The Alinsky Model

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 26 2012 10:50 AM

The Alinsky Model

Go and read Phil Klein's column about Newt Gingrich and Alinsky-ism. Gingrich's repeated references to "Obama's Alinsky radicalism," which he's been making since at least 2009, are now made without context -- in stump speeches or debate answers he doesn't explain why Obama's campaign strategy or entitlement policy is "Alinskyite." It's actually much easier to use Alinsky's theories to explain Newt 3.0. Here's Klein:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

"The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a 'dangerous enemy,'" Alinsky wrote in "Rules for Radicals." He went on to reveal that, "Today, my notoriety and the hysterical instant reaction of the establishment not only validate my credentials of competency but also ensure automatic popular invitation."
Though Gingrich has spent several decades profiting from being part of the Washington establishment, the fact that he's been attacked by so-called "elites" has become self-validating.
And the way he scolded CNN moderator John King in last Thursday's South Carolina debate followed Alinsky's 13th tactical rule, which states: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."
Advertisement

Read more Alinsky, and you find more advice that works for Gingrich. "First rule of change is controversy," said Alinsky in an interview used in a posthumous documentary. "You can't get away from it for the simple reason all issues are controversial. Change means movement and movement means friction, and friction means heat, and heat means controversy." Now: What does a Newt Gingrich speech offer, if not "controversy"? Gingrich realized years ago that the media is a yapping, distracted beast that will jump on any "crazy" sounding statement. The trick: Making sure that the controversy ends with a more conservative consensus.

The classic example of this: Gingrich's 1995 musings, on Meet the Press, that some children should be put in orphanages. It was covered at the time as a horrible gaffe. Gingrich took the flack, but he was convinced that a discussion of one extreme solution to poverty made his preferred solutions seem more tenable -- he shifted the Overton Window, using the media's outrage machine.

"'Orphanages' is a word that communicates very well," explained Tony Blankley, Gingrich's spokesman, in an interview with Elizabeth Drew. "Over time, we win the larger policy debate on welfare; it sharpens the focus on the existing program. It puts our opponents in an untenable position."

Since its inception, the Tea Party has been trying to reverse-engineer Alinsky. The movement was convinced that there were secrets in Alinsky's head, secrets that Obama used to snow everybody and take over. But Gingrich had picked up Alinsky years ago.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 10:10 AM Where Do I Start With Sleater-Kinney?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.