Is the Age of Obama ushering in an Era of Thuggery by his left-wing supporters?
Barack Obama has made clear his admiration of Saul Alinsky, the radical “father” of community organizing. Peter Slevin of the Washington Post wrote in 2007 that “Obama embraced many of Alinsky’s tactics and recently said his years as an organizer gave him the best education of his life.”
Alinsky, who died in 1971, was known for his belief that revolutionaries must stir up the downtrodden to become angry enough at their condition to demand its betterment. In his famous book Rules for Radicals, Alinsky acknowledged his debt to Lucifer, “the very first radical,” who “rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom.”
When it came to the best way to achieve revolution, Alinsky explictly argued for moral relativism in fighting the establishment: “In war the end justifies almost any means.” Specifically, “the practical revolutionary will understand… [that] in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind.”
It appears that the left has decided to throw conscience aside and put the raw exercise of political power first. Consider three separate news stories that developed within the same week in late April:
• When Attorney General Eric Holder decided to no longer uphold the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, the U.S. House hired the Atlanta-based law firm of King and Spalding to defend it in court. The law defines marriage as between a man and a woman and says states aren’t obliged to honor gay marriages recognized in other states.
But within days of being hired the firm dropped the House as a client, claiming the firm had failed in properly “vetting” the issue. Former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement, who had brought the case to King and Spalding, resigned from the firm in protest.
The real reason the case was dropped was the campaign launched by the Human Rights Campaign to “educate” (read: intimidate) the firm’s clients about “King and Spalding’s decision to promote discrimination.” Never mind that like 84 other senators Vice President Joe Biden had voted for the bill. Or that Holder’s old boss Bill Clinton signed it. Anyone who now touched the issue was to be branded a bigot. “Gay rights activists argue that DOMA is unconstitutional,” notes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders. “If they’re so sure, why are they trying to prevent good lawyers from defending it?”
• California Democratic leaders, frustrated by the refusal of Republican state legislators to go along with tax increases to close the state’s $15.4 billion deficit, are threatening to focus budget cuts on the districts those Republicans represent.
“You don’t want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it,” Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters in late April. Steinberg echoed comments made by Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who told reporters that budget cuts should be targeted at the districts of lawmakers who oppose putting $11 billion in tax increases before the state’s voters in a referendum.
“When it comes to kids or the vulnerable, I wouldn’t want to make distinctions between who lives in a Democratic district and who lives in a Republican district, but when it comes to sort of basic services, convenience services that affect adults…I have an open mind,” Steinberg told reporters.
A spokeswoman for Bob Dutton, the Senate’s Republican leader, reacted quickly to the bully-boy tactics. “It only means Democrats are unwilling to stand up to public employee unions,” said Jann Taber. “They’d rather cut services to Californians than fix bloated public employee pension systems. Clearly this isn’t an attempt to craft a true bipartisan budget solution.”
Local officials in districts represented by Republicans called the tactic completely counterproductive.
“That is shameless extortion,” Butte County supervisor Larry Wahl told the Sacramento Bee.
“He’s trying to get me to call [Assemblyman Dan] Logue and [state Sen.] Doug LaMalfa and say ‘Raise our taxes.’ I’m not going to do that.”
But Democrats aren’t backing down from their threat. “It’s really a simple concept,” said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar. “If we have to adopt an all-cuts budget because voters aren’t even given the chance to decide the tax issue, then we engage in another democratic process. The folks who want less government get less government. It’s not vindictive, it’s democracy in action.”
Actually, there’s another name for it. Targeting the constituents of elected representatives for budget cuts is a tactic worthy of a banana republic, which California is in danger of resembling as it refuses to deal with its budget realities in a serious way.
• Some bitter Wisconsin public employees, thwarted in their attempt to defeat a conservative Supreme Court justice last April as part of their campaign to derail GOP governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms, are endorsing vandalism against companies that contributed to Mr. Walker’s campaign.
On May 1, anonymous liberal activists demanded that defamatory stickers be placed on consumer products produced by companies that have donated to Mr. Walker. Internet websites have posted stickers that single out Angel Soft tissue paper (“Wiping your [expletive] on Wisconsin workers”), Johnsonville Sausage (“These Brats Bust Unions”) and Coors (“Labor Rights Flow Away Like A Mountain Stream”). No doubt for purposes of encouragement, a “Stick It To Walker” website displayed photographs of actual vandalized Angel Soft tissue packages in a New York supermarket.
More locally, AFSCME’s Wisconsin Local 24 has circulated letters to businesses in the state that have declined to display signs in their windows backing the union’s anti-Walker political agenda. The letter was clear that neutrality in the battle between Governor Walker and the unions would not be tolerated. “Failure to do so will leave us no choice but [to] do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means ‘no’ to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members.” The only thing missing in the letter from the Wisconsin union was the old organized crime line: “Nice business you have there. Would be a shame if something happened to it.”
IN HIS EPIC 1960s poem The Incredible Bread Machine, R. W. Grant described an entrepreneur named Tom Smith who ran afoul of jealous competitors and a power-seeking Justice Department. When Smith appears before the judge, he asks plaintively why he has been singled out. The judge looks down on him and intones: “In complex times the Rule of Law has proved itself deficient. We much prefer the Rule of Men, it’s vastly more efficient.”
It appears that more and more people on the left have decided that the Rule of Law will have to give way to their version of the Rule of Men.
About the Author
John H. Fund is a senior editor of The American Spectator and author of the Stealing Elections (Encounter Books).