What would you think if your favorite football team had access to their opponent’s playbook but refused to study it? I’m not talking about Bill Belichick stealing a playbook from the other side. No, I’m talking about being handed it on a silver platter and still failing to read it, study it, or devise a strategy to defeat it. That is exactly what has been happening in the last batch of presidential races lost by Republicans.
The playbook is called “Reveille for Radicals” and “Rules for Radicals”, a pair of books by the father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. Together they form a playbook laid out over forty-five years ago to “rub raw the sores of discontent” and mobilize a redistributive revolution. It was the playbook followed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their presidential runs. It is now the playbook of Hillary Clinton in her run.
Obama taught Alinsky’s playbook as a community organizer and according to Michelle Obama herself, he quoted Alinsky on their first date. More than anyone else in public life, Obama has employed the playbook diligently, and to great effect. Hillary wrote her thesis on Alinsky, knew him, and carried on a correspondence with him. She will likely do the same.
For the last forty-five years this has been a one sided fight. Republicans failed to understand the power of Alinsky’s model. They failed to take the playbook seriously, failed to study it, and never developed a strategy to counter it. Mitt Romney still doesn't understand what hit him in 2012.
Donald Trump brings that tradition to a grinding halt. That’s not to say he has even read a single word Alinsky wrote. He may not even know his name. But Donald Trump is a natural born Alinskyite. His own book, “The Art of the Deal”, is a kind of a businessman’s “Rules for Radicals”. Trump's take-no-prisoners style and nice-guys-finish-last approach are right out of the Alinsky playbook. Out of necessity and natural inclination, Trump has had to cut out the middleman and apply these tactics himself, which is a 180 degree departure from the normal politically correct Alinskyite approach. Trump had neither time nor a willing community in the GOP to organize.
The Democrats have never been in this position before. They have never had to face a committed Alinskyite opponent. Though Trump is self-taught in the art of “rubbing raw the sores of discontent”, using “ridicule as his most potent weapon” (That’s what all those stupid nicknames are about.), and all the other aspects of Alinskyism, he is rather effective. The Left no longer has exclusive use of these divisive, dangerous, but highly effective tactics. Payback is a bitch, and Trump is that bitch.
That’s not to say Trump will waltz to victory based on the leveling of the Alinsky playing field. The Left is still the dominant force in America today. Demographics and nearly every lever of pop culture skew that way. Media, academia, entertainers, actors, musicians, etc. all skew Left. The most assigned economist at U.S. colleges is still Karl Marx, and it’s not even close. Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter, with all their power to control information and opinion are all skewed Left. The massive bureaucracies of government at the local, state, and federal level are all unionized, Leftist, and highly motivated.
On the flip side, the counter-culture as personified by Donald Trump is diffuse, disorganized, and with nary a voice in pop culture. It's going to be a lonely uphill battle for Donald Trump.
But Donald Trump may actually know more Alinsky than he lets on. Consider one of his final thoughts from his GOP convention speech:
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
This reminded me of a quote from “Rules for Radicals”:
“The organizer’s job is to inseminate an invitation for himself, to agitate, introduce ideas, get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change and to identify you as the person most qualified for this purpose.”
This election is shaping up to be a two-way Alinsky battle royale. Buckle your seatbelts...