[COMM-ORG] query: Newt Gingrich and Saul Alinsky

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sun Jan 29 14:16:46 CST 2012

[ed: Peter is posting independently of the discussion, but I'm including
it in this thread just to make it more easily searchable.]

From: dreier at oxy.edu

Friends and Colleagues:

Is Capitalism on Trial? -- The Occupiers have been evicted from their
encampments, but the movement continues to have a huge impact on our
culture and politics. More than three-quarters of Americans – and more
than half of Republicans -- agree that “there is too much power in the
hands of a few rich people and corporations.” And 61 percent of
Americans believed that “the economic system in this country unfairly
favors the wealthy.” President Obama gave a speech in Kansas last month
criticizing the “breathtaking greed” that has led to a widening income
divide, and repeated that theme in his State of the Union speech this
week. The GOP primary has turned into a debate over Romney’s corporate
business practices and over capitalism itself. A new Pew Research Center
survey finds that roughly the same number of eighteen-to-twenty-nine
year old Americans have positive views of socialism as of capitalism. In
my new piece in Dissent, I ask “Is Capitalism on Trial?” You can read it
here: http://dissentmagazine.org/online.php?id=578

Newt, the Nutty Professor – On the campaign trail, Gingrich constantly
refers to himself as a “former professor,” a “scholar,” and as an
“historian,” as though that gives him credibility for saying the
outrageous things he says. He even claims that Freddie Mac paid him $1.6
million as an “historian,” rather than as the lobbyist and
influence-peddler he was. Media stories about Gingrich repeat his
self-description and suggest that he’s brilliant and erudite. So far,
the media have failed to inform voters that Gingrich’s short career as a
history professor was a failure. He didn’t publish anything and he was
denied tenure at West Georgia College. Over the years, Gingrich has
changed his story about why he didn’t get tenure. The media – and the
moderators at the presidential debates -- give Gingrich a free pass,
allowing him to bloviate about his academic credentials, without
challenging him to explain his less-than-stellar academic career (and
then to correct him once he lies about it, as he no doubt would do). A
few media outlets, however, have dug into Gingrich’s past, interviewed
his former colleagues at West Georgia College, and examined his academic
career. Myra MacPherson takes down Gingrich a few notches in her article
on the Nieman Fellows blog: http://blog.niemanwatchdog.org/?p=2530. On
the GQ website earlier this month, Trent Macnamara interviewed the
professor who was chair of West Georgia College’s history department
when Gingrich was teaching there:
And in the Wall Street Journal last week, reporter Elizabeth Williamson
digs into Gingrich’s academic career and finds that the traits we now
identify with him – his grandiosity and self-importance – were evident
back then:

Gingrich Puts Saul Alinsky is Back in the News – It looks like Gingrich
is now using the late Saul Alinsky (often called the founder of
community organizing) to attack Barack Obama. In doing so, he’s engaging
in the same kind of red-baiting that Sarah Palin (with the help of Rudy
Giuliani) used against Obama in the 2008 election (as David Moberg and I
described in an article at the time:
At the 2008 GOP convention, Palin and Giuliani attacked Obama for his
years as a community organizer. The following Sunday, on "Meet the
Press," Giuliani added to the attack by claiming -- wrongly -- that "the
group that recruited [Obama] was a Saul Alinsky group that has all kinds
of questions with regard to their outlook on the economy, their outlook
on capitalism." Giuliani then tried to link Obama to what he called "a
very core Saul Alinsky kind of almost socialist notion that [government]
should be used for redistribution of wealth." During the rest of the
2008 campaign, and after Obama took office, extreme right wingers like
Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, the Tea Party, and others,
consistently linked Obama to Alinsky as a way of labeling the president
as a dangerous radical. Over the years, Gingrich picked up this theme
and used it to defame Obama, including in his 2010 book, To Save
America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine. In a 2010 interview
with a right-wing website, Gingrich said: “Alinsky had a deep contempt
for the American system. Classic Alinsky is deceit, dishonesty, and
deception. Any level of dishonesty is appropriate if it undermines the
bourgeois middle class.” Gingrich repeated this line of attack on Obama
in a recent South Carolina debate: "And we disdain the Saul Alinsky
European secular socialism advocated by those who would change our
country on behalf of a different view." (Reported here by Charles
At a campaign stop in South Carolina, Gingrich also said: “Obama
believes in a Saul Alinsky radicalism which the press corps was never
willing to look at. When he said he was a community organizer, it wasn’t
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It was radicalism taught on the south side
of Chicago by Saul Alinsky.” (Reported in the National Journal:
The Washington Post published a analysis of the Alinsky-Obama frame:
And although the story poked some holes in Gingrich’s efforts to link
Obama with Alinsky, the fact that we’re discussing the connection at all
means that Gingrich and other conservatives have framed the debate.

