‘Out of one, many.” That was how Al Gore famously botched “E Pluribus Unum,” the motto chiseled on the great seal of the United States.
Barack Obama’s Latin may not be any better than Gore’s — he did have to admit being an English-only kinda guy this summer . . . after complaining that Americans embarrass him with their lack of language proficiency. Understand this, though: If we hear the Democrats’ standard-bearer saying, “Out of one, many,” it won’t be a mistranslation. It will be a succinct statement of his ideology. It’s the “fundamental change” he has in mind for America.
Obama professes a love for this country. One needn’t doubt his sincerity to grasp that what he loves is a vision of America, not America as she is. The object of his affection is not our Unum, the glorious inheritance we Many cherish through generations past, present, and (one prays) future. For The One, that One earns only disdain. Eroding it has been his life’s work.
Move through Obama’s career as a community organizer, his embrace of ACORN, his radical associations: the common denominator is a purpose to break down the Unum at its foundations, what he calls the “grass-roots.” For America, he plans an atom bomb. Or, to be precise, an atoms bomb: countless communities in cities and towns across the land, organized along the Marxist principles of Saul Alinsky into socialist enclaves. Each atom smothers the individual freedom and enterprise that have defined the American character, replacing them with welfare states that prize dysfunction and reward the rabble-rousers.
To be sure, there is an Unum that Obama sees. It is in his mind’s eye — clearer on the horizon now than when he began his project 23 years ago. It will arrive when the atoms reach critical mass and finally devour the hollowing carcass of our present society.
For Obama, that society is an ineradicably racist “white world.” He is more opaque than mentors like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, who mince no words in portraying America as an apartheid state. Still, as Hank De Zutter wrote in a fawning 1995 profile, Obama learned to see “integration was a one-way street, with blacks expected to assimilate into a white world that never gave ground.” One hears the echoes of Obama’s wife, Michelle, whose Princeton thesis decried the thought of “further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant.”
What to do if one is convinced, against the weight of his Ivy League opportunities and spectacular success, that he is destined to be on the outside looking in? If you are Obama, you adopt a two-prong strategy. First, you build small, alternative realities that reject the Unum’s core values. Then, as those alternative realities — the communities you’ve organized — grow in number and sophistication, you coerce the unwilling to accept and live within the new reality, just as you believe the Unum has marginalized you.
For Obama and his allies, capitalist democracy is an abject failure, habituated to racism, relentless in its materialism. It is an ironic critique: The senator and his fellow travelers are driven by nothing if not a crass materialism: They see themselves entitled to society’s benefits without the burden of its toils. They are, moreover, such prisoners of their own racism — have you ever heard anyone else describe his own grandmother as “a typical white person”? — that race has become their unified field theory for all of life’s disparities. It is a stubborn theory, heedless of the fact that, in our free society, members of all races, ethnicities, and economic classes move up and down the ladder of opportunity by the yardstick of merit.
Obama will tolerate no such yardstick. He derides the very core of what makes American society exceptional: individual liberty. Freedom. “We have this strong bias toward individual action,” Obama ruefully told De Zutter — and note the crafty shift: his choice of the amorphous action instead of the value-laden freedom, lest the listener realize just what is at stake. “You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.”
Of course, we already have collective institutions and organizations. They are the branches of a limited government, designed by our Constitution precisely to promote individual liberty and national security. They are the churches, synagogues, PTAs, neighborhood clubs, and other social organizations by which each citizen may freely set the balance between his personal fulfillment and his interaction with fellow citizens. They are the arts, the sports arenas, the charities, the congeries of fulfillment for those who know the personal is not the political. That is American democracy, our Unum.
So if not American democracy then . . . what? DeZutter, who interviewed his subject at length, explained that Obama’s strategy called “for organizing ordinary citizens into bottom-up democracies that create their own strategies, programs, and campaigns and that forge alliances with other disaffected Americans.” (Emphasis added.)
Like much of Obama’s vaporous rhetoric, it sounds harmless enough — even admirable. Until you look closely. It turns out that these “bottom-up democracies” are phony. They are not democracies at all. They are enclaves of the alienated, where the mob strangles the achiever. Indeed, when Ayers, Obama’s long-time “education-reform” ally, conjures his ideal “participatory democracy” — fueled by what he euphemistically calls “popular empowerment” and what Obama calls “participatory politics” — the “beacon to the world” he points to is Chavez’s socialist thugocracy in Venezuela.
THE ORGANIZER’S BOTTOM-UP COMMUNITIES
To begin with, Obama’s bottom-up democracies don’t serve the demos. They serve the tribe at the expense of the demos. Obama’s post-racial, post-partisanship is a pose. Back when he was more honest, when the brass ring was not this close, he made no bones about the fact that he was driven by a determination to “organize black folks.” His preoccupation was “black America.” He anguished over a “moral agenda” for “the African-American community,” one that harnessed the “energy” and “moral fervor of black folks” — stoked in pulpits of black separatists like Wright — into a “concrete program for change.”
