Thursday, February 19, 2009

Turning Obama's Strategies Against Him

Today, I'll be reprinting (scroll down) my summary of Saul Alinsky's "Rules" that the Obama Campaign followed -- and that Sarah Palin and her backers must learn from to win in 2010, 2012, and beyond. Yesterday's column on the "Rules" elicited the following comment from regular reader and Palin backer Greg Hanson:

"You're absolutely right, we have to turn their rules back on them from day one, and stay on the attack. McCain was afraid to go on the attack, and we can't let that happen again. Money, organization."

Let me add this to Greg's comment: In 2012, Sarah must give the American people compelling reasons why they should vote for her. In addition, however, she must explain why they should not vote for Obama. She should explain why he falls short of being the kind of leader America needs. That doesn't have to mean excessive negativity. Instead, it's an essential use of comparative politics.

Here's the reprint of yesterday's "Rules" column:

To defeat Barack Obama in 2012, Sarah Palin will need to rely on all her fabled toughness. She also needs to understand -- and use to her own advantage -- the tactics David Axelrod and Barack Obama learned from fabled "community organizer" Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky was a Chicago-area agitator who wrote a classic grassroots organizing treatise called Rules for Radicals. Much-misunderstood, Alinsky influenced both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, neither of whom ever completely grasped what he was about. Those of us who oppose Obama can learn much of value from Alinsky’s principles. As you'll see, these are the tactics used against Sarah Palin -- and, to a lesser extent, against McCain.
  • “Rub raw the sores of discontent” – in other words, get unhappy people angry enough to demand change;
  • Convince skeptical people that real change is possible (“Yes, we can!” "Change we can believe in!");
  • Understand that hopefulness can overcome a sense of powerlessness;
  • Sharpen resentments, fan hostilities, and exploit old and new controversies;
  • Begin organizing by first disorganizing the community -- that is, shaking them out of their complacency;
  • Convince your opponent that your movement is unstoppable ("It's OUR time");
  • Stay within your people’s comfort zone – their limited experience (e.g., symbols are more effective than substance);
  • Force your opponents outside their comfort zone to create uncertainty and fear;
  • Demand your opponents obey their stated rules, which they usually won’t;
  • Use ridicule to infuriate your opposition and generate overreaction (e.g., Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” slur against Palin);
  • Apply tactics that your people enjoy carrying out (e.g., chanting slogans);
  • Change your tactics regularly to keep your opponents off-balance (e.g., take the political high-road and then shift to the low-road);
  • Maintain constant pressure on the opposition to encourage stress and confusion (e.g., make so many charges your opponent will have to spend excessive time answering them);
  • Remember: threatening an extreme action is more terrifying than carrying it out (e.g., "there could be riots in the streets");
  • Have an alternative ready when your opponents make a proposal;
  • Avoid vague abstractions by picking, personalizing, and polarizing the target (e.g., "four more years of George Bush!")

If you go through these “Rules” line-by-line, you’ll be reminded of what Axelrod and Obama did (such as using fear and ridicule/smear tactics). You’ll also understand exactly how we must proceed to overcome Obama and his minions. Being “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Miss Nice Gal” will get us

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