Hillary Clinton’s political methods were founded on the theories of a 1960s radical about whom she wrote her college thesis in 1969. It may take a village to raise a child, but Clinton’s college thesis seems to say that the village politicos need an enemy to mobilize against.
She titled the paper, written to fulfill her Bachelor of Arts degree at Wellesley College, “There is Only the Fight.” It praises the work of radical activist Saul Alinsky, a man who epitomized a self-interested no-holds barred campaign style that Hillary has emulated in later years. Clinton’s savvy-but-ruthless politics, including the “politics of personal destruction” she so often condemns but more often practices, seem rooted in Alinsky’s famous rules for radicals.
One year after Hillary turned in her thesis, Time Magazine profiled Alinsky. Their assessment was much different than hers. It said, “In his [Alinsky’s] view, the end of achieving power justifies a range of means…If the occasion requires, Alinsky’s forces will not refrain from spreading rumors about an antagonist or indulging in something that comes very close to blackmail.”
Young Hillary balked at Alinsky’s critics who said he was too extreme. In her college paper she professed, “Much of what Alinsky professes does not sound radical. His are the words used in our churches, by our parents and their friends, by our peers. The difference is that Alinsky really believes in them and recognizes the necessity of changing the present structures of our lives in order to realize them.” While she wrote, Hillary Rodham learned.
How We Got It
Hillary’s senior thesis has been the subject of much speculation among conservative writers. For years, it was under lock and key in the Wellesley archives while the Clintons were in the White House, but was quietly made available to the public in 2001.
A few weeks ago, a journalism student named Dorian Davis contacted me to see if I was interested in looking at it. He sought the document as part of a school project and for his website RepublicanSpectacular.com. He said he was going to write a story about the “hidden thesis” and to his surprise learned it was available through his college’s interlibrary loan program with Wellesley.
He said he received a copy of it in the mail and then transcribed it for his own records. He sent me an email copy of his transcription.
Wellesley officials refused to verify if Davis’s transcription was accurate, but did confirm he was given an official copy. Chief Archivist Wilma Slaight told me in an email she would not verify the copy I had. She wrote, “Due to limitations of staff and time, we are not able to asses whether the transcription in your possession is an accurate copy of Hillary Rodham’s 1969 Wellesley College honors thesis, entitled There is only the fight: An analysis of the Alinsky model.”
Slaight said “as a matter of college policy, a copy of student thesis is retained in the Wellesley College Archives. Theses may be read in the Archives reading room during our normal business hours.”
Clinton staff would not verify the document either. Spokesman Philippe Reines said in an email that, “Questions pertaining to the academic work of their [Wellesley] alumni should be directed to Wellesley College.”
Other media reports that have surfaced about the thesis are consistent with the copy we recieved.
The Need for an Enemy
In discussing the early stages of Alinsky’s career as a Chicago radical, Hillary said to be effective he needed “an enemy in order to translate community interest into community action.” She worried that “the complicating, overlapping layers comprising our interdependent urban areas today make it difficult to single out an ‘enemy’ “ and that “the lack of a clear-cut enemy against whom to mobilize underscored lack of community capable mobilization.”
The University of Chicago, which sought expansion in an area called Woodlawn, became one of Alinsky’s first targets. Hillary wrote, “With its predominantly black population, Woodlawn exemplified the disorganized anomic areas resulting from massive Negro migration to northern cities.” She described Woodlawn as “overcrowded, dilapidated housing, an increasing crime rate, high employment”
The city wanted to expand the University of Chicago into Woodlawn, but some community members were opposed to the development. Hillary sided with the residents, wondering, “how, indeed are bulldozers and cranes halted when they move with the encouragement of such powerful forces as the city administration and a university behind them?”
Alinsky staved off the expansion by creating and guiding a group called the Temporary Woodlawn Organization. Hillary wrote, “Alinsky argues that those who wish to change circumstances must develop a mass-based organization and be prepared for conflict….for him, conflict is the route to power.”
To force the University to meet their demands, TWO’s members sprawled out in front of bulldozers. Hillary applauded the action. She wrote:
“TWO then decided that the usually acquiescent city [should] defer its approval of the University plan until the city planners worked out a comprehensive prospectus on Woodlawn’s future. TWO accompanied its demand with the threat of demonstrators lying in front of bulldozers and hundreds of demonstrators at a City Plan Commission hearing. The demands, threats and demonstration created effective countervailing political pressure in the deferment of city approval.”
Later, “the University of Chicago launched a smear campaign against Alinsky” she wrote. She did not specify what attacks were. She only wrote “these charges were echoes of ones that Alinsky had heard before and answered before.”
As a national figure, Hillary famously implied said she was a victim of smear campaigns, when she told Matt Lauer in 1998 that “there is a vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.” Alinsky as victim translated decades later into Clinton as victim.
Manipulation by Proxy
As a college student she apparently thought his approach to working with religious communities was novel. Hillary wrote, “He [Alinsky] never approached a Catholic Priest in terms of Christian ethics, but on the basis of self-interest such as the welfare of the Church, even in its physical property.” As a senator Hillary has modernized techniques Alinsky used to manipulate different organizations for political advantage. Clinton’s politics are not all manipulation. Like Alinsky’s radicalism, Clintonian politics uses alliances and acts through proxies to achieve advantage.
Hillary’s thesis explains how Alinsky used the church to organize Chicago’s Back of the Yards. She said the problem was that area was that is was “bigamously wedded to the meat-packing industry and the Roman Catholic Church.”
Although Alinsky was no believer in the church, he was eager to use it for his own gain. He successfully consolidated the power of the church with local unions and other groups to form a Neighborhood Council that supported the Packinghouse Strike of 1946. Hillary assessed, “the community backing of the strike resulted in both a good settlement for the workers and in a more powerful voice for the Council.”
Hillary has adopted similar strategies as a politician by marching to the church to mainstream her views on abortion and push for larger government welfare programs.
In 1997 she wrote a column that said, “after years of fiery rhetoric, finger pointing and heated recriminations, it’s time for people of good faith — on all sides of the abortion issue — to lower the decibel level and seek common ground.”
Hillary has long been a staunch supporter of legal, abortion on demand, but has teamed up with pro-life leaders to push for an increase in federal funding to promote sexual health awareness. In reality, such calls would only increase government funding to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.
Recently, she joined forces with the pro-life Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) to talk about abortion “prevention.” The two co-authored a nationally published op-ed in April 2006 that sought agreement between far left and persons of faith on abortion. In a news conference held with Reid shortly after the column’s publication, Hillary said, “We are here together because we share the goal of reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, decreasing abortions and improving access to women’s health care.”
In addition to her admiration of Alinsky’s ability to mobilize church-goers, young Hillary also commended how he organized corporate stockholders. She wrote in her thesis that leftist organizers should capitalize on the “great numbers of middle-class Americans suffering from feelings of powerlessness. They, who control the consumer market and the voting box, are bewildered by their children and by wars fought on television.”
She said the “frustration in the suburban ghettos, frequently directed at those even less powerful, could be channeled into achieving radical goals. The secret, as in any organizing, is that such goals must be perceives as paralleling self-interest. A good organizer could direct the process of perception as Alinsky did convincing stockholders to use their proxies to influence corporate policy.”
In a lengthy November 2006 piece she wrote for the Democratic Leadership Council’s Blueprint magazine, Hillary suggested that the middle class should be made to leverage pressure on corporate shareholders.
She called it “a new economic formula of Democratic Capitalism” and said it was “the way to ensure prosperity is to build an expanding middle class.”
Sen. Clinton then advised that corporations should “give the members of the middle class a stake in that prosperity” and that corporations should let “employers and investors draw their own conclusions about inflated CEO salaries by asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that corporations disclose full CEO compensation and how that relates to profitability and average worker pay.”
Mobilizations of communities, labeling adversaries as enemies and working through proxies are all Clinton trademarks. She is not a Saul Alinsky 1960s radical, but she has adapted and improvised his radical tactics to her own advantage.