[VDARE.COM note: Steve Sailer's book tentatively entitled The Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's "Story of Race and Inheritance" will be available ANY DAY NOW!]
At the Republican convention, VP nominee Sarah Palin famously observed:
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."
This wisecrack evidently got under the skin of Senator Barack Obama. In Obama Suddenly Riled, [San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2008] columnist Carolyn Lochhead reported:
"Sen. Barack Obama ditched his normal languid cool today, punching back at Gov. Sarah Palin as he spoke with reporters in York, Pa, hotly defending his work as a community organizer… Obama's hackles were clearly raised by Palin's dismissal of his community organizing …"
The Obama message team then told us over and over about the unemployed steelworkers Obama had moved to Chicago to help.
Palin's crack was funny. But it shows that, as I predicted in February, GOP nominee John McCain is choosing to fight the election with one hand tied behind his back. Even his VP candidate isn't allowed to ask why Obama wanted to be a "community organizer". Which "community" did this post-racial transcender of ethnic divisions want to organize?
Like most questions about Obama's life, the answers about his community organizing revolve around a single word: race.
As Obama wrote in his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance:
"In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer. … That's what I'll do, I'll organize black folks."
The Obama campaign's recurrent "steelworker" shtick is supposed to make you think Obama moved to Chicago to help guys named Kowalski. But the last thing Obama wanted to do in 1985 was help anybody with a Central European name.
Chicago in 1985 was site of the abrasive "Council Wars" between the leader of the white majority among Chicago's aldermen, the Croatian-American Fast Eddie Vrdolyak, and Obama's idol, the black mayor Harold Washington. This was the most blatant white vs. black conflict in the country at the time—which helped make Chicago attractive to the young mixed-race man from ethnically laid-back Hawaii. Obama had long been looking for a more racially hostile environment where he could finally prove he was "black enough".
Ultimately, he didn't help any steelworkers, black or white. The Southtown Star reported on August 24:
"And none of the laid-off steelworkers Obama talks about in stump speeches, the people he was brought to Chicago to help, could be found for this article, despite repeated requests to the campaign."
So what is an Obama-style "community organizer?"
You're not some local Scoutmaster or the lady who organizes the annual block party or some other local citizen.
It means a radical racial activist who, in Tom Wolfe's immortal phrase, "mau-maus the flak catchers"—intimidates bureaucrats into giving your ethnicity a bigger slice of the pie. It means, more than anything else, that you organize political protests for more handouts from the taxpayers (even though dependence upon those handouts is one reason the community is so disorganized.)
It's kind of like being the neighborhood fence who encourages the local heroin addicts to steal hubcaps so they can shoot more smack.
The famous black University of Chicago sociologist William Julius Wilson published a book on four South Side of Chicago districts, There Goes the Neighborhood, which I reviewed here in February. A key finding of his study: poor, disorganized neighborhoods had no shortage of Obama-like paid organizers. For example, in the Little Village neighborhood, which is mostly Mexican illegal immigrants:
"There was a vast array of paid service providers in the neighborhood. … There was a school for at-risk youth, and clubs … for youth not particularly at risk."
Wilson goes on to list some of the other taxpayer-supported programs: programs for pregnant women, for parents, for AIDS patients, for people who don't yet have AIDS, for sick people, for the mentally ill, for gang-prevention, for seniors, for high school graduates, for high school dropouts, and for people who never went to high school and want to learn English so they can vote.
In contrast, Wilson found, Chicago neighborhoods that don't need all this taxpayer and foundation-funded help because they self-organize—with picnics, parades, church festivals, and rapid graffiti clean-up—largely do so in order to keep property values up…and outsiders of other races out.
But that's not the kind of community organizing Obama likes. Indeed, according to a John Judis article in The New Republic [Creation Myth, September 10, 2008], Obama spoke out in 1988 against the Save Our Neighborhoods group, which had engaged in Alinskyite community organizing to keep unscrupulous realtors from "block busting" their communities in order to cause rapid turnover, which leads to slumification.
And yet, like his mentor Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Obama isn't crazy about blacks moving out of the ghetto, denigrating that "old individualistic bootstrap myth: get a job, get rich, and get out."[ What Makes Obama Run?, By Hank De Zutter, Chicago Reader, December 8, 1995]
The economic subtext: the jobs of both Wright as a South Side black preacher, and Obama as a South Side black community organizer and politician, were imperiled by the right of blacks who can afford it to move out of the black slums and find a less dangerous place to raise their children.
It's less enjoyable being a "community leader" if your putative followers keep moving to Schaumburg. So Wright and Obama implore their followers to stay put—even at the risk that their children will join gangs and go to prison or the grave.
Perhaps some of the anti-white paranoia that runs through Wright's and, especially, Michelle Obama's statements is partly explained by these hyper-glib leaders' guilty consciences over self-interestedly persuading black parents to continue to expose their children to the dangers of gang-infested neighborhoods.
