Community Organizers

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

The more I think about it, the more I’m pissed at the mocking of "community organizers" within the speeches of Giuliani and Palin last night.

I’m not alone.

Chris Hayes:

But this kind of hits me where I live, since my dad is a community organizer, so lemme spell this out: the difference between a community organizer and a politician is that a community organizer can’t tell anyone what to do. They have to listen. So they can’t order books banned from a library to indulge their own religious sensibilities. They can’t fire someone because they didn’t follow orders to fire an estranged family member. They can’t ram through a $15 million dollar sports complex that leaves their local town groaning underneath the debt. Unlike politicians, they don’t have any power other than the power of people who want to see something changed.

Decades ago, before the ADA and a raft of other legislation, schools had essentially no requirements to provide decent education for special needs children. Then a movement of parents, engaging in – gasp – community organizing changed that. And they continue to fight day in and day out for educational equity for children like Sarah Palin’s.

Too bad Sarah Palin just spit in their faces.

Adam Serwer:

But as my friend Jay Smooth points out, community organizers aren’t just those rabble-rousers who help keep people from getting evicted or protest police brutality — they’re basically the ordinary people across the political spectrum who to try hold government accountable to its citizens. Mocking that really shows how much contempt the party has for ordinary people. Republicans look down their noses at alleged "elites" while directing their anger at community organizers, who actually live and work among the people politicians only pay attention to when they’re looking for votes. But it’s not surprising that a party that has spent the last eight years running government into the ground would be irritated by an active citizenry demanding that government actually do its job, rather than simply letting incompetent pols go about their business. If there’s any takeaway from this theme, it’s that the right would rather Americans shut up and fall in line.

Ezra Klein:

Look, let’s call a spade a spade: When Giuliani sneered about community organizers on the "South side" of Chicago, it’s pretty clear what he’s saying: Barack Obama spent his time rabble-rousing among black people. It’s no different then when the RNC called him a "street organizer." It’s fairly clear what they’re trying to evoke. No reason anyone should help them mask it. A community organizer can be a PTA member or a Christian Coalition lieutenant. But that’s really not what Palin and Giuliani are getting at. Obama organized poor black people. That’s change you can fear.

Indeed.  If I understand their ideology, Republicans are all about NOT having the government fix things, and having the people fix things.  Well, that’s what community organizers do.  That’s what Republicans used to be in favor of — remember "a thousand points of light?" 


"Mrs. Palin needs to be reminded that Jesus Christ was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor."

Pretty good stuff.

The Obama campaign has attacked back on this as well:

I wasn’t planning on sending you something tonight. But if you saw what I saw from the Republican convention, you know that it demands a response.

I saw John McCain’s attack squad of negative, cynical politicians. They lied about Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and they attacked you for being a part of this campaign.

But worst of all — and this deserves to be noted — they insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process.

You know that despite what John McCain and his attack squad say, everyday people have the power to build something extraordinary when we come together. Make a donation of $5 or more right now to remind them.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack’s experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let’s clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it’s no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it’s happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Meanwhile, we still haven’t gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.

It’s now clear that John McCain’s campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks — on Barack Obama and on you — are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.

And the common people retort:

FURTHER UPDATE:  It looks like McCain canceled a photo op with Habitat For Humanity today.  Probably didn’t want to get "community organizer" coodies.