Saul Alinsky would be proud of how the left has fused the tactics he outlined in “Rules for Radicals” with their identity obsession to shield today’s revolutionaries from serious criticism.
Alinsky is a famed community organizer whose book was published in 1971. “Rules for Radicals” outlined a series of strategies to help organizers work in low-income communities with multiple stakeholder groups to effect social change. His work has been applied to political campaigns, and his ideology and tactics have been linked to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Examples of his rules include the following:
- "Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have."
- "Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy."
- "A good tactic is one your people enjoy."
Alinsky used symbols to create unity within community institutions that could be mobilized to fight a specific enemy. In a previous generation, that might have translated into a labor union fighting a construction company for higher wages or a local church working with residents to push their city council for a new playground.
As a self-described radical and man of the left, Alinksy has been frequently criticized by conservatives. He probably didn’t help his reputation by opening his book with an acknowledgement of “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”
The left’s “Rules for Radical Identity Politics” draw on Alinsky’s work. They have a common enemy — straight white men — and multiple unifying identity symbols ranging from pink “pussy hats” to BLM and LGBT flags.
Unlike Alinsky, their primary focus is not a local community seeking tangible change. They have a much broader vision for social transformation. Weaponizing identity is one of their most effective strategies for fighting their enemy, and they have effectively implemented their tactics:
- Use your identity to bludgeon your enemy and to shield yourself from criticism.
- Don’t debate your ideas. Radicals seek surrender, not compromise.
- The only problems with radical identity politics are the people who question it.
These rules cloud a person’s worldview and disrupt his moral compass. They also make it extremely difficult to have serious debates about important issues in this country.
Recent polls showing Vice President Kamala Harris with historically low approval ratings demonstrate these rules in action. Both White House press secretary Jen Psaki and late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel — representing the dominant narrative in politics and culture — blamed racism and sexism. This has been a common response to any criticism of Harris, including an explanation of why she dropped out of the 2020 presidential race before the first primary.
Supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s failed presidential campaign ran the same play. After failing to win any of the 18 state primary elections, Warren and her surrogates claimed the issue was gender. One political analyst appeared on MSNBC and said more men need to publicly declare they want to see more women in positions of power. The host, Craig Melvin, dutifully obliged and parroted her talking point. Neither of the other two men on the panel dared to question her analysis.
The charges of sexism leveled against Democratic primary voters seemed like an odd explanation considering Warren finished third in voting and third among women in her home state of Massachusetts, where more than half of the voters were women. Perhaps the female voters who voted her into the U.S. Senate had a temporary bout of internalized sexism during the presidential primary.
Politicians aren’t the only ones following these rules. Jussie Smollett, currently on trial for his hate crime hoax, claimed people would be more likely to believe his story if he said his attackers were Mexican or Muslim.
He believed anyone who expressed doubts about his tall tale was probably motivated by racism and homophobia.
The radicals know that they can press their advantage with an advocacy media establishment that is ready and willing to launder their preferred narratives. They also know many people will either accept the narrative or be too incapacitated with fear to challenge it.
America needs to break out of this cycle. We need to be able to question, challenge, and debate ideas in the public square. We should stop allowing fear of being called names to keep us from saying things that we believe to be true, especially when the radicals show no issue with attacking disfavored groups on a regular basis.
The authors of columns from “There's nothing more frightening in America today than an angry White man” to “You Damn Karens are Killing America” to “Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People” clearly do not fear criticism from our cultural overlords.
Diversity is sold as our culture’s most precious commodity. We have created entire industries to mine for talented people who come from nontraditional backgrounds, but the elimination of high standards and public criticism had also created opportunities for people pushing mediocre ideas to thrive.
I have experienced this personally. My recent Twitter engagement with a self-described radical feminist professor included an allegation that I “know full well the sexist pugilism of the dudes who follow you and you incite the sh*t.”
I try my best to avoid personal attacks on people, because as a Christian I believe we are all created in God’s image and likeness. Even the people pushing the most destructive ideas can turn from their ways and have their minds renewed.
I also don’t do it because it is the easiest way for those advocating subversive ideas to deflect criticism. They would much rather focus attention on being attacked personally than actually having to defend their positions. When a person claiming to support the black family says she supports abortion laws that have kept black people at 13% of the population for decades, it is a lot easier to talk about receiving personal attacks than answer a question about whether human life has inherent value.
You can tell a lot about something’s composition by how it reacts to fire. Precious metals are shaped and hardened by it. Lesser materials are consumed by it.
The problem is not that black people and women aren’t subjected to criticism. The problem is that our cultural goldsmiths refuse to subject anyone other than straight, white men to sustained heat. They claim to be fighting for more opportunities for marginalized groups, but that behavior has created a different type of inequality. As soon as the temperature starts to rise slightly, they pull favored groups out of the fire.