Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Saul Alinsky, And Donald Trump

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (photo credit: Marc Nozell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (photo credit: Marc Nozell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Townhall‘s Cortney O’Brien provides an interesting report on Dr. Ben Carson’s keynote address to the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition gala. It is headlined “Carson: We Need To Inform People About Hillary Clinton’s Radical Hero.” Therein she reports:

A good introductory lesson, he noted, would be by magnifying presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s radical history.

“We need to inform people about Hillary Clinton’s hero – Saul Alinsky.”

Alinsky, a 1970s community organizer, wrote the book Rules for Radicals. It became a field guide for progressives regarding how to organize people to pursue liberal causes. As you open the book, Carson noted, you read that Alinsky “dedicated” it to Lucifer.

Clinton was on a “first name basis” with the author in college, Carson explained. What’s more, the Washington Free Beacon discovered previously unpublished correspondence between the two, revealing just how smitten Clinton was with his radical social agenda.

Clinton’s progressive hero can help explain her dangerously far left plans for the country.

Saul Alinsky, of whom I have written many times, including here, is a much misunderstood figure. We agree with Dr. Carson.

We need to inform people about Saul Alinsky. Just … not for the reasons he suggests.

First, note the quotation marks that Ms. O’Brien very appropriately put around the word “dedicated” as to Lucifer.  Rules for Radicals in fact (you could look it up) was dedicated To Irene, his wife.

The passage referencing Lucifer was one of three epigrams. The first of these was a statement by Rabbi Hillel, one that served as Alinsky’s lifelong coda: “Where there are no men, be thou a man.” The second was a quote from Thomas Paine, whose book, Common Sense, precipitated the American Revolution and is deeply embedded in America’s DNA.

The fillip to Lucifer, while certainly meant to be (and is) provocative, is no more sinister than Winston Churchill’s statement on the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union that, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

And let it be noted that while Alinsky was a gentle agnostic, his preeminent mentor was the deeply conservative Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. Their long and deeply affectionate correspondence is collected here.

Second, while Clinton may have been on a “first name basis” with Alinsky when she was an undergraduate, the record shows that they met in person twice rather briefly. Hillary Rodham devoted her honors thesis, THERE IS ONLY THE FIGHT: an analysis of the Alinsky Model, to exploring his thought.

It’s a paper (for which she received a well deserved ‘A’) worth reading. Lest the title sound unduly pugnacious, note, in passing, it is from T.S. Eliot’s East Coker, from which she excerpts an epigram, underlining the lines: There is only the fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again…. Rather melancholy and bespeaking a kind of quiet heroism.

I devoted two columns at Forbes.com, here and here, to Hillary Rodham’s honors thesis. It provides a unique insight into her rather guarded mind and does her great credit. Read it and decide for yourself. One observation, in particular, jumps out:

“[S]ome New Left strategists… disenchanted with Alinsky-like faith in individuals, apply many of his tactics in confrontation politics.

“The problems inherent in such an approach, including elitist arrogance and repressive intolerance, have become evident during recent university crises.”

This criticism of the New Left is hardly the sentiment of a dangerous radical. Clinton declined an offer to work for Alinsky after graduation, concluding that Alinsky’s method of bringing about better social justice by community organizing was not scalable. She chose instead to work from within the system. Alinsky himself was frustrated at his inability to take his methods to mass scale.

Third: An underappreciated — but incontrovertible — fact: Alinsky absolutely detested Big Government. He publicly called LBJ’s War on Poverty “political pornography” and was in turn publicly attacked by LBJ operative Sargent Shriver.

Alinsky wrote, in Rules for Radicals:

In the end he [the organizer] has one conviction — a belief that if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions. The alternative to this would be rule by the elite — either a dictatorship or some form of political aristocracy.

Believing in people, the radical has the job of organizing them so they will have the power and opportunity to best meet each unforeseeable future crisis as they move ahead in their eternal search for those values of equality, justice, freedom, peace, a deep concern for the preciousness of human life, and all those rights and values propounded by Judaeo-Christianity and the democratic political tradition.

In fact, Alinsky was ideologically agnostic. His mission was to support people in charting their own destiny, whether or not he agreed with their ideology, left or right, so far as within the realm of human decency. His life, as definitively chronicled by Sandford Horwitt, Let Them Call Me Rebel, fully demonstrates that he walked the walk as well as talking the talk.

And as for the accusation of “dangerously far left plans,” he was investigated, twice, by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI on allegations of communist ties. And fully exonerated. Hoover was no softy.

There are policy reasons for social conservatives to oppose Hillary Clinton for the presidency. She is, for example, extremely pro-choice.

There are policy reasons for paleoconservatives to oppose her. She voted for the invasion of Iraq, supported the destruction of the Libyan state, and pushed for the destruction of the Syrian state. And as much as I detest dictatorships, and sympathize with her motivation to avoid another Rwandan-like genocide, the cost and aftermath of militantly forcing regime change can be — and was — really horrible. One really might take to heart the lesson: “There is only the fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again.”

For economic conservatives, it would appear Hillary Clinton offers more of the same. The economy has been, now for 16 years, pathetically stagnant. I have called this “The Little Dark Age.” To enroll my support demands credible policies that offer more prosperity with more economic justice instead of policies more likely to lead to continuing stagnation.

And yet, as a social, paleo, and economic conservative, I have an even greater concern about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, in my view, was too little, not too much, influenced by that great opponent of Big Government and apostle of human dignity Saul Alinsky.

Yes, Dr. Carson, you are right. “We need to inform people about Hillary Clinton’s hero – Saul Alinsky.” One might, Dr. Carson, begin here by learning about how Donald Trump shrewdly employs 12 out of 13 of Alinsky’s tactical rules. We still have much to learn from Alinsky.

Ralph Benko, internationally published weekly columnist, co-author of The 21st Century Gold Standard, lead co-editor of the Gerald Malsbary translation from Latin to English of Copernicus’s Essay on Money, is American Principles Project’s Senior Advisor, Economics.