Who was Saul Alinsky?
That Hillary Clinton’s college thesis was a paen to Saul Alinsky will be the subject of much politico-psychoanalysis for years to come. As HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor Amanda Carpenter’s article makes clear, the study of Alinsky’s methods apparently created much of Sen. Clinton’s political persona, and formed the basis of her political methodology. So who was Alinsky?
Alinsky was born in Chicago in 1909. Hillary Rodham’s thesis is very revealing of Alinsky’s view of American life. It says, “…after graduating from the University of Chicago, Alinsky received a fellowship in criminology with a first assignment to get a look at crime from the inside of gangs. He attached himself to the Capone gang, attaining a perspective from which he viewed the gang as a huge quasi-public utility serving the people of Chicago.”Alinsky — in that and other experiences — became an academic-turned-radical, a personality type first found among the press covering the Russian revolution of 1917-18 and that became much more common five decades later, forming the basis of the Vietnam anti-war movement. He and others like him would find America’s adversaries — within and outside the law — more attractive than America itself.
Saul Alinsky’s radicalism was expressed in his 1971 book, “Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.” In that book, Alinsky said, “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.” Alinsky never saw himself as the devil, but as some radical angel who could bedevil “the Establishment” and force it to change to assuage pressures from community organizations.
In her closing, Hillary compared Alinsky to others who had been feared, “… as the proponent of a dangerous socio/political philosophy…just as Eugene Debs, Walt Whitman or Martin Luther King had been feared, because each embraced the most radical of political faiths — democracy.” Ms. Rodham apparently admired those three in the same manner and degree that she admired Alinsky.
Young Hillary Rodham’s admiration of Alinsky is, in a way, revealing of her young self. In one part of the thesis, she quotes an article from The Economist that called Alinsky, “Plato on the Barricades”:
His charm lies in his ability to commit himself completely to the people in the room with him. In a shrewd though subtle way he often manipulates them while speaking directly to their experience. Still he is a man totally at ease with himself, mainly because he loves his work which always seems to be changing — new communities, new contests, new fights.
But that is a description of the young Bill Clinton as much as it is of Alinsky. Alinsky died in 1972. Bill and Hillary Clinton married in 1975. We will never know if she was drawn to him because she saw a reflection of her lost radical hero.