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A Christian checks out Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

The impact that Saul Alinksy’s ideology had in the thinking of the man currently occupying the office of the presidency, one Barack Hussein Obama, is well documented.  Thus, I will not document it myself, and submit the reader to Google.

Having only read excerpts of Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals, I was pleased to have the opportunity to sit down and read it for myself in its entirety.  Knowing how influential Alinksy was for the young Obama (and many others who now occupy seats of power) I am more worried than I was before now that I’ve actually read this book.   Go to the library and pick up the book.  You need to read it.

The subtitle of the book is “A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.”   It is not an inappropriate subtitle.  Alinsky is all about pragmatism and realism.  Alinsky is dismissive of ethical questions related to the question “Does the end justify the means?”  He says:

The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe’s “conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action”; 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.  The choice must always be for the latter.  Action is for mass salvation and not for the individual’s personal salvation.  He who sacrifices mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of “personal salvation”; he doesn’t care enough for people to be “corrupted” for them.  (pg 25, chapter titled: Of Means and Ends)

I believe that pretty much the entire book is distilled into this paragraph.  Alinksy’s basic belief is:  Say what has to be said and do what has to be done.

Do you have to believe what you say?  Not at all.  Say what people want to hear.  What matters is achieving your objective.  As for achieving your objective, every tactic is on the table.  As Alinsky says, what matters is “Does this particular end justify this particular means?”

Now, there is some validity to this clarification.  In fact, I believe he is right.  The problem runs much deeper to his notions of ‘the good of mankind’ which is referenced in the long quote above.  What Alinksy fails to include at any point in his book is any clear framework for deciding what represents ‘mass salvation.’

This is intentional on his part.  He says as much.  He says:

This is not an ideological book except insofar as argument for change, rather than for the status quo, can be called an ideology;  different people, in different places, in different situations and different times will construct their own solutions and symbols of salvation for those times. (emphasis mine)


Later in the paragraph (pg 4) he says,

To diminish the danger that ideology will deteriorate into dogma, and to protect the free, open, questing, and creative mind of man, as well as to allow for change, no ideology should be more specific than that of America’s founding fathers:  “For the general welfare.”  (emphasis mine)

Left utterly unexplored, then, is what principles should help you come up with your notions of  ‘mass salvation’ and ‘the general welfare.’  Alinsky’s moral relativism is blatant and explicit and he is unembarrassed by it.

But clearly if you want to pursue the ‘good of mankind’ you should have some clear idea on what that means?  Clearly if you want people to go along with it, you should be up front with the moral and ideological principles that drive your concept?  HA!  For the ‘community organizer’ the community being organized is on a ‘need to know basis.’  As Alinksy later argues, it is rare that you can ever get people to do the ‘right’ thing for the ‘right’ reasons.  More often, they do the ‘right’ thing for the ‘wrong’ reasons, and for your purposes- achieving your objective- not only is that acceptable, that is all that can realistically be expected.

In fact, one of his later points is that policy comes after power.  In his estimation (and here I don’t necessarily disagree) people are not inclined to think about policies or issues until they have the power to do something about them.  As a practical matter, that is quite true.  It is a truth about human nature.  However, the ‘community organizer’ is instructed to remember that “what we fight for now as matters of life and death will be soon forgotten, and changed situations will change desires and issues.  It is common for policy to be the product of power.” (pg 106)

In other words, it is not very important to know what you believe, or why, or what you would do with power when you’ve got it, compared to the necessity of actually getting hold of power in the first place.  The entirety of the ‘community organizer’ agenda is thus simply that:  achieving power.

To the extent that Obama had actually communicated his real agenda prior being elected, we can only suppose that if Alinksy was an influence in his thinking (and we know that it was), then in some respects Obama didn’t actually know himself what he believed, or why, and what he would do with power once he had it.  And since you only tell people what they want to hear in order to acheive your objective, the only real way to get insight into Obama’s real thinking is to watch what he does.

We already have ample evidence of this.  For example, he promised the left that he was going to close Gitmo.  What has he actually done?  He is keeping it open.  He promised the left that he would end torture and hold those who did it accountable.  He ended ‘torture’ but apparently won’t be doing the latter.  He vowed to get us out of Iraq according to a particular time frame.  This is unlikely going to happen, either.

He said these things in order to get the radical left behind him.  The radical left should have known better.  They shouldn’t be surprised one bit.

Alinsky urged his organizers to gain power and then determine policy.  This seems to be Obama’s play book, but we are left wondering about the critical question:  what does Obama believe the ‘good of mankind’ consists of?  Clearly, if it is a question of whether or not this particular means justifies this particular end, it is imperative to know precisely what end Obama hopes to achieve.  Obviously.  Yet, we have no idea.  You can’t even believe what he’s said.  You’ve got to look at what he’s actually done.  What has he actually taken stands on, not just verbally, but in action?

