We know they speak in dog-whistles. If you were wondering what Sarah Palin meant by dissing ‘community organizers’, she was not thinking about Jesus, or Martin Luther King Jr, or Mahathma Gandhi….just so you know who their base is….
‘Community Organizers’ Is a Dog Whistle:
Matt is absolutely right on the merits, but, make no mistake about it, “community organizers” is code for ‘uppity black people who are taking your tax dollars.’ One thing that is becoming pretty clear is that the Republicans are making a desperate pitch to the remnants of Nixon’s ‘silent majority’ (which is getting very long in the tooth, and isn’t even close to a majority anymore either).
My heroes are community organizers who impact lives everyday in their neighborhood. I have the utmost admiration for such selfless, often frustrating, and deeply committed work. And I prefer this sentiment:
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’
What a Community Organizer Does:
This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man’s decision “to serve a cause greater than himself,” in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate’s favorite messages. Obama served the poor for three years, then went to law school. To describe this service–the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other–as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme.
McCain calls young people to become community organizers:
So I applaud Senator McCain’s call to young people to become active in their community. His words of inspiration and record of support for community organizers is admirable and I am pleased that he has chosen to emphasize this fact in Teaching Tolerance, a publication directed toward young people.
Who knows? One of these future community organizers might grow up to become President.
But look, let’s call a spade a spade: When Giuliani sneered about community organizers on the “South side” of Chicago, it’s pretty clear what he was saying: Barack Obama spent his time rabble-rousing among black people. It’s no different then when the RNC called him a “street organizer.” A community organizer can be a PTA member or a Christian Coalition lieutenant. Indeed, there’s something deeply conservative about the vocation, which informally organizes citizens to demand better, fairer, and wiser treatment from detached government bureaucrats. But that’s really not what Palin and Giuliani and the RNC are getting at. Community organizer isn’t being used to describe a job but a background. Obama organized poor black people. Helped channel their anger and grievances and anxieties. That’s change you can fear.
Ezra points out that the constant mockery of Obama’s time spent community organizing is a racial dogwhistle, which sounds about right. He spent time digging around in the surefire pool of racial resentment that is any group of black people larger than three that aren’t wearing sports uniforms, meaning, of course, that he was avoiding Real Work and probably smoking his crack rock or working on his recipe for chitlins.
Although I’m not surprised, I am a bit impressed at how easy it is for Republicans to take anything and turn it into a mockable “other”. It’s not that community organizing is an incredibly common act which is so far removed from the act of governing that someone mentioning it gives you a reason to scratch your head and cock your eyebrow (like, say, your membership in the PTA). It’s that it’s an inherently alien and strange act that normal people just don’t do, and is codeword for effete ghetto liberalism – a concept which probably didn’t exist before right now, but seems as good as any to explain the way that Republicans are playing the culture card on Obama. Think Brewster’s Millions, except that halfway through the film Richard Pryor collaborates with a balding ex-terrorist and a puffy-faced pastor who threaten the downfall of America until John Candy drops a bucket of water on their heads, then they sputter off and go slip on a banana peel.
What is a Community Organizer?:
Day 5 of the Republican Convention:
Michelle Malkin, who apparently spent the entirety of her convention-watching experience laughing uncontrollably at the screen, attempts to explain the right’s stand-up festival…explosion…festiplosion of comedy:
Let me clarify something. Nobody is mocking community organizers in church basements and community centers across the country working to improve their neighbors’ lives. What deserves ridicule is the notion that Barack Obama’s brief stint as a South Side rabble-rouser for tax-subsidized, partisan non-profits qualifies as executive experience you can believe in.
Again, what Palin said:
“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer — except that you have actual responsibilities[.]”
I understand that comedy is usually about the audience understanding the unspoken connection between the commentary onstage and their base of knowledge, but to say that Palin’s comment was restricted to a commentary on Obama given what she said is like saying that me walking on stage and saying “sandwich” into the microphone is actually a killer bit on Abu Ghraib, on-the-go yogurt snacks and professional archery.
In case you don’t believe my gloss, let’s look at how Palin’s audience took her not-at-all-general commentary on community organizing as it relates only to Barack Obama. Jim Treacher remarks that Don Corleone was a community organizer and then offers a space for community organizers “to stop the mockery of, um, whatever the hell it is you do”. Bob Owens calls community organizing the vocation of “Bull Conner” (sic) and Charles Manson. White supremacist Steve Sailer uses Tom Wolfe to portray community organizing as a hotbed of anti-white resentment, making me think Bob and Steve should really talk.
So, somehow, everyone from us apostolic Obama liberals to rabid right wingers took Palin’s statement as an indictment of community organizing as a whole, and Palin’s base even took it a step further, broadening the slur to racists, murderers, gangsters and college kids who annoy increasingly shitty authors.
The message that one gets from this is that the greatest service we can perform for our community is to avoid entirely the prospect of getting involved with it unless you can gain some sort of elected role that allows for rapid ascension and ruthless abuse of the details of your biography. And if you’re wondering why that sounds exactly like what Republicans are accusing Obama of, hockey moms pit bulls POW babies! Elitist.
I am having a hard time understanding how your view that Palin (or anyone else, for that matter) is a racist is related to science.
I do not understand why does it need to be in any way related to science. Care to explain?
Ooh, ooh…I know! Palin is anti-science as indicated by her support of teaching Creationism in public schools and here global warming denialism.
“Community organizer” is simply not a job that ordinary Americans understand as a form of productive employment. Most of us have lived in communities all of our lives without having ever having met, seen or heard of such a thing. “What our community needs is an organizer” is a phrase that continues to not echo around this country.
To the extent we are aware of them at all, we recall the big city political machines that needed leg-men on the streets to see who qualified for patronage jobs and to make sure the locals knew which lever to pull on election day. Doesn’t sound like something one would brag about when running for high office.
Nothing racist about it, we just aren’t aware of any productive trade going by that name. It sounds silly to us, like another variety of the marginally employed in a Douglas Adams story akin to his meeting facilitators and telephone sanitizers.
How does one become a “community organizer”? Who hires you? Do you appoint yourself? Who signs your paycheck? Before Obama came around, I’d never heard of the vocation. Is it what Al Sharpton does?
Anyone who makes fun of the dedicated, honorable work
of a community organizer lacks compassion of any kind,
and that is the description of all republicans in a
How any voter can be excited by a person who does
nothing but attack, run down the accomplishments of
others and cutely wrinkle their nose to make a point,
needs to reexamine their intelligence.
This hocky mom will be a diaster. You think we
already have dictatorship, secrecy and raping
of the environment etc, wait til you see her
Of course, you will not as the American voters
will not be fooled again with phoniness, empty
promises and will say ENOUGH!!
Gee, what a marvelous topic for a science blog! I suppose someone with more insight might see why non-scientists suspect scientists — especially promoters of anthropogenic global warming — of having a political agenda. Thanks for being exhibit A.
FWIW the several communities to which I belong get along fine without self-appointed “community organizers”. But then, where I come from, there is a difference between a leader and an organizer.
How am I not surprised that a GW denialist does not like science?
“We know they speak in dogwhistles”.
What do you mean, “YOU PEOPLE”?
“YOU PEOPLE” is exactly what they say. Racist? Absolutely.
“My job is to try to motivate you to comment on the papers there”
Oh, I can see why you