Saul Alinsky, Who?

One thing Newt has right — Saul Alinsky was a proud, self-professed radical. Just look at the titles of two of his books – Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. But a communist or socialist he was not. He worked with them on behalf of social justice, just as he worked alongside the Catholic archdiocese in Chicago. When he went to Rochester, NY, to help organize the African American community there after a fatal race riot, he was first invited by the local Council of Churches. It was conscience they all had in common, not ideology.

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As far as his connection with Barack Obama, the president was just a kid in Hawaii when Alinsky died, something you would expect a good historian, as Gingrich claims to be, to know. The two men never met, although when Obama arrived on the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer, some of his grass roots work with the poor was with an Alinsky-affiliated organization.

But that’s how it goes in the fight for basic human rights. Alinsky’s influence crops up all across the spectrum, even in the Tea Party. Get this: according to The Wall Street Journal, the conservative holy of holies, the one-time Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, Dick Armey, whose FreedomWorks organization helps bankroll the Tea Party, gives copies of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” to Tea Party leaders.

Watch out Dick – you could be next on Newt’s list, although, curiously, in his fight against the wealthy Mitt Romney, Gingrich himself has stolen a page from Alinsky’s populist playbook. After Romney beat him in the Florida primary, Newt insisted he would continue the fight for the nomination and shouted, “We’re going to have people power defeat money power,” a sentiment that was Saul Alinsky through and through.

Alinsky died, suddenly, in1972. At the time, he was planning to mount a campaign to organize white, middle class Americans into a national movement for progressive change, a movement he vowed to take into the halls of Congress and – his words — “the boardrooms of the mega-corporations.”