The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Intersection

With Hillary Clinton's formal announcement of her candidacy for president (what a surprise!) it's worth remembering that Ms. Clinton is, despite protestations of her 'pragmatism,' a long time follower of the Saul Alinsky school of political combat. Unlike the sitting president, she's more circumspect to be sure, but at the core of her philosophy (if there is a core to be found) she is an Alinskyite. It's likely that if Hillary is elected, she will expand and intensify the Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) programs instituted by Barack Obama. As important, she will continue and intensify a political philosophy that is a strange intersection of Machiavelli's, The Prince, and Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Pete Peterson explains:
Despite myriad philosophical inconsistencies, “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.”

In a similar vein, the political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain supported Alinsky’s work in getting disengaged communities—typically in lower socio-economic strata—to assume the difficult responsibilities of citizenship. As a way of challenging “big government,” even conservatives such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey have recommended Alinsky’s tactics (minus his professed hatred of capitalism, etc.).

But what happens when Machiavelli’s Prince reads and employs “Rules for Radicals”? In 2009 President Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett was asked on CNN about media bias, particularly at Fox News, and she responded: “What the administration has said very clearly is that we’re going to speak truth to power.” I remember thinking: “Wait a minute, you’re the White House. You are the power.”
When the cynical but effective rules espoused by these two diametrically opposing ideologies intersect, we get the current Obama administration and a future Hillary Clinton administration. We'll get the demonization of political opponents—overtly, arrogantly, and continually. We'll get the weaponization of government agencies (the IRS, the EPA, ICE, the DoJ), forcing them to do conform to one ideological position rather than work for all Americans. We'll get a continuous mendacity (e.g., "I [unilaterally] erased only personal emails from my personal server"), voiced to bury the truth, and keep the public confused and misinformed. More broadly, we'll get a continuation of subtle censorship—the dampening of free speech on college campuses; political correctness taken to irrational extremes intended as a bludgeon and destroy those who might ask questions, and narrative-driven news reporting that misinforms and misleads. We'll get ... well ... we'll get the current Obama administration extended beyond 2016.

Peterson summarizes:
More broadly, 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.
Elections do indeed have consequences. It would serve the public well to remember this in 2016, because ... there is no public figure who exemplifies the intersection of Machiavelli and Alinsky more completely than Hillary Rodham Clinton.