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“Decoding Ben Carson”: A ‘Wingnut With A Calm Bedside Manner’

Now that Ben Carson is all the rage in the GOP presidential nominating contest, sharing the spotlight with Donald Trump without a trace of the negative vibes The Donald brings to the table, I figure my little hobby of trying to understand what the man means with his incessant references to “political correctness” is becoming a public utility. So I wrote it all up a bit more comprehensively in a column for TPMCafe.

One of my exhibits for describing Carson as a “wingnut with a calm bedside manner” was his reference in the Fox News GOP presidential debate to Hillary Clinton as a denizen of the “progressive movement” who was following “the Alinsky Model” for destroying the country. Even as they declared him the winner or one of the winners of the debate, MSM observers slid right over the ravings about Alinsky as though they couldn’t hear The Crazy or, more likely, didn’t understand what he was talking about. That sure as hell was not the case with right-wing media, who heard the dog-whistle loud and clear. Indeed, at National Review, John Fund even called it that:

The award so far in this Republican debate for dog-whistle rhetoric goes to Ben Carson. He answered a a question about Hillary Clinton by referring to her belief in “the Alinsky model,” a topic of great interest in the conservative blogosphere.

Named after Saul Alinksy, the late community organizer who inspired both Hillary and Barack Obama, the model calls for destabilizing the existing system from the inside and paving the way for radical social change.

Despite his mild manner and soft voice, it may be that Ben Carson is the candidate on tonight’s stage who is privately the most deeply ideological.

According to people like Carson, a big part of the Alinsky Model is “political correctness:” disarming opponents by deriding their utterances as small-minded and offensive. I didn’t see this until after I had sent in the TPMCafe column, but here’s a fine description of the core idea in a Tea Party take on Carson’s well-received 2014 CPAC speech:

Dr. Carson says that the good news is that the majority of people in this country have common sense, but the problem is that they’ve been “beaten into submission by the PC (political-correctness) policemen,” which has kept people from speaking up about what they believe.

To thunderous applause, Dr. Carson revealed one of Saul Alinsky’s (author of leftist bible, Rules for Radicals) more deceptive tactics that he taught to his progressive, Marxist followers:

“One of the principles of Saul Alinsky, he said you make the majority believe that what they think is outdated and nobody thinks that way, and that the way they think is the only way intelligent people think. And if you can co-opt the media in the process, you’re far ahead of the game. That’s exactly what’s happened, and it’s time for people to stand up and proclaim what they believe and stop being bullied!

So every time Carson denounces “political correctness,” which he does in just about every other sentence, that’s what he’s talking about: a conspiracy by “progressives” to suppress common-sense (i.e., hard-core conservative) “solutions” by pitting people against each other through talk about race, gender, income inequality, etc. etc. In Carson’s heavily Glenn-Beckish worldview, all his talk about “unity” and “civility” means the kind of country we can have once the snakes (i.e., you and me and HRC) have been thrown out of Eden.

It’s going to be interesting to me to see how much longer MSM types can continue to write about Carson as this nice unifying figure without hearing what the man is saying.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saul Alinsky: A True American Exceptionalist

Newt Gingrich has adopted the late organizer as a punching bag, but he and Alinsky share a view of America and reverence for the Founding Fathers.

In his victory speech the night of the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrich declared:

The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky…. What we are going to argue is that American exceptionalism, the American Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, the American Federalist papers, the Founding Fathers of America are the source from which we draw our understanding of America. [President Obama] draws his from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers, and people who don’t like the classical America.”

Gingrich’s statement raises two questions. One, what is the “classical America” of the founding fathers, and two, who is Saul Alinsky?

As an historian, Gingrich should know better than to confuse compromise with consensus. There was little all-encompassing agreement among the Founding Fathers. Does Gingrich mean to stake his campaign on Alexander Hamilton’s proposal of a life term for the president? James Madison’s idea that the federal legislature should be able to veto state laws? Would he have preferred Benjamin Harrison‘s proposal that slaves should be counted as half a person for purposes of representation, or is he satisfied with the three-fifths compromise? Enough.

As to Saul Alinsky, the Chicago organizer who died when Barack Obama was a 10-year old boy in Hawaii, it is hard to figure out why Gingrich is so fixated on a man whose most notable achievement was organizing Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in the 1930s to combat inhumane working conditions. You would think from Gingrich’s allusions that Alinsky must have been a Marxist, maybe even a Communist. His biographer Sanford Horwitt is clear: Alinsky was neither. Or you can just read Alinsky himself — has Gingrich? — who wrote in his 1971 Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, “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.'”

Indeed, one of the most striking things about Rules for Radicals is how engaged Alinsky is with the very people that Gingrich positions as his opposites. Alinsky opens his book with a quotation from Thomas Paine, and draws his examples, approvingly, from the lives of John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Francis Marion, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the Federalist Papers.

Here’s a pop quiz. Below are four quotations. One is from Saul Alinsky, one from Newt Gingrich, one from Thomas Jefferson, and one from Thomas Paine. See if you can figure out which is which:

  1. “Let them call me rebel, and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul.”
  2. “[The] eternal search for those values of equality, justice, freedom, peace, a deep concern for the preciousness of human life, and all those rights and values propounded by Judeo-Christianity and the democratic political tradition…. This is my credo for which I live and, if need be, die.”
  3. “I am trying to effect a change so large that the people who would be hurt by the change…have a natural reaction…. I think because I’m so systematically purposeful about changing our world. [I am] much more intense, much more persistent, much more willing to take risks to get it done.”
  4. “I hope we shall crush… the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare… to challenge our government to a trail of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

It’s easy to cherry-pick quotations to serve your rhetorical point, but I am confident these lines represent the views of their authors: Paine, Alinsky, Gingrich, and Jefferson, respectively. Alinsky believed that people whose interests are not respected by government, who are maligned or discriminated against or taken advantage of, should organize to advocate for their interests. He fought against racism and for better working conditions. His politics were unequivocally left-wing, but he believed forcefully in democracy as “the best means toward achieving” the values he professed. And he believed democracy came with personal responsibility. Alinsky sounds downright Gingrichian when he criticizes “people who profess the democratic faith but yearn for the dark security of dependency where they can be spared the burden of decisions.” For those people, “the fault lies not in the system but in themselves.”

So why is Gingrich so fixated on Alinsky? Maybe Gingrich is playing a game familiar to all graduate students: throw out a name you’re pretty confident few others have heard of in order to make yourself sound smart. If the name happens to sound Jewish and European, and therefore might raise the specter of a politics Alinsky himself wanted no part of, all the better. Gingrich has invented a straw man, an imagined un-American, and set him up against an imagined “classical” American past. None of that helps our political debate. As I have suggested elsewhere, bad history is worse than no history at all.

There may be reasons to criticize the real Saul Alinsky, but he belongs on the roll call of those who worked for, not against, a better America. Gingrich proclaims “American exceptionalism.” If the flawed, contentious Founding Fathers agreed on anything, it was that power does not come by divine right but rather from self-government. What better way, then, is there to show your fidelity to that spirit than to work, as Alinsky did, to “form a more perfect union”?

 

By: Andy Horowitz, The Atlantic, January 27, 2012

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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