Obama met in New York with Gerald Kellman, a white representative of the CCRC. Lizza writes that “while Obama was in search of an authentic African American experience, Kellman was simply in search of an authentic African American.” The organization had found that its white organizers could make no headway with suspicious black pastors.
The heart of the article is an exploration of Saul Alinsky’s philosophy of community organization and how it provided Obama with a postgraduate education in the pursuit and use of power. Two elements in the Alinsky game plan are fundamental: getting power is all-important, and self-interest is the only principle around which to organize people. The organization’s instruction manual advises trainers in block letters: “GET RID OF DO-GOODERS IN YOUR CHURCH AND YOUR ORGANIZATION.”
Lizza concludes that Obama, despite his image as a cool-headed, serene appealer for common ground in an age of political polarization, is no babe in the woods, no Jerry Brown or John Kerry. He knows how to play country hardball, and in fact won his first race for the Illinois State Senate by getting the incumbent, a venerable South Side activist named Alice Palmer, ruled off the ballot because of invalid petitions.
It’s interesting that Hillary Rodham did an undergraduate thesis on Saul Alinsky’s organizing activities and philosophy. Is Hemophiliacs With Chain Saws to be a double feature next year?
Other articles of note in the issue are an eye-opening report on William Buckley’s re-emergence from semi-retirement at the age of 81 as an opponent of the Bush Iraq war policy, and a somewhat overlong examination of exaggeration and perhaps mendacity in the humorous autobiographical musings of David Sedaris, author of several books (Naked, Me Talk Pretty Some Day) and frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s “This American Life.”