Suddenly Obama’s numerous ‘present’ votes while an Illinois senator, in particular on questions of abortion, are understood in a new light.  It’s just part of the plan.  Don’t you remember:

But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, “We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.”

That’s what he said.  That’s what people wanted to hear.  There was a collective, national, “awwwwwwwwwwwww” when he said this.  And then what did he do?

Immediately upon taking office he did everything he could to make it easier to get abortions.  If the ‘common ground’ mantra is ‘safe, legal, and rare’ he did everything within his power to negate ‘rare.’  It is absurd to believe that his Sotomayor will not support a pro-abortion agenda, if in fact we can discern what Obama really believes from what he has actually done.

Obama’s is clearly utilizing other Alinksy tactics as well.   In Alinksy’s chapter on Tactics, two of them seem to be in play regarding the murder of Tiller:

The fourth rule is:  Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.  You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.

The pro-life community is the most law abiding ‘social’ group out there, and when new rules are added to control their ‘hate speech’ Obama will appeal to the fact that the Bible urges submission to authorities.

The second principle that seems to apply is:

The thirteenth rule:  Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

Obama immediately released a firm statement with polarizing language regarding the Tiller murder.  In contrast, the statement released many days later about the killing of the American soldier by a Muslim convert was much more passive- the opposite of polarizing.  Clearly, when you are on the way to Cairo to pander to the Muslim community the last thing you want to do is polarize them.  You only polarize your target.

One can guess that it will soon be open season on the pro-life community and as long as Islamic radicals don’t screw it up by doing something too audacious, they’ll be able to literally get away with murder.

Reading this portion about polarization made me physically ill.  I’ve been reading and hearing complaints about the polarization in this country as a bad thing- from liberals and democrats- when all along, one of their founding ‘rule books’ seeks to achieve just that.

This is demonstrated very well by the quote from the speech above about finding common ground in the abortion debate.  The ones who really were interested in common ground are the Christians, and utilizing such language, Obama got more than half of the Catholic vote.  A lot of people who considered themselves moderates appreciated Obama’s ‘moderate’ view on questions like partial birth abortion.  When push came to shove, though, we see clearly that Obama is perfectly happy to come out and ‘freeze’ the pro-life community over the death of a person who carried out the very kinds of abortion he deplored ‘except for the life of the mother.’  (Tiller performed, by his own estimation, some 9,000 elective later term abortions).

I have gone on about the abortion topic as it very well could be where he turns his gaze, but by utilizing the principle that we can only know Obama by his actions and not his words, there are many other things that look dark on the horizon.  His fascist takeover of GM, his firing of CEO’s, his advocacy of ‘hate speech’ legislation, ie, his actual exercise of power as we’ve seen it already, are positively frightening in their own right.

But what makes it all the worse is that we don’t really know what Obama thinks constitutes ‘mass salvation.’   We don’t know what Obama means by ‘the good of mankind.’  We don’t know the ideological basis for what he considers the ‘symbol of salvation’ for this time.  We just don’t know.  We only know that he will say what people want to hear and then do whatever is necessary to achieve his particular end.  And only God and Obama knows what that might be.  I take that back:  it is possible that neither of them know, for what Obama believes (if Alinksy is any clue) is adaptable, formless, and flexible.  And God, though omniscient, can only know that which can actually be known.

In conclusion, I found there were actually many things in Alinksy’s book that rang true to me.  I was a little surprised to see that.  For example, he acknowledged the historical fact that that great pacifist, Ghandi, would have used force if he had thought it would work.  Alinksy quotes Ghandi complaining in 1930, “Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly…” (pg 39)

Alinksy correctly sums up Lenin’s position on peace while not yet in power as:

“They have the guns and therefore we are for peace and for reformation through the ballot.  When we have the guns then it will be through the bullet.”  And it was. (pg 37)

Alinsky actually has a lot of good ideas- pragmatically.  Unfortunately, in light of the amoralism he believes and promotes, this can only be a cause for concern if/when it falls into the hands of people who are amoral, just like he is.

Citizens, behold thy president.



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    • Watchtower on June 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I think it is profitable to reveal to Christians and conservatives some of the thinking and arguments of the books Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, as you have done. I checked a copy of the book out of a library and read it several months ago. The one point about Alinsky and the book that stands out furthermost in my mind is that he dedicated his book to Satan.

    • Chuck on June 8, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks, Tony. I’m going to re-post this on my facebook account, ok? Someday soon I will check out the book and read it. Right now I think it just would make me pop a view veins in my head and go black…

    • Anthony on June 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Feel free to re-post it at your pleasure, Chuck. (In this case, would it really be pleasure?)

