The Alinsky Way of Governing

What happens when those in power adopt ‘rules for radicals’ to attack their less powerful opponents.

Pete Peterson
The Wall Street Journal
4/9/2015

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, recently caused a stir by sending letters to seven university presidents seeking background information on scientists and professors who had given congressional testimony that failed to endorse what is the conventional wisdom in some quarters regarding climate change. One of the targets was Steven Hayward, a colleague of mine at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy.

Though the congressman lacked legal authority to demand information, his aggressive plan, which came to light in late February, should not be a surprise at a time when power holders from the White House on down are employing similar means against perceived enemies.

Mr. Grijalva left a clue about how he operates in 2013 when the magazine In These Times asked about his legislative strategy. “I’m a Saul Alinsky guy,” he said, referring to the community organizer and activist who died in 1972, “that’s where I learned this stuff.”

What sort of stuff? Mr. Grijalva sent his letters not to the professors but to university presidents, without (at least in the case of Mr. Hayward) the professors’ knowledge. Mr. Hayward was not even employed by Pepperdine at the time of his congressional testimony in 2011.

But targeting institutions and their leaders is pure Alinsky; so are the scare tactics…

…what has happened is that a generation of American politicians who came of age during Saul Alinsky’s lifetime has moved into positions of institutional power that he so often derided as “the enemy.” They are showing an inability to leave behind Alinsky’s tactics that were intended for the weak against the strong. Civil discourse and academic freedom suffer while the “Prince” becomes more powerful.

 

 

The complete article is at The Wall Street Journal.

 

 

Related: Kirsten Powers: There Is a ‘Movement on the Left to Just Silence People’ 

“There is this movement on the left to just silence people. And it is — and people say ‘what about conservatives?’ Conservatives don’t have the cultural power in academia or media to silence anybody, even if they wanted to, and liberals do.

 

 

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