For example, on 60 Minutes, Michelle asserted: "... as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station ..."—as if KKK snipers were cruising past the South Kenwood Amoco. (South Kenwood, where the Obama's mansion is, is only 1/3rd black, but North Kenwood's a dicey neighborhood).
Obviously, the main danger faced by black men is being shot by other black men. But that's too unspeakable to mention. So free rein is given to paranoid fantasies about The Man being behind black-on-black violence, as in Trinity Church's "Black Value System."
Embarrassing fact: Obama didn't actually live in any of the communities he putatively organized. Instead, he has spent 23 years living in the sliver of the South Side that's so well organized by a rich institution that it has its own private police force. Obama has lived in Hyde Park and South Kenwood, within the privileged residential bubble between 39th St. and 64th St. that is patrolled by the large, well-funded and hard-nosed University of Chicago Police Dept.
A friend wrote:
"You are missing an angle. Obama lives in South Kenwood. That is policed by the University of Chicago police. There is a fierce and drastic difference between neighborhoods within and outside the University of Chicago Police boundary. When I was a student there, it was apparent … they were only dimly aware of things like Miranda or the presumption of innocence (for anyone, that is, other than students, faculty, black women, and black men dressed like Barack Obama—geez, I wonder who that leaves?). The University of Chicago wouldn't last a semester without them."
Ironically, Obama was a civil rights lawyer and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School…
Funny thing about professional community organizers: the more disorganized the community, the more professional community organizers you'll find.
As Wolfe wrote in 1970:
"Brothers from down the hall like Dudley got down to the heart of the poverty program very rapidly. It took them no time at all to see that the poverty program's big projects, like manpower training, in which you would get some job counseling and some training so you would be able to apply for a job in the bank or on the assembly line—everybody with a brain in his head knew that this was the usual bureaucratic shuck. Eventually the government's own statistics bore out the truth of this conclusion. The ghetto youth who completed the manpower training didn't get any more jobs or earn any more money than the people who never took any such training at all. Everybody but the most hopeless lames knew that the only job you wanted out of the poverty program was a job in the program itself. Get on the payroll, that was the idea. Never mind getting some job counseling. You be the job counselor. You be the 'neighborhood organizer.'"
Similarly, when Obama discovered that the closest Mayor's Office of Employment and Training to the all-black housing project where he was focusing "was on a back street in Vrdolyak's ward", he exclaimed, according to Dreams From My Father: "We just found ourselves an issue".
The New Republic's Judis writes: "He got community members to demand a job center that would provide job referrals, but there were few jobs to distribute".
As Wolfe wrote, back in the Wild West days of the Great Society, no matter how pointless the result of the protest, mau-mauing was fun for the participants because the flak catchers were white:
"When black people first started using the confrontation tactic, they made a secret discovery. There was an extra dividend to this tactic. There was a creamy dessert. It wasn't just that you registered your protest and showed the white man that you meant business and weakened his resolve to keep up the walls of oppression. It wasn't just that you got poverty money and influence. There was something sweet that happened right there on the spot. You made the white man quake. You brought fear into his face."
By the time, Obama had arrived in Chicago, however, the poverty bureaucrats were almost all minorities.
Still, community organizing had its upside: namely, Obama made a name for himself and networked with what has become his political base—the social services industry.
But, isn't Obama above all petty financial considerations? After all, didn't Obama give up a lucrative Wall Street job to make $10,000 per year as a community organizer, like he says in all those speeches?
Actually, Obama's New York job was considerably less glamorous than he makes it sound in Dreams. He was a copy editor at a newsletter house.
And that low-ball salary he took in Chicago was just for the probationary period. His boss said, "After three or four months, he was up to $20,000, and after three years he was probably making $35,000 or so."
Some perspective on Obama's $35,000 community organizer salary: I also moved to Chicago for a job, about two and half years before Obama did. At my marketing research firm in late 1982, at the bottom of the recession, the going rate for new MBAs with quantitative skills from good B-schools was $29,000. It wasn't great, but, for a bachelor, it was a living.
Even in Chicago politics, there's a tradeoff between money and power. The Combine, the bipartisan, multiracial crew of Chicago and Illinois insiders I wrote about last week, is looking for people who aren't excessively greedy to be the public face of the system. Indeed, according to Mike Royko's biography, Richard Daley the First became so powerful because he wasn't particularly greedy.
And that's what Obama wanted: power.
Obama was trained (and trained others) in the Rules for Radicals created by the famous agitator Saul Alinsky. Yet, as Judis reports, Obama eventually became frustrated by community organizing in general, and three of Alinsky's rules in particular: don't trust 1) charismatic individuals, 2) politicians, or 3) lofty rhetoric.
So, Obama quit community organizing, and became a charismatic politician admired for his lofty rhetoric.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]