Nearly two decades ago a University of Illinois at Springfield publication included what may be the only published work of president-elect Barack Obama prior to the publication of his 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father. Obama, a self-proclaimed community organizer, listed community organizing as part of the experience that qualified him to be president of the United States. Needless to say, as much as the idiom “community organizer” seems to conjure up none-too-flattering images of activists such as Anchorage’s own Michael O’Callaghan, or the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the fact is that Barack Obama, a community organizer, won the contest for the most powerful office in the world. His success, due in large part to his oratory skills and other stage talents, as well as his charisma, was also made possible as a result of his experience as a community organizer. Therefore, the organized community model that was an important aspect of the president-elect’s victory is worthy of emulation to win votes on the local political battlefield as well. As difficult as it may be for blue-blooded Alaskans to embrace what is in effect a socialist model to achieve republican goals, it may be an easier pill to swallow if it is regarded as a tactic to use a competitor’s strategies against him; a form of political jujitsu using an opponent’s strengths to the advantage of the challenger.
From President-elect Obama’s 1990 article:
In theory, community organizing provides a way to merge various strategies for neighborhood empowerment. Organizing begins with the premise that (1) the problems facing inner-city communities do not result from a lack of effective solutions, but from a lack of power to implement these solutions; (2) that the only way for communities to build long-term power is by organizing people and money around a common vision; and (3) that a viable organization can only be achieved if a broadly based indigenous leadership — and not one or two charismatic leaders — can knit together the diverse interests of their local institutions.
This means bringing together churches, block clubs, parent groups and any other institutions in a given community to pay dues, hire organizers, conduct research, develop leadership, hold rallies and education campaigns, and begin drawing up plans on a whole range of issues — jobs, education, crime, etc. Once such a vehicle is formed, it holds the power to make politicians, agencies and corporations more responsive to community needs. Equally important, it enables people to break their crippling isolation from each other, to reshape their mutual values and expectations and rediscover the possibilities of acting collaboratively — the prerequisites of any successful self-help initiative.
“Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City” Barack Obama,
After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois, Illinois Issues,
University of Illinois at Springfield, 1990
Substituting property and business owner in place of community as the subject of the article, a mission statement can be developed with which to organize business and property owners to portray them as unique residents that are unjustly oppressed and disenfranchised. Although being the victim is an anathema to individuals who champion personal responsibility and limited government, in reality if the burden of funding government is borne primarily by property and businesses owners, at some point those who bear a substantial share of the burden become de facto servants of the government. They become merely tangential beneficiaries of the institution to which they are the primary benefactors. Consequently, property and business owners today are as powerless as any former unorganized inner-city minority from which the community organizer evolved. Moreover, a significant number of loosely organized citizens have learned to vote to confiscate the fruit of the benefactors’ labor, cloaked under a facade of fairness, to acquire an ever-increasing largess garnished and deployed by their bidders to advance the common good; their common good.
Below is a modified version of Obama’s article to formulate a mission statement with which the folks who embrace smaller government and traditionalist values can begin organizing to reclaim influence in the community:
In theory, community organizing provides a way to merge various strategies for property and business owner empowerment. Organizing begins with the premise that (1) the problems facing inner-city property and business owners do not result from a lack of effective solutions, but from a lack of power to implement these solutions; (2) that the only way for property and business owners to build long-term power is by organizing people and money around a common vision; and (3) that a viable organization of property and business owners can only be achieved if a broadly based indigenous leadership — and not one or two charismatic leaders — can knit together the diverse interests of their local institutions.
This means bringing together property and business owners, and any other institutions in a given community to pay dues, hire organizers, conduct research, develop leadership, hold rallies and education campaigns, and begin drawing up plans on a whole range of issues — jobs, education, crime, etc. Once such a vehicle is formed, it holds the power to make politicians, agencies and corporations more responsive to taxpayer and business owner needs. Equally important, it enables property and business owners to break their crippling isolation from each other, to reshape their mutual values and expectations and rediscover the possibilities of acting collaboratively — the prerequisites of any successful self-help initiative.
Recently, Glen Biegel, a local radio talk-show host, made an important observation. He asserted that unions were failing to represent their membership’s employment opportunities as a result of their support of politicians who are profoundly influenced by environmentalists. A similar case can be made that unions bear significant responsibility for the current woes of the auto industry, if not directly by the terms of their contracts (parasitic rather than symbiotic), then indirectly by their support of political organizations that in turn are heavily influenced by environmentalists.
Union members, many whom will argue that they do not necessarily toe the party line in the voting booth, should be persuaded to demand from their leadership active support for political organizations that are economically beneficial for the membership, and to withhold support for organizations that are not. Mr. Biegel’s claim that union support of local politicians who are against major projects (Knik Arm Bridge and the Pebble Mine project) is a prime example of union practices that are antithetical to a thriving and prosperous community. These practices are detrimental to the union member as a member of the community given that job opportunities fade away in stagnant or declining communities, and union support for any organization whose policies stunt community growth limit jobs and opportunities for everyone, union and non-union alike. Therefore, it is not enough to attract individual support from the ranks of the union membership, many of whom are homeowners; rather it is imperative that union leadership, most of whom are homeowners, be persuaded that opportunities abound outside of the past-practice of “business as usual” regarding unions and their political preferences.
What has been described above is a recipe for business and labor “to break their crippling isolation from each other, to reshape their mutual values and expectations and rediscover the possibilities of acting collaboratively” against a common adversary to “knit together the diverse interests of their local institutions” for the good of the community, rather than for the benefit of those who seek to destroy the standard of living all of us have grown accustomed to. With leadership and perseverance, a coalition can be organized to counter the claim that some phantom entity threatens a world wide cataclysmic event if humanity fails to heed to the admonition of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide leading to anthropogenic global warming, thus marginalizing those who claim an impending disaster looms for the arctic ice cap, the polar bear and harbor seals.
In the weeks and months to come specific arguments will be made to develop a strategy and to suggest specific tactics that, if implemented, will serve to facilitate institutional change in how the business of government is conducted. Meaningful institutional change that envisions a government more responsive to an organized community of optimistic and energetic benefactors than to the glum and morose environmentalist community that portends to no one, rich and poor alike, a vision for Anchorage that includes even a pretense of a shining city on the hill. The plan, and the arguments to support it, will have at its foundation limited government, traditional values and individual responsibility.
Furthermore, before the last article is outlined, much less written or published, the plan to empower business and property owners to shake the shackles of ineffective grumbling for authentic authority will begin to take shape. Men and women, young and old alike, vested by commonalities, as well as disparate and divergent interests or attributes, will converge in an organized effort to determine the role of government and to ensure an equal opportunity for success to all who are adequately talented and sufficiently motivated.
This is a vision statement. It is hoped that a couple of charismatic leaders will emerge to motivate and encourage other talented leadership to engage in making the vision a reality.
In the process, be assured that no harm will come to any ice caps, polar bears or harbor seals.