Obama Should Have Stayed a Community Organizer
posted at 12:33 pm on September 7, 2009 by Howard Portnoy
An article by Kyle-Anne Shriver in American Thinker asks an excellent question: “Did Obama rise too fast for his own good?” I have been asking myself a related question lately: Did Obama rise too far for his own good?
This is a question Obama unwittingly answers himself on page 133 of Dreams from My Father. The passage is an internal monologue in which a young Barack Obama discovers his true calling and seems to be mapping out the direction his life will take:
I’d pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds. Change in the Congress, compliant and corrupt. Change won’t come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.
The one word repeated over and over, change, would become part of Obama’s rallying cry during his campaign for the presidency.
The other key word is, of course, organize. During the election, many cynics asked, “What exactly does a community organizer do?” The answer can be found here, at the Center for Community Change website. Their stated mission is “to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change their communities and public policies for the better.”
If they stopped there, I would be behind them, applauding their noble effort. But they don’t. Here’s the next paragraph:
The Center for Community Change strengthens, connects and mobilizes grassroots groups to enhance their leadership, voice and power. We believe that vibrant community-based organizations, led by the people most affected by social and economic injustice, are key to putting an end to the failed “on your own” mentality of the right and building a new politics based on community values. [Emphasis added]
If the highlighted part doesn’t sound like vintage Obama to you, then you haven’t been paying attention. Accusing the right, and especially his Republican predecessor, of failure is just about all Obama has done since he took office.
As for the rest of it — the language about mobilizing grassroots groups most affected by social and economic injustice — that should sound familiar, too. Also known as rabble rousing, it has been the chief preoccupation of the country’s two most vocal race hustlers, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, for the last umpteen years.
Returning to that quote from his book, it appears that young Obama had it all figured out for himself. He, too, would get in the game, stirring up the common folk, exciting their passions by telling them the “man” is messin’ with them, that what rightfully belongs to them has been stolen and handed off to some rich fat cat.
There’s even a good living in it if you do it right. While Sharpton has been largely a chump, picking the wrong fights, Jackson has been a shrewd operator, avoiding jail time and amassing a fortune. Although his net worth is a jealously guarded secret, his shakedown of Anheuser Busch in 1982 brought half a million dollars into the coffers of his Rainbow PUSH coalition, plus a $10 million fund to help non-whites buy Anheuser Busch distributorships. (He neatly parlayed the latter concession to his own personal advantage when he arranged for his two his two sons, Yusef and Jonathan Jackson, to buy a Chicago distributorship worth an estimated $25 to $30 million.)
Obama, too, could have been riding that gravy train. People might even have hailed him as “the Reverend Barack Obama.”
But then he went and spoiled it all by running for, and getting elected, president. True, Sharpton and Jackson both took their shots at the Big Brass Ring that is the Oval Office, but neither — and especially Sharpton — comes off as mainstream enough to have made it a close race. In the end, both ended up back where they started, living the good life. Obama meanwhile wasn’t so lucky.
He should have heeded his own advice. Change, as he himself noted, doesn’t “come from the top.” Sure, for an egotist like Obama, attaining the dizzying heights of the presidency is the ultimate sky dive — getting to look down on all those little people running around pursuing their little lives. But ultimately you fall back to earth and that’s not where Obama needs or wants to be.
Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions