The Corner

Alinskyite Tactics, Robert Creamer, and Us

Newly released video clips of Democratic operatives describing their own attempts to provoke violence at Trump rallies, their sub-rosa coordination with the Hillary Clinton campaign, and their active consideration of voter fraud schemes, are ugly but not surprising.

Maybe it will emerge that these videos were deceptively edited. That possibility can’t be excluded, as the White House itself has emphasized. For now, however, the damning evidence in the videos strikes me as more convincing than the weak denials by the activists in question.

Even so, legitimate objections have been raised to the deceptive tactics used to gain access to the subjects of these videos. This puts us in the same dilemma as the Wikileaks revelations. Is it right to cover revelations that are obviously newsworthy, yet were obtained by troubling means?

I’m torn on this question. I can’t help but recall, however, that when I used traditional and completely non-deceptive means to research a story on President Obama’s membership in a leftist third party—and his campaign’s lies about that issue in 2008—the mainstream press ignored it. So even when you get a story by traditional means, the press will spike it if it hurts a Democratic presidential candidate. That doesn’t justify deceptive investigative techniques, but it needs to be said nevertheless.

Rather than try to adjudicate the factual underpinnings or the journalistic rights and wrongs of this story, I’m going to focus on Robert Creamer’s background. Creamer has already made news by “stepping back” from the Clinton campaign in response to the videos. So at this point, it’s fair to comment on his background.

Creamer is a longtime Alinskyite activist and a leader in Obama’s old community organizing network. Creamer was a key figure in the work of Chicago’s community organizer training center, the Midwest Academy, to which Obama had close ties. I write extensively about the hard-left ideology and hardball tactics of the Midwest Academy, and Creamer’s role at the center of it all, in my political biography of President Obama, Radical-in-Chief (see Chapter 5, esp. 144-45; 186-88).

The Midwest Academy was founded by die-hard socialists who had once been part of the radical 60s SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). An influential figure in Saul Alinsky’s early Chicago operations, Creamer worked with the Midwest Academy’s founders to persuade young socialist revolutionaries in the 70s to adopt a more “pragmatic” Alinskyite stance. In other words, Creamer helped persuade these young revolutionaries to organize, and provide quiet socialist guidance, to movements that were liberal in appearance, yet radical in their ultimate intentions and effects.

While retaining his ties to the Midwest Academy, Creamer rose to become a prominent Democratic strategist and, as numerous reports have indicated, a frequent visitor to the Obama White House. Creamer was an important early advocate of what we now call the healthcare “public option,” an idea that appears to have been at least partially inspired by one of the Midwest Academy’s earlier organizing campaigns.

In Radical-in-Chief, and in my follow up, Spreading the Wealth (see Chapter 3, esp. pp. 59-63), I show how Obama played public good cop during his days in the Illinois legislature, while coordinating behind the scenes with Alinskyite allies who used questionable voter registration tactics, and even intimidated Obama’s Republican legislative rivals at their homes. Given the latest videos, it’s hard not to wonder how much of this sort of thing is going on today, and perhaps with some of the same players as in Obama’s Illinois years.

If the upshot of these new videos holds up to scrutiny, it would show that Saul Alinsky is alive, well and living inside the beating heart of the Democratic Party. Obama inaugurated the era of Alinskyite hardball at the presidential level, and Hillary’s campaign organization would at least appear to be carrying on. If anything, our community organizers have gotten bolder. Nor is the media any more interested in scrutinizing the questionable tactics of the Democrats’ Alinskyite strategists or ground troops than it’s been for the past eight years.

The deeper problem is the ideology behind all of this, which goes far beyond the few operatives featured in the videos. Alinskyite leftists quite simply do not believe in liberal democracy, which is why they’re so willing to violate its norms.

In 2007, Robert Creamer published Stand Up Straight! How Progressives Can Win, a tactical handbook for the left that he wrote while serving a prison term for tax evasion and bank fraud. Creamer’s advice on how to handle conservatives (pp. 74-6) makes for interesting reading about now:

In general our strategic goal with people who have become conservative activists is not to convert them—that isn’t going to happen. It is to demoralize them—to ‘deactivate’ them. We need to deflate their enthusiasm, to make them lose their ardor and above all their self-confidence…[A] way to demoralize conservative activists is to surround them with the echo chamber of our positions and assumptions. We need to make them feel that they are not mainstream, to make them feel isolated… We must isolate them ideologically…[and] use the progressive echo chamber…By defeating them and isolating them ideologically, we demoralize conservative activists directly. Then they begin to quarrel among themselves or blame each other for defeat in isolation, and that demoralizes them further.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Most Popular

White House

The Trivialization of Impeachment

We have a serious governance problem. Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority -- that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and ... Read More

Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More

‘Texodus’ Bodes Badly for Republicans

‘I am a classically trained engineer," says Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, "and I firmly believe in regression to the mean." Applying a concept from statistics to the randomness of today's politics is problematic. In any case, Hurd, 42, is not waiting for the regression of our politics from the ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More