In a recent posting on the Community Organizing website, Dave Beckwith
(a former community organizer who is now the Executive Director of The
Needmor Fund), had some interesting insights about why Gingrich is
resorting to the Alinsky-Obama attack. Beckwith wrote:

I tracked the last debate. Gingrich mentioned Alinsky more often than
Reagan! Demonizing with a Jewish-sounding name, a secret knowledge -
like blaming the Masons or the Illuminati... another "dog whistle".
These secret knowledge attacks are very exciting to the true believers,
and the audience for the talk show hosts and Fox News. Just as the
"insiders" of the inverse side like to show how much we know about the
real story by talking about the origins of the Tea Party in the John
Birch Society, and the money from the Koch Brothers. Not to be equating
the "two sides", but I don't think the narrative plays very far beyond
the core in either case, but it energizes that core, confirms their
insider status and keeps them insulated from rational argument. I think.

Hull House Closes Its Doors -- If Alinsky was the “father” of community
organizing, then Jane Addams was its “mother.” One of the greatest
Americans in our nation’s history, Addams founded Hull House in Chicago
in 1889 in a low-income immigrant neighborhood to help organize and
uplift the poor. Hull House became a hotbed of progressive activism in
Chicago and helped inspire the settlement house movement around the
country. Unfortunately, as Addams’ biographer, Louise Knight, reports in
The Nation this week, Hull House has had to close its door because of
lack of funding. Read Knight’s report on Hull House’s history and its
continuing relevance:

Union Gains in 2011 -- The GOP’s attacks on Obama for the country’s high
joblessness rate are ridiculous, since it is the Republicans who have
consistently opposed the President’s efforts to pass a jobs bill to
invest in public works and public sector jobs, including teachers, cops,
and firefighters. The government’s monthly reports on overall job growth
are also misleading, unless you separate private and public sector jobs.
Private sector jobs have increased significantly, but much of that good
news has been offset by cuts in public sector jobs. That, of course, is
exactly what conservative and Republicans want – they want, as Grover
Norquist once said, to make government so small you can drown it in the
bathtub. In particular, we’ve seen in the past year an attack on public
sector unions, particularly by several Republican governors and state
legislatures. So it should come as no surprise that union membership
among government employees declined in 2011. As economists John Schmitt
and Janelle Jones of the Center for Economic and Policy Research report,
the total number of union members in the public sector declined 61,000,
as squeezed federal, state, and local governments cut back employment.
What’s remarkable is that union membership in the private sector
increased by about 110,000. And union density (the percentage of all
workers in unions) in the private sector held steady at 6.9 percent,
because the rate of private sector job growth increased at about the
same pace as union increases. Read their report here:

Organizing Wal-Mart Workers -- Wal-Mart has used a variety of repressive
and illegal tactics to keep unions out of their stores, the warehouses
where they store their goods (mostly in the Inland Empire outside Los
Angeles), and the factories that make those goods (mostly in Asia). So
far, the labor movement has been unsuccessful at organizing workers at
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest employer. But the United Food and
Commercial Workers has now embarked on a new long-term effort to
organize Wal-Mart employees, learning from past failures and utilizing
new strategies. You can read about it in this article by Spencer Woodman
from the January 23 issue of The Nation:
The workers who load and unload goods headed for Wal-Mart and other
big-box stores work in unsafe conditions for miserable pay. An
organizing drive among warehouse workers is now underway, led by Change
to Win. Read about the “Warehouse Workers United” organizing campaign
and here:
Apple’s Chinese Sweatshops: The New York Times just ran a remarkable
series of front-page articles about the working and living conditions of
Chinese workers who make Apple’s Ipad and other electronics products
sold in the United States. These outrageous conditions should give pause
to anyone who thinks that “free trade” is a great idea. Here is one of
those article, describing these outrageous conditions, that should give
pause to anyone who thinks that “free trade” is a great idea or that
consumers’ obsession with the latest electronics devises improves
conditions for the workers who produce them:
You can also listen to an NPR interview with one of the NY Times
reporters who uncovered this story:
http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/apples-china-supply-chain-exposed. Not
surprisingly, the Times also ran a story last week on its business page:
“Apple’s Profits Soars”:
The San Francisco Chronicle recently published a Bloomberg News story
entitled “Apple CEO's Stock Awards Lift Compensation to $378 Million” --

Bill Moyers on the Fight Against Corporate “Personhood” -- Corporate
money and campaign contributions from the super-rich has long corrupted
American democracy. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling –
effectively eliminating limits to corporate cash in campaigns by saying
that corporations have free speech rights, just like people -- has made
this corruption much worse, as we’ve seen in the current elections, with
the rise of the so-called Super-PACs. Over the past few election cycles,
business has outspent labor unions by more than 10 to 1 in campaign
contributions. Now that gap will get even wider. Read Bill Moyers
article for Truthout about the battle over corporate “personhood”
http://www.truth-out.org/bill-moyers-fighting-back/1327630978. Moyers is
back with a new weekly TV show, “Moyers and Company,” and it is off to a
great start over the past three weeks. Find out where you can see his
show in your local area by going to his website: http://billmoyers.com

Muhammad Ali Turns 70: Muhammad Ali turned 70 earlier this month. He is
one of the most important public figures since the 1960s, not only for
his exploits in the boxing, but also – and more importantly – for his
political stances and human rights activism. I recently recounted Ali’s
life and legacy in an article for Huffington Post:

Dave Zirin on Joe Paterno and Phil Knight: On the other end of the
sports spectrum is the sordid story of child abuse by a Penn State
assistant football coach, the cover-up by the University’s authorities,
and the moral fence-sitting of Joe Paterno, the beloved football coach
who died a few days ago. Some Penn Staters rallied to Paterno’s defense,
but the most outrageous defense was by Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, who
makes millions by supplying athletic uniforms, t-shirts, sweatshops and
other items to teams and students at Penn State and other universities.
Read sportswriter Dave Zirin’s critique of Knight in this column in The
You can subscribe to Zirin’s weekly sports column – where he combines
love of sports with insightful political analysis – at his website:
http://www.edgeofsports.com/bio.html. Also check out Zirin’s books about
sports and politics, including Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the
Games We Love and A People’s History of Sports in the United States

Apologizing for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul’s Bigotry: The New Republic
has an excellent editorial this week, criticizing pundits, left and
right, who say supportive things about Rick Santorum and Ron Paul’s
stances on some issues, which gives them legitimacy as candidates to
espouse racist, sexist, and homophobic views. These views aren’t just
impolite. They are, as the New Republic points out, repugnant and
outside the boundaries of civil discussion.
But then, a few pages later, the New Republic falls into the same trap!
In an article called “The Catch-Up Campaign” about Santorum’s campaign
staff, Alec MacGillis refers to Santorum as an “advocate for heartland
By that, MacGillis appears to equate “heartland morality” with
Santorum’s extremely bigoted views about homosexuals and women. But
polls show that even in such “heartland” states as Kansas and Iowa,
public opinion about gay and lesbian rights and abortion is split, and
that few people hold the extreme retrograde views that Santorum has been
spouting throughout his political career, and that the New Republic
rightly criticized in its editorial.


Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier

Next book: The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social
Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books) - coming out in Spring 2012

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great
moral crises maintain their neutrality" - Dante

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