    Forgot to thank you for one of your other recent comments that provided some good resource material. Thanks!

    • Jennie Maroney on June 19, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Even when people are made aware of Obama’s mentor, Saul Alinsky, and the influence he had on him, they will claim it did not affect him. Just as they have claimed that Obama attending a racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic church for 20 years does not affect him either. They have truly been seduced and only God can awaken them from their hypnotic trance. That’s what we should pray for.

    • mindy on July 6, 2009 at 7:09 am

    what has me stunned is that the other dems in house and senate are not getting it…if obama stays in wh there will be no government for them to govern…he is taking all of the power…we have to march to have obama impeached.

  1. I do a daily talk show and am interested in someone who can explain Alinksy to my audience. Looks like Anthony could be that guy. Would you contact?

    • Brad Cooper on July 13, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Some good and helpful analysis. Thanks….I wish you wouldn’t have thrown in the open theism comment, though (not at all in line with what God reveals to us about himself in Scripture).

    • Anthony on July 13, 2009 at 10:35 am

    What open theism comment? I don’t know what you mean.

    Also, to be clear, are you saying that as someone who is a proponent of open theism or one who disagrees with it? From your comment it is ambiguous… but I don’t see where I made a reference to open theism.

    For the record, I disagree with open theism.

    • Brad Cooper on July 14, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Hey Anthony,

    Here is the comment I was talking about: “And only God and Obama knows what that might be. I take that back: it is possible that neither of them know, for what Obama believes (if Alinksy is any clue) is adaptable, formless, and flexible. And God, though omniscient, can only know that which can actually be known.”

    Noting your surprise, I’m hoping that you were only joking. But an open theist would say this and mean it. Scripture on the other hand declares clearly that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10, etc.). He knows all of our lives in detail before we are even born: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV). God has known the decisions we will make before we even existed (Romans 8:29; 11:2, 26, etc.). There is nothing past, present or future that God does not know.

    I hope this clears up my previous statement, but just in case: Open theism is an attack on God’s character and on the Scripture and I am therefore very much against it.

    I am hopeful that you were just joking. 🙂 ….In which case, I apologize for the confusion. Have a great day!

    • Anthony on July 14, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Aha. Ok, now I know what we’re talking about. It was a joke, but I did mean what I said about God knowing only that which can be known. However, that is not necessarily an open theistic statement. As I said, I am not an open theist.

    I meant this in the framework of questions like ‘Can God create a rock that he cannot move?’ Or, ‘Can God make a square circle?’ I assume that you will agree with me that the doctrine of God’s omnipotence does not mean he ‘can’ ‘do’ non-sensical things. These questions can be re-worked to deal with omniscience: ‘Does God know how to create a square circle?’ And to that I would answer “no”, not because God doesn’t know everything but because the thing to be known is pure nonsense. It’s just throwing words together in a grammatically sound way… the sentence itself is almost meaningless, given the definitions of the individual words.

    So, I mean what I said about God not knowing the unknowable, in the sense in which I just described, but this is of course a joke as applied to Obama to highlight how little we can trust the man’s stated positions and intentions.

    Hope that helps.

    • Brad Cooper on July 14, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Hey Anthony! Thanks. That is helpful….and funny! (now that I know how you meant it). I’ll have to “relike” your post on fb. 😉

    • Anthony on July 24, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Here is the audio of the interview alluded to in the comment section above:


    • Lynn Bennett on July 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Regarding “making the enemy live up to their rule book,” this points to the actions of ACORN and lawmakers Frank and Dodd forcing the banks to make loans to unqualified borrowers, which precipitated the financial crisis.

    Now, the democrats seek to load up the system with expensive legislation–the so-calle Stimulus bill, Cap and Trade, now the health care bill. The idea is almost definitely to break the economy so Obama and his cohorts can come to the rescue by taking over completely.

  1. […] Many thanks to Kevin Doran from WLEA for having me on to discuss Saul Alinsky.  Read the original post that inspired the interview on Saul Alinsky. […]

  2. […] then the average fair minded American.  Consider this long quote from Alinksy’s book Rules for Radicals: …to the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word.  It is always present in the […]

  3. […] in this as I should be. The more and more I see of the White House, the more and more I see the Alinsky influence. Born to Russian-Jewish parents in Chicago in 1909, Saul Alinsky was a Communist/Marxist […]

  4. […] again, and then remember that Obama actually studied and taught the principles of Saul Alinsky.  Alinsky was an atheist who knew that he could not transform the United States unless he got the Church on his side.  Like […]

  5. […] that is ripe for the picking by people who see power as a virtue in itself.   Both Muslims and secularists are people of this sort, but, as I have been showing, it is the Muslim that ultimately will […]

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