Last night, both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin took a somewhat dismissive tone towards “community organizers” in their speeches, in a not-so-veiled swipe at Senator Barack Obama. To these two former mayors, they felt that they had a better sense of the “mood” and needs of their communities.
That got me to thinking. Just what does “community organizer” mean to me?
To me, it means people like Jesse Jackson, professional race hustler and shakedown artist.
It means people like Al Sharpton, professional race-baiter and instigator, the guy responsible for riots that have actually killed people.
It means people like William Ayers, unrepentant former terrorist who took millions and millions of dollars meant to improve education in Chicago and funneled it to his cronies and pet causes (with the able assistance of people like Barack Obama), and in the end did almost nothing to actually improve the school system.
These people claim to be acting selflessly, in the best interests of “the people,” but I have always been suspicious of that kind of declaration. The vast majority of people are loyal to whomever pays their paycheck: “if you take the king’s gold, you play the king’s tune” and all that.
Speaking personally, I am loyal to my employer, but I am far more loyal to my employer’s customers. To me, they are the ones who pay my paycheck; my employer of record just handles the paperwork.
I find that Mitt Romney said it best in this exchange with a Boston Globe reporter from his days as governor of Massachusetts:
The key part of the exchange?
Romney: “You have a point of view on this?”
Reporter: “I represent the people, governor.”
Romney: “No, I represent the people. You represent the media.”
Romney, like Giuliani and Palin, DID represent “the people.” They stood election, and were chosen by the people to lead and represent them.
Community organizers, on the other hand, have no such mandate. They are self-designated, supported by people and organizations with their own agendas. Those might be benevolent and well-meaning, but they are NOT “representative” of the communities they claim to be organizing.
And that brings up a more fundamental question: for what are they organizing these communities for? One organizes something for a reason, a purpose. I organize my sock drawer to make it easier to find matching socks. Unions organize to make demands for better working conditions for their workers. Nations organize to improve their relations and cooperate for common causes and concerns.
I suspect that these community organizers are trying to build off the union model. They want to improve the lot of the people living in those communities, and believe that there is strength in numbers.
That model doesn’t work, because the parallel is flawed. Union organizing works because the workers have something the employers need: their labors. Give them what they want, and they will work more productively. Deny them, and they will slow down or stop entirely.
“Communities” don’t have that kind of immediate power. They have their votes to offer, but that’s about it. And that is what these community organizations are after — to get their votes not just for the candidates who will best represent them, but those who will best aid the organizers’ causes as well.
The classic advice from Watergate serves in so many places, and this is no exception: “follow the money.” Where does the money for these “community organizers” come from, and where does it go?
With politicians, it’s fairly easy — by law, they have to fully disclose their finances. We can now easily find out just who is paying our politicians, often online, with just a few clicks.
On the other hand, some of the bigger “community organizers” are far less open. ACORN, whom I have a particular dislike for, is a private organization and doesn’t disclose its financing. On their own web site, ACORN proclaims:
ACORN is a non-profit, non-partisan social justice organization with national headquarters in New York, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. To maintain independence, ACORN does not accept government funding and is not tax exempt.
This also has the entirely-coincidental effect of excluding them from government and public scrutiny.
Who pays ACORN’s bils? Well, some of it can be found indirectly — ACORN might not have to report who gives it money, but some of its donors are public and do have to disclose these payments. Thanks to Discover The Networks, we know this:
In recent years, ACORN has received funding from many foundations, including but not limited to the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the Minneapolis Foundation; the Open Society Institute; the Public Welfare Foundation; the Surdna Foundation; the Woods Fund of Chicago; the Scherman Foundation; and the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation.
On the other hand, for example, we know that Sarah Palin has a relationship with a lobbyist: their daughters are high school basketball teammates, and they often car-pool to games and practices. We know this because Palin listed it on her most recent financial disclosure form.
Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant. We have demanded — and won — the right to shine that sunlight into the lives of those who hold the public trust, who take positions of authority in government. Community organizers, though, claim the same moral authority (or more) of elected officials, but offer none of the openness or accountability — and have no interest in doing so. They want us to just take their benevolence on faith.
I think not.