miscalculation

Breaking the system is easy. Becoming its savior is harder.

For having a President who's now halfway through his Hundred Days, it's astonishing how many respected, authoritative people still have not the slightest clue how Donald Trump got there.

Oh, we've done our best to help these poor troubled souls: for instance, we've explained why many evangelicals preferred Mr. Trump to Hillary and touched on why women wouldn't mind his "locker room" boasting nearly as much as Hillary might have wished.  Others have written about cultural rage, economic rage, bigotry, chauvinism, guns, bitter clingers, deplorables, and much else, but nobody has explained Mr. Trump's victory in terms that make a whole lot of common sense.

The Founding Fury

To understand what happened, we have to go back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Hillary Rodham, an ex-Goldwater Girl, became one of Saul Alinsky's acolytes, so fervently that he offered her an internship.

Saul Alinsky is credited with inventing "community organizing," which claims to focus on improving the lives of people in poor communities by teaching residents how to organize protests to bring political pressure against persons of power.  This strategy assumes that poverty is deliberately inflicted on the poor by the rich and powerful and that sufficient political pressure can force powerful people to share their ill-gotten wealth with the downtrodden.

In the 1950s, he started trying to alter conditions in black ghettos in Chicago, later including ghettos in California, Michigan, New York City, and other "trouble spots."  By 1970, Time magazine wrote, "It is not too much to argue that American democracy is being altered by Alinsky's ideas," and conservative icon William Buckley said that Alinsky was "very close to being an organizational genius."

As the mainstream media reminds us, Barack Obama got his start in politics by becoming a "community organizer" in Chicago where Mr. Alinsky had spent most of his time.  We're fascinated that Chicago, whose black ghettos received the most attention from Mr. Alinsky, Mr. Obama, and their fellow organizers, has the nation's highest murder rate despite 60 years of organizing.

One might wonder whether "community organizing" actually makes life better for the community; it certainly makes life better for community organizers.  Mr. Obama started on his path to the White House through community organizing.  We've shown how learning how to organize protests isn't always the best training for success in life; we suspect that the ongoing disaster in Chicago's "organized" communities would be an even more convincing lesson if only liberals would heed it.

Rules for Radicals

Mr. Alinsky is best known for his book Rules for Radicals which explains how to overthrow a power structure through clever organizational tactics and strategic protests.  The key to his thinking is shown in his opening paragraphs:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be.  The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power.  Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away[emphasis added]

and in his opening epigraph:

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins or which is which), 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.

Mr. Alinsky neglected to mention that, having been sentenced to eventual exile from heaven for rebelling against the power of God, Lucifer ended up in charge of Earth where he seeks to thwart God's plans by any means that comes to hand.  Heaven, from which Lucifer will forever be banished, is the gateway to the entire marvelous universe whose glory we're just beginning to grasp as our instruments get better.

John Milton quoted Lucifer as saying, "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven," implying that Lucifer so badly wanted to run his own business that he accepted a significant cut in scope.  Instead of sharing access to the entire universe, he achieved dominion over Earth, one dust-mote among billions and billions!  It's like FBI Director Comey deciding he no longer wanted to serve under the Attorney General of the United States running the FBI, and leaving to become police chief in Podunk, North Dakota where he could run his own show, lording it over all three dozen souls who live there. 

Mr. Alinsky was concerned with getting power for the leaders of his organized communities, he wasn't particularly worried about making everyone's lives better once power was gained.  Christians would assure him that having the rebellious Lucifer in charge of Earth hasn't made the community any better off.  Bringing about enough prosperity to benefit everyone is no easy task.  Jane Jacobs summoned up the legacy of community organizing:

To seek "causes" of poverty in this way is to enter an intellectual dead end because poverty has no causes. Only prosperity has causes. Analogically, heat is a result of active processes; it has causes. But cold is not the result of any processes; it is only the absence of heat. Just so, the great cold of poverty and economic stagnation is merely the absence of economic development. It can be overcome only if the relevant economic processes are in motion.

Ms. Jacobs observes that just being organized, just having power, or just having resources doesn't guarantee prosperity.  Very poor countries like Nigeria and Venezuela are blessed with natural resources such as oil and their leaders have enough power to imprison or kill anyone they choose.  Oil-rich countries being very poor is so common that economists refer to the "curse of oil."

Given the overwhelming number of resource-rich poor countries, poverty would seem to be our natural state.  Achieving prosperity requires a great deal of constructively-organized work designed to fulfill a compelling vision of setting citizens free to better themselves.  Community organizing for the sake of taking power, money, or anything else from others is an ineffective substitute.  It's much sound and fury signifying nothing because just achieving power does not build a better community, at least not in Chicago.  The City of Detroit seems to be recovering from bankruptcy, but while community organizing may be helping a bit in certain neighborhoods, it has little to do with the overall recovery.

Overload the System

Much has been written about Mr. Alinsky's advice to power-seekers in Rules for Radicals, on "how to take it [power] away."  To be specific, Mr. Alinsky's seminal, widely-read work is a handbook how to take power away from other people and get it for yourself.  Gaining power has been the goal of rebels such as Lucifer ever since the dawn of recorded history and probably before that.

We know that both Hillary and Mr. Obama have drunk deep from Saul Alinsky's tactical and political cup.  We have seen both of them show themselves willing to do just about anything necessary to gain power for themselves and whichever of their associates survive the inevitable purge after they achieve unquestioned power.

How can we say that?  Because the organizing principles of Rules for Radicals have a common thread - they're designed to overload the system so that society can no longer cope with the stresses.  When things fly apart and get bad enough, citizens will demand that someone take over and restore order.

This tactic has been so common throughout history that it's called the "man on horseback" theory of politics - when things get bad, a military leader like Napoleon or a sufficiently strong leader like Mussolini rides in on his horse, makes the trains run on time, and is hailed as a hero who "gets things done."

Napoleon and Mussolini were able to take advantage of already existing dire situations; they didn't have to create the crises which gave them opportunities to seize power.  Our modern world is so much richer that most Westerners, at least, have a pretty decent life.  A would-be savior has to work very hard to convince American couch potatoes that they need to be saved from the forces of chaos, which is why Mr. Alinsky's formula hasn't fully worked even now.  But that hasn't kept his disciples from trying.

Rules for Overload

What did Mr. Obama do to make progress toward this?  Starting with calling the police "stupid" when a white officer arrested a black Harvard professor who, having lost his key, was breaking into his own house, he and Mr. Holder stirred up a race war between blacks and the police.

Having tripled the national debt to bring financial collapse closer, he did his best to cripple the economy by promoting unions whose major "contribution" is slowing the work, passing massive new regulations which make it a lot harder to create jobs, and expanding welfare and food stamps so that more and more people become dependent on government.  He also tried to boost the minimum wage to price young workers out of the job market while admitting as many uneducated illegals as he could to overload our welfare system and our jails.  These actions ensured the weakest economic recovery in modern history.

Americans and other politicians are well aware of the continuing pain.  For a major part of the 2016 campaign, Hillary's slogan was "Fighting for Us."  The clear intention was for voters to think of her as fighting against someone for them and for their needs, which if you think about it, is actually emphasizing her desire for a divided, disorderly nation where the people she was organizing had to fight to take whatever they wanted... from whom?  Presumably, from whoever already has it, which made Hillary's famous hundred-thousand-dollar speeches a serious handicap to her credibility as a class warrior.

Having lost the election, Democrats are trying their best to make the United States ungovernable, which had underpinned their plan to achieve power all along.  It might have been easier with Hillary in the White House, but Mr. Trump's victory hasn't changed their overall game plan very much, at least not yet.

Just One Teensy Problem

There was just one unanticipated problem with Mr. Alinsky's program.  The Democrats were correct in believing that Americans, like citizens of every time and place, would be tempted by the desire for a strong, tyrannical government to bring order if enough chaos was brought about.  By longstanding tradition, Democrats cause problems and then run against the problems they cause.  Mr. Obama felt that the lack of effective challenge to his illegal executive orders showed that the time was ripe for a tyrant to rescue Americans from chaos.

They forgot that if Americans were really looking for a strong leader to restore order, they would not choose Hillary.  Rumors and signs of her ill health were everywhere throughout the campaign; no one not already thoroughly in the tank for her perceived her as strong enough to open a pickle jar.  When you need to go onto a friendly TV show to prove you can do that, you have absolutely no credibility as a strongman.

What's worse, as the campaign wore on, it became increasingly clear that she's never done anything at all.  When asked to name a Hillary accomplishment, nobody could think of one when put on the spot, not even her closest and most fervent supporters.  Only after careful consideration and research were Democrats able to come up with some rather less-than-compelling lists of very much arguable "accomplishments."

As one of our friends put it, "Nobody would choose Hillary to be a man on horseback."  In spite of her record of total non-accomplishment, however, she came very close to winning the election.

The way we see it, voters who feed off the government, either as employees, welfare recipients, or crony capitalists, tended to favor Hillary.  Government employees enjoy a certain degree of protection from chaos, and those who don't work can't imagine a situation where the welfare checks won't arrive.

The major lesson of of 2016 is that if you expect to gain power through creating chaos, you'd better have a credible fix-it person ready to take over.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments

<I>Dante quotes Lucifer as saying, "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven,"</I>

I'm pretty sure that it was John Milton who quoted Lucifer thus.

April 4, 2017 8:52 PM

Nice article.

The only thing I want to clarify is the Whole Professor Gates incident in MA (which sparked Obama to say the Police acted stupidly)

A complaint was called in regarding someone attempting to break into that house (the house had previous break-ins and recently to that point)

When the Officer arrived (who ironically is the diversity trainer or something of that nature) and confronted Gates, and asked him for his ID (which would have cleared this WHOLE mess up - as it would have listed him as living there) Gates refused. FLAT OUT REFUSED. The officer had no choice in the matter.

The optics here which I feel are lost - Complaint called in of someone breaking into a house, officer arrives and sees a person breaking into the house, Person says they live there, when asked for ID person refuses to provide ID. Cop then, does his job.

April 5, 2017 5:13 PM

"Nobody would choose Hillary to be a man on horseback."

She'd be a shoo-in for horse's ass.

June 23, 2018 12:07 AM

Another thing to consider is that President Trump used Alinsky's tactics against Alinsky's disciples.

September 3, 2018 12:51 PM

"Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins or which is which), 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."

"John Milton quoted Lucifer as saying, "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven," implying that Lucifer so badly wanted to run his own business that he accepted a significant cut in scope. Instead of sharing access to the entire universe, he achieved dominion over Earth, one dust-mote among billions and billions!"

And even these statements aren't really correct - Heylel ben Shachar, better know as Satan, meaning The Adversary or The Enemy, but who would much prefer to be called "Light Giver" (Lucifer) or "The Lord" (Ba'al), doesn't end up ruling over anything. He ends up as an inmate in She'owl, analogous to a black hole, equal to all other inmates eternally imprisoned there. In fact, the place of eternal separation from God, She'owl, is written in Hebrew identically to the name Sha'uwl, often written "Saul". So we've got a trio of Sha'uwls/Sauls that we know of almost assuredly who will be eternal inmates of She'owl - Sha'uwl of Tarsus, King Saul, and Saul Alinsky.

August 9, 2019 4:35 PM
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