Expanding the System: “Local” Alinskyian organizing acclimatizes the locals to accept the unacceptable
To hear the Alinskyian organizers tell it, their brand of organizing is all about giving the “little guy” civic tools to fight city hall on behalf of his own “self-interest.”
Of course, what they don’t tell you is that the little guy’s “self-interest” has already been determined by the organizer and that the civic tools in which the little guy is trained are no more than rubber stamps for national programs.
Take Arizona and the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). For anyone unfamiliar with the name, the IAF was Saul Alinsky’s prototype for faith-based organizing…organizing among religious institutions. The IAF is a national amalgamation of local affiliates around the country – and its political ambitions are unabashedly progressive. Big, big government.
In Arizona, there are several IAF locals in the major cities and one state-wide entity. Along with Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer, most of the state’s Democrats, and a few Republican legislators, the IAF has been pushing for Medicaid expansion. This is a sensitive issue on two fronts. Some states are demonstrating their displeasure with the massive health care restructuring mandated by the Affordable Health Care Act – dubbed affectionately “Obamacare” – by resisting implementation of one of the bill’s “milestones,” which is Medicaid expansion. A recent Supreme Court decision gave states the right to opt out of expanding coverage without penalty.
The more disturbing factor in all this, however, is that the expansion includes “the mandated funding of Planned Parenthood and its involvement in therapeutic abortion.” (1)
Brewer, however, attended a panel of “city, state, faith, and education leaders” hosted by one of the IAF affiliates to support the state’s Medicaid expansion and also took part in a series of rallies at the State Capitol. (2) One state senator quipped that, while he didn’t expect anyone’s mind to be changed, “If you don’t have these kinds of gatherings, organizations lose momentum.”
Comments like this, of course, make opponents of Obamacare (2) crazy: “So why is the ragtag band of Brewer [and others]… enlisting the aid of a Marxist based community organizers?” The question is why would conservatives work with progressives to help implement what they believe is a disastrous new direction for the American government? “While Governors of states like Florida, with legislators rejecting Obamacare, are facing the fact there is a system of checks and balances and branches of government are indeed separate – Arizona’s Governor Brewer refuses to accept the fact that the public, including Democrats, overwhelmingly reject Obamacare and any new taxes.” (3)
The point (besides observing that the progressive Alinskyian organizing networks are solidly consistent in their promotion of big government, progressive programs – such as Obamacare) is that their work to promote these programs is to create “momentum” at the local level. This is something very different from grassroots activism.
In grassroots activism, ordinary people discover common concerns among fellow citizens and act upon those concerns. Alinskyian organizations, by contrast, have wide-scoped goals that they maneuver local people to support. The country becomes a chessboard on which local pieces are moved to bring about the greatest effect. What could be more effective than to demoralize its conservative elements by bringing the state into greater compliance with Obamacare by means of what conservatives imagine is “their” party?
If the rallies and panel discussions to expand Medicaid were really examples of grassroots activism, they would be confined to Arizona. The fact that they are popping up wherever one finds conservative resistance to Obamacare demonstrates their orchestrated nature. So, in Texas, IAF locals coordinated with the Network of Texas Organizations (the statewide IAF), bussing protestors to the state capitol. (4) In Ohio, Ari Lipman, lead organizer Cleveland’s IAF affiliate, is also chair of the Northeast Ohio Medicaid Expansion Coalition. (5) Affiliate volunteers announced that they would be going “door to door in the legislative swing districts of Rocky River, Berea and Solon this week to urge people to contact their legislators”. (6)
Of course, not every state has a strong IAF presence. The main Alinskyian organizing networks tend to have distinct territories and there were seven Republican governors targeted in this endeavor. (7) Gordon Whitman, the PICO National Network’s Director of Policy, wrote in 2012 that over the next two years, PICO would be doing “a lot of organizing … in the refusal states to engage and connect low-income families that have the most at stake with hospital, small business and faith groups to build the political will for Medicaid expansion.” (8) An example of that has been PICO’s United Florida which signed petitions to the state’s governor. (9)
In Wisconsin, Citizen Action and Gamaliel are working with other progressive organizations to force their governor “to accept the federal Medicaid expansion dollars.” (10) Missouri’s Gamaliel organized an April 16, 2013 “bus trip to Jefferson City to meet with legislators and rally on the Capitol steps” to show support for Medicaid expansion. (11) Michigan’s Gamaliel roused the troops by holding a fundraiser to send representatives to Washington, DC who would “advocate for the preservation of Medicaid” – as if failure to approve Medicaid expansion threatened the program’s very existence.
Alinskyian organizations were major supporters of a nationalized health care system. Their concern about its moral ramifications for the preborn child or for people severely compromised by health problems or for the elderly has been determined by a progressive perspective. This perspective recognizes no “personhood” in the preborn child who can therefore be “terminated” or used for some other advantage. It measures human worth in terms of productivity and therefore has no qualms about advancing a scale of care determined by a patient’s statistical likelihood of recovery…a scale that increasingly includes “right to die” options at its extreme end.
Given that commitment, one can understand that, of course, Alinskyian organizations would take the next step of resisting any efforts to curtail their legislative coup. However, given their intimacy with pro-life bodies – many Alinskyian community organizations operate within Catholic parishes – their work takes on a particularly sinister nature. The bishops may decry the inhumanity and disfiguring elements of Obamacare and its supportive mandates but, when they are simultaneously supporting those who have worked long and hard to assure these elements remain operative, those cries seem disingenuous…or maybe, one can hope, born of invincible ignorance.
Stephanie Block is the editor of the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper and is the author of the four-volume Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing among Religious Bodies available at Amazon.
1. Constance Uribe, “A governor caves on Obamacare: Medicaid expansion could cost Arizonans plenty,” The Washington Times, 5-28-13.
2. Diana Martinez, “McComish voices support for governor’s Medicaid expansion,” Ahwatukee Foothills News, 5-6-13.
3. “Occupy Arizona? Brewer & McComish Rally Progressives against the Legislators?” Foundation for Responsible Accountable Government blog, 5-8-13.
4. Dave Montgomery, “Network of Texas Organizations Rally Again for Medicaid Expansion” Star Telegram, 3-6-13.
5. Abby Goodnough, “Governors Fall Away in G.O.P. Opposition to More Medicaid,” New York Times, 2-21-13.
6. Sarah Jane Tribble, “Could Medicaid expansion decrease drug court costs, save local taxpayer dollars? Cleveland judge says yes,” The Plain Dealer, 5-21-13.
7. “Governors Fall Away in G.O.P….”
8. Gordon Whitman, “Governors Who Refuse Medicaid Expansion Put Politics Ahead of People,” Huffington Post Politics Blog, 7-24-12.
9. PICO’s Florida United Facebook page: See May 10 link to: petitions.moveon.org/sign/tell-governor-scott-in/. See also Facebook entries April 23, April 25, May 1; John Kennedy, “Loaves, fishes and Medicaid expansion cited by clergy,” Palm Beach Post, Post on Politics blog, 3-20-13.
10. Brian Sikma, “Citizen Action Medicaid Expansion Endorsement Reads like Political Roster,” mediatrackers, 5-13-13.
11. Spencer Barrett, “MCU Medicaid Expansion: Fill Up the Buses,” Gamaliel website, 4-16-13.
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