ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a scandal. Its story has become news lately thanks to some recent BigGovernment.com-sponsored guerrilla journalism. But the problems of ACORN represent a broader and even more scandalous idea: the conventional acceptance of the Left’s self-righteous claim to have a monopoly on all politics, policy, and lifestyles that are good.
ACORN, if you haven’t heard, is a radical organization that devotes itself with laser-like focus and intensity to the maxim that all politics is local. The group supposedly exists to find affordable housing and provide social services for low-income families. But when two undercover, enterprising young people equipped with a hidden camera walked into an ACORN office, posing as an over-the-top pimp and prostitute wanting to establish a brothel dealing in enslaved children from other countries, ACORN employees offered them advice: how to get on welfare; how to cheat the tax system; how to get housing from the government; how to hide the criminal profit (a tin in your backyard, natch).
In the wake of the video, the Senate — with seven notable exceptions — voted to bar new federal funding for ACORN. But beyond the outrageous seven and the video, this is an opportunity for deeper revelations still.
Federally aided counsel to a pimp and prostitute and pervasive allegations of voter fraud aren’t the worst of it. The reaction that has greeted the furor has been the most disturbing facet of the whole sorry affair. There is a place, a time, and a need for getting to the bottom of the whys and hows of social pathologies. But that time is not while watching an organization that gets federal funding offer help with the sex trafficking of children on YouTube. Yet that was the default position of some on the left on this scandal.
ACORN’s chief executive, Bertha Lewis, would eventually surrender to the demand for atonement and issue a statement saying, “We have all been deeply disturbed by what we’ve seen in some of these videos. I must say, on behalf of ACORN’s board and our advisory council, that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust.” But that was only after being on adamant defense.
And Lewis wasn’t alone in self-protection mode. When the first video dropped, a blog on National Public Radio’s website excused crimes as part and parcel of the plight of the community organizer: “It’s also important to keep in mind that ACORN’s workers are coming from the same low-income neighborhoods the organization serves, with all that entails — poor schools, high crime, and the sorts of social problems that have been documented for decades.” The post continued: “So the flaws conservatives are pointing out about ACORN are not so much problems associated with that organization per se but more about the problems of being poor and minority in urban America.” Don’t blame them, in other words. They can’t help themselves; they’re poor people.
And herein lies the deeper scandal — it’s not just the denial of what is right in front of your face, it’s denial of a bad mode of operating, of a sickness in policy and philosophy. For as much as the Right is attacked for being dismissive of the poor and most vulnerable, the Left clutches that which continues the plight of government dependence among so many.
ACORN is wedded to stale thinking that all too often makes people dependent and crushes responsibility, creativity, and our very natures. And the Obama administration only plans to continue to increase welfare spending, ensuring that the system that gave birth to ACORN and its inexcusable conduct will continue to thrive.
That NPR item began with the announcement that the “‘ACORN versus conservatives’ contest of wills is beginning to look like some new version of the Cold War with either side claiming the other is evil and vowing to never give in until it prevails.” There’s something to that observation, actually. These tea parties, bestsellers about liberty and tyranny and liberal fascism — they’re about something. They’re about ideas. They’re about preserving that which makes America exceptional.