RULE 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
Saul Alinsky’s second rule in his book Rules for Radicals has to do with keeping everyone on your side comfortable. It assumes that, if people are presented with new and unfamiliar experiences, they will become confused and afraid. Communication will break down and those you are trying to organize, will retreat.
This was on full display during the 2008 election. Rather than run against John McCain, Barack Obama ran against George W. Bush. No, Bush wasn’t his opponent, but he was an opponent, and one that was familiar. Obama is still using his predecessor as a scapegoat today, and it remains to be seen if he will pretend to run against Bush instead of Romney in the coming months.
During this presidential election season, voters have expressed real concerns. People are upset about the economy, “Fast and Furious,” out of control spending, and other actual issues facing our country. However, those issues might cause people to dig into issues beyond their current experiences. So, the Left is spinning tales of racism (for example: the Trayvon Martin case coverage) and misogyny (such as the fictional “War on Women”).
These identity politics are issues that the Left has been building for generations, so those who are firmly entrenched, feel completely comfortable in that discussion.
Radical organizers are doing a great job of keeping those on the Left in their comfort zone, within their familiar experiences. We need to do a better job of opening their eyes to new issues.