And Obama’s actions spoke even louder than his words. He chose to knit himself into the fabric of Wright’s church, drinking deep its Marxist Black Liberation Theology and its stated mission to sustain “an African people, and remain ‘true to our native land,’ the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.” It was a bleak world, a defiant bottom-up community choosing to separate itself from the Unum. As Wright’s role model, James Hal Cone, put it: “If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community. . . . Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.”
How much of this claptrap did Obama buy? Well, he stayed at Trinity for 20 years — until political expedience tore him reluctantly away. But has he really left the fold? While he is usually careful, Delphic, with his words, he has not shrunk over the years from decrying, as De Zutter reported, “the unrealistic politics of integrationist assimilation — which helps a few upwardly mobile blacks to ‘move up, get rich, and move out.’ ” (One hears again the echoes of Michelle, who had written that a racial “separationist” would have a better understanding of American blacks than “an integrationist who is ignorant to their plight.”)
Obama was front and center at the “Million Man March” convened by Wright’s intimate, notorious Louis Farrakan. There, Obama recalled, he basked in the “powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African-American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society,” to share their “profound sense that African-American men were ready to make a commitment to bring about change in our communities and lives.”
And as a state senator, Obama railed at the fracturing of the “Illinois Black Caucus” when black legislators sided with their diverse constituencies rather than closing ranks to force the placement of a lucrative riverboat casino in a black neighborhood. He seethed that these “lone agents” had voted their conscience, that the tribe had not effectively “enforced” unity “for the common good of the African-American community.”
The politics of “bottom-up democracies,” furthermore, are not the politics of the Unum. Our politics are premised on the rule of law — the standards of a civilized society. Obama’s politics, to the contrary, are premised on a form of mob-based extortion that travels under the name of “direct action.” The Obamedia hasn’t covered it, but The One used to be remarkably open, if characteristically coy, about his methods. “[G]rass-roots community organizing,” he explained in 1988, “builds on indigenous leadership and direct action.”
And do you know where he wrote that? In a little noticed chapter he contributed to a compendium called After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois. Alinsky, who died in 1972, was the committed socialist who systematized community organizing in such books as Rules for Radicals. Obama was not only trained in his ideology, he mastered it to the degree that he eventually taught “organizing.” Indeed, Obama’s rise to national prominence is a direct result of his stature in Alinsky’s movement.
Alinsky’s worldview is captured in Malcolm X’s clarion call: “By any means necessary.” For Alinsky, as for Obama, the point of organization is “action” which takes aim at “America’s white middle class. That is where the power is.” Organizers, Alinsky instructed, are “rebels” who
have contemptuously rejected the values and the way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt. They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the middle class majority.
The organizer’s goal is to use the system against the system: to infiltrate and alter it. What Obama calls “fundamental change.” And to carry out that mission, the organizer’s tool is lawlessness or “direct action.”
As Obama wrote in his chapter, “Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City”:
The debate as to how black and other dispossessed people can forward their lot in America is not new. From W.E.B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, this internal debate has raged between integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy, between sit-down strikes and boardroom negotiations. The lines between these strategies have never been simply drawn, and the most successful black leadership has recognized the need to bridge these seemingly divergent approaches. [Emphasis added.]
Breathtaking. Observe that the organizer does not reject separatism, menacing, and civil disobedience. They are iterations of the hard power he “bridges” with soft power, the exploitation of the system’s regular politics. And in a society that venerates dissent and free association, there is much to exploit in the blurry line between critiquing our society and advocating its destruction.
The bottom line, however, is that the community organizer and his adherents refuse to be judged, or to conform themselves, to bourgeois rules and values. Alinsky again: “[T]he practical revolutionary will understand … [that] in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind.” No, the practical revolutionary will invoke Goethe’s maxim that “Conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action.” The organizer is an agent of action, and he has but one value: “Victory.” The rest is just details.
That explains the marriage of Obama and ACORN. Most Americans now know the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now for its serial voter-registration frauds, which seriously jeopardize the integrity of our democratic election process. The McCain campaign has failed to highlight for voters that electoral fraud is merely an ACORN sideline.
As Sol Stern documented in this essential 2003 City Journal essay, the organization, with single-minded vigor, pursues a “1960s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology, and government handouts to the poor.” Its stock-in-trade is direct action. Obama represented ACORN as a lawyer, teamed with ACORN as an organizer, schooled ACORN radicals as a lecturer, funded ACORN while sitting on the boards of leftist cash cows, capitalized on ACORN support as a 2004 Senate candidate, proposed ACORN friendly legislation, and now shovels $800,000 from his campaign war chest for ACORN boots-on-the-ground — disclosure of which had to be amended because it was falsely reported the first go-round.
What does ACORN push? “Living wage” laws that kill jobs and raise taxes. The very predatory borrowing practices that ignited the credit crisis and our consequent economic meltdown. An end to welfare reform and subsidization of the dependence-culture that breeds crime, broken families, and a swelling underclass. Government control of the economy. And the trapping of citizens and businesses in the organizers’ “bottom-up democracies” — so they can’t, as Obama put it, ‘move up, get rich, and move out” when their liberty has been strangled.
For example, like Obama, ACORN advocates proscriptions against school vouchers that would allow parents to shield their children from the public schools that ACORN, Ayers, and Obama have helped turn into laboratories of political indoctrination rather than traditional education. An ACORN activist told Stern that vouchers were “a hoax to destroy the public schools,” a pretext for promoting the dominant “race and class,” and “capitalism at its worst,” which is to say, a “life raft for a few people to get out.” Welcome to the Hotel Bottom-up Democracy, where you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.
And rest assured that Obama-trained ACORN has plans to make sure you don’t leave — plans aptly describe by Stern as “undisguised authoritarian socialism.” Like the imposition of an “exit visa” requirement against large companies that attempt to flee the “community” (i.e., the mini-workers’ paradise the “organizer” has forged). Exit visas would extort a prohibitive payment “for losses due to relocation.” How long, Stern sensibly asks, “before ACORN calls for exit visas for wealthy or middle-class individuals before they can leave a city?”
Similarly, ACORN advocates freedom-killing measures that masquerade, in Obama’s best Orwellian patois, as “sustainable development” and “regional government” regulations. The goals? To coerce the transfer of wealth from the suburbs to these bottom-up democracies so permanently starved for cash because their economic model cannot support their welfare-state entitlements. To impose strictures on the suburbs’ freedom to grow — until they are no longer viable alternatives to the organizer’s statist communities.
Who would go for such a system? No one sensible, no one reared in the values of our Unum. So it must be achieved by “direct action.” ACORN steals elections by fraud. It lies about its platform. It foments ruckuses that disrupt public hearings, shouting down its stunned, staid opposition. It organizes intimidating job actions. It storms legislative sessions, damages property and, by its sheer numbers, overwhelms police who attempt to restore order. And, as Stern and Stanley Kurtz recount, it proudly brays that “direct action,” legal or illegal, is used because it works: the targets cave in and ACORN’s recruiting swells — naturally so: as Osama bin Laden attests in rationalizing terror, people prefer the strong horse to the weak horse. (How surprised should we be that Obama says Hamas and Hezbollah have “legitimate claims”? That their murderous direct actions are better understood as tactical misjudgments than barbarous disqualifiers?)
SHARE THE WEALTH
A month ago, National Review’s Jim Geraghty reports, Obama urged a throng of supporters to “go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face.” (Emphasis added.) His longtime supporters will get the point: Alinsky literally wrote the book on getting in your face, Obama imbibed the lesson, and he passed it along to ACORN, which has perfected it.
Now famously, Obama was confronted a few days ago by Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio plumber who is our Unum’s everyman. Aren’t you going to tax me more, asked Joe the Plumber? Aren’t you going to take from the sweat of my brow, from the effort I expend to better the lives of myself and my family? Aren’t you going to redistribute it as you see fit, to reward your expanding legions of something-for-nothing dependents?
“It’s not that I want to punish your success,” replied the One. “I want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success, too. . . . My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” (Emphasis added.)
It was an answer right out of ACORN’s “People’s Platform”: “We are the majority, forged from all the minorities[.] . . . We will continue our fight . . . until we have shared the wealth, until we have won our freedom. . . . We have nothing to show for the work of our hand, the tax of our labor.” (Emphasis added.) These are astounding words, Stern observes, from an outfit hell-bent on destroying the individual work ethic precisely by taxing labor and rewarding sloth.
Obama will “spread the wealth” among these “bottom up” democracies. He will encourage their alienation from the Unum’s culture of freedom — what Obama has elsewhere condemned as “that old individualistic bootstrap myth: Get a job, get rich, and get out. Instead of investing in our neighborhoods, that’s what has always happened. Our goal must be to help people get a sense of building something larger.”
We’ve already built something larger, Senator. E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many, One. It is the greatest engine of security, wealth, and dignity in human history. It does more for humankind than any nation in the world, ever. Our Unum doesn’t need “fundamental change.” It needs a determined defense against those who would destroy it from within.
– National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy is the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books 2008).