Young, well-funded conservative activists hard at work, pretending they are decent people:
Young, bearded, a bit scruffy, a young man walked into a community organizing office in East Harlem, lugging a heavy bag. A little nervous, he said that his name was Melvin Howting, and that he worked for an environmental company in New Jersey and had a few questions about how to organize a union.
He wanted to know how to get higher wages. And, oh yes, he had another question: If he formed a union, could his fellow workers join with the employer to shake down politicians for more money?
At this point, Rhea Byer-Ettinger, an organizer for Manhattan Together, felt her internal baloney detector go on red alert. “Beep, beep, beep,” she said. “I said to him: ‘Well, that’s not how we work. Tell me, why are you asking me about that?’ ”
For several years, young conservatives have made a cottage industry of going undercover and trying to goad people working at perceived liberal institutions — like Acorn, NPR and Planned Parenthood — into saying something stupid. Trained by well-financed foundations, these dirty tricksters pose as pimps, sex traffickers and Muslim activists and record conversations surreptitiously. Then they release videos that have often been heavily edited. Of late, conservatives have set their sights on the Industrial Areas Foundation, a national organizing group founded by a hard-bitten, inventive organizer named Saul Alinsky. He campaigned to clean up the slums around the Chicago meatpacking district and fought segregation and abuses by banks. He has been dead and buried for 40 years, but mention of his name — Alinsky! Alinsky! Alinsky! — sets conservative Republican activists and presidential candidates to twitching.
So. That’s what conservative activists are up to. Bothering liberal organizers who are actually working. Following the organizers around, lying incessantly and transparently, making nuisances of themselves.
On that note, I thought I’d bring you up to speed on voter protection efforts in Ohio. I got the first voter protection organizer contact of the 2012 election today, recruiting volunteer “election protection” lawyers for 2012.
I’m pleased the people who are doing all the work coordinating this are on it so early because I have the feeling 2012 is going to be a very difficult year for democracy enthusiasts in Ohio. I suppose they could be following conservative activists around, surreptitiously recording them and then editing the tape and feeding that deliberately misleading and edited tape to child-like, credulous national media outlets rather than working, but they’re not.
I actually sat down and read Saul Alinsky this past year, because noted conservative intellectual Professor Newt Gingrich recommended I do so (or that’s what I thought he said: it was hard to hear what with all the screaming at those debates) and I really enjoyed Alinsky’s book. I still have no earthly idea why young conservatives are so terrified of community organizers. They’re just not a scary group of people, in my experience.