Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Behind the Polls - The Alinsky Effect (UPDATED)

Analysts puzzling at the outsider surge in GOP polls may be missing something obvious.  No doubt, everything they’ve said about the reasons for the Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Fiorina momentum is true.  But, there is another way of looking at this that gets to the heart of the matter and sheds light on how other candidates, even establishment ones, can understand and learn from what’s going on.

The key is the Alinsky effect.  For half a century the Left has been studying and internalizing the teachings of Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing.  The Right has largely ignored this development or pooh poohed it outright.  For seven years, Obama used Alinsky tactics with great effect.  The GOP has been unable to thwart any of the Obama juggernaut.   In the last two presidential elections, John McCain and Mitt Romney were both steamrolled by obvious Alinsky tactics but seemed naively unaware of what was being done to them.

The GOP base has watched this slow-motion train wreck and has had enough.  They are not just looking for a candidate this time,  they are looking for a candidate who can turn the tables on the Alinsky tactics.  They want a candidate who is both Alinsky-proof from attack and one who knows how to go on offense.  The four outsiders with momentum, Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Fiorina are, not surprisingly, the ones who can best do this.

Trump probably never heard of Saul Alinsky but seems an intuitive Alinsky-ite himself.   He wrote “The Art of the Deal”, a kind of a businessman’s “Rules for Radicals”.  Attack him, he attacks back. Mock him, he mocks back.  Personalize it, he calls you stupid, ugly, fat, and dumb.  His supporters eat it up.  The press cannot touch him.  Mitt Romney would have made hundreds of apology speeches by now.  Trump hasn’t made one.  It’s pure Alinsky.

Ben Carson went so far as to mention Saul Alinsky in the last debate.  He talks about Alinsky all the time.  He gets it.  He won’t fall for the tactics when they come.  And he is un-Alinsky-able by resume.  If he demonstrates an ability to turn the tables and go on offense, expect his star to continue to rise.

Ted Cruz has already demonstrated a playful ability to turn the tables on the Alinsky tactics used on him by both Democrats and Republicans.  He has surely read Alinsky.  He’s not as good as some of the others at the performance aspect, but his Alinsky bona fides are not a concern.

Carly Fiorina has also likely read Alinsky.  She has been leading the Alinsky assault on Hillary Clinton from the GOP.  She’s been funny, brutal, and unrelenting.  Moreover, she’s done well on defense when attacked by the media and Trump.

The flip side of the Alinsky effect is what’s happening to some of those losing momentum, most notably Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.  No one can question Walker’s resiliency in Wisconsin, but his ability to go on offense seems in question.  Bush is questionable on both fronts.  In addition, both have performance, policy and consistency issues.

I sincerely hope GOP voters have learned their lessons and will not nominate another sheep for the Alinsky slaughter.  Then again, this is only one of the factors being weighed by the electorate.  So far, it seems like an important one to GOP voters.

UPDATE:  The Alinsky effect was on full display at last night's CNN debate:

Fiorina landed an Alinsky punch on Trump's face and, by all indications, won the CNN round.
Chris Christie proved, as he has in NJ, that he can play the Alinsky game as well as anyone.  His performance and substance also won high marks.
Trump was his usual juvenile self, but his supporters don't seem to care as long as he delivers the Alinsky goods, and he did in spades.
Marco Rubio did well among GOP voters, but the Alinsky effect was not a factor.  Rubio is a straight man, and a good one at that, but Saul Alinsky said, "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon...", which does not well suit a straight man.
Ben Carson revealed the limits of his experience, performance, and Alinsky offense abilities.  Not his best outing.

Ted Cruz is another straight man, though he is Alinsky ready.  He did well among conservatives, but his performance issues continue to hold him back.

Jeb Bush showed once again that he would be as effective against Alinsky tactics as was Mitt Romney.  In other words, not at all.

Yes, there were others at the debate, but I'm focusing on the ones most affected by the Alinsky effect.            

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