|Hillary Rodham, circa 1971|
"You are being rediscovered again as the New Left-type politicos are finally beginning to think seriously about the hard work and mechanics of organizing."
--Hillary Rodham, Berkeley California, July 8, 1971 letter to radical organizer Saul Alinsky
“Yesterday is over.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote her Wellesley thesis on Saul Alinsky’s theory of community organizing in 1968--47 years ago. The tactics remain very much a part of today’s Democratic Party, as Pepperdine professor Pete Peterson found out when Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who calls himself an Alinskyite, used them against a Peterson colleague at Pepperdine. Wrote Peterson:
[Democrats] adopting Alinsky’s tactics [do] not . . . fit with Alinsky’s philosophy. [Alinsky’s] Rules for Radicals is meant to empower the weaker against the stronger. Alinsky writes: “The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”
what has happened is that a generation of American politicians who came of age during Saul Alinsky’s lifetime has moved into positions of institutional power that he so often derided as “the enemy.” They are showing an inability to leave behind Alinsky’s tactics that were intended for the weak against the strong. Civil discourse and academic freedom suffer while the “Prince” becomes more powerful.Hillary Rodham was there at the dawn of the revolution that transformed the Democratic Party into an elite, Northeast-upper Midwest, anti-war, Ivy League-led institution working through academia and the media. New Democrats followed the well-worn tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt in seeking to remake America via a centralized, progressive government, but one liberated from the drag of its former conservative, Southern base, and less concerned about working class whites living outside the South.
This new Democratic Party lost 5 of 6 presidential elections from 1968 to 1988, lost Congress in 1994, held the White House under moderate Southerner Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and lost again in 2000 and 2004.
But then, as Daniel Henninger tells us in the conservative Wall Street Journal:
After defeating the Clinton organization in 2008, the progressive left finally got full control of the Democratic Party. There is no chance they will let [Hillary] Clinton even glance toward the center in the next 19 months. The Democratic left didn’t like the Clintons in 2007 and still doesn’t. . . Clinton is a Democrat inheriting the economic headwinds of the Obama presidency. . . Her solution: Make big government bigger. . . income maintenance, education subsidies, refundable tax credits, expanded Social Security payments and, needless to say. . . ObamaCare. . . the lady in the Scooby van has to spend 19 months arguing for more of the same.In words that ring true to conservative America, Commentary’s Peter Wehner writes that Clinton is “likely to be the nominee of a party that is utterly intellectually exhausted.” So yesterday.
But Wehner adds:
That said, Mrs. Clinton knows how to raise money, she is unlikely to face a serious primary challenger, her party has won five of the last six popular votes in presidential elections, and (unlike her husband) she is disciplined. And because she is a woman, electing her would make Clinton a historic figure in a way that Barack Obama was on race. The political potency of that should not be underestimated.Wehner continues:
here’s a prediction: She, her team, and her party will obsess on cultural issues and attempt to divide the nation around them to a degree we have never quite seen before. She’ll do this both because she is a liberal woman and because she has very little to say on economic and foreign policy matters. Mrs. Clinton will go into this election believing the “culture wars” to be the best and safest political ground for her. She will portray Republicans as engaged in a “war on women” in such a way that past efforts will look like a walk in the park. The distortions, mob mentality, and smear campaign that characterized the reaction of the left to the Indiana version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the federal version of which Bill Clinton signed into law) will be amplified by a factor of a hundred. If Hillary Clinton could talk about contraception, abortion, evolution, same sex marriage, and equal pay for equal work every day between now and November 2016, she would.
As National Journal’s Ron Brownstein has written, Democrats are “confident that they represent an expanding majority of public opinion.” [Democratic] pollster Stanley B. Greenberg captures this almost unprecedented Democratic assurance when he declares flatly: “Republicans are on the losing side of all [cultural issues].”All themes familiar to readers of this blog. “Yesterday” isn’t about new. But so far, it’s working.
What must be new is the Republican response. Wehner warns that Republicans
need to be seen as promoting the human good and defending human dignity. . . they should look to Pope Francis. . . The degree to which Francis has favorably altered the perception of the institution he represents — not by changing doctrine but by acting and speaking in a way characterized by grace and genuine human sympathy — is remarkable.Another conservative, Victor Davis Hanson of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, reminds us how separated the Clintons and their unparalleled fundraising elite are from the population with whom a Pope Francis-like appeal would connect:
The Clintons rightly sense that the one-percenters . . . feel awfully bad about their privilege. Thus they will feel much better about indulging their endless material appetites, if they give large tax-deductible contributions to the spread-the-wealth, help-the-helpless shtick of elite Democrats. Huge federal redistributionist policies may fail and hurt the minorities and poor, but for now they are . . . the only insurance that the gates of the rich will not be stormed or their private schools and neighborhoods flooded.For Republicans to deliver change that benefits the nation, they must first talk with the language of Pope Francis, then convince voters “equal opportunity” and “upward mobility” will work for them and their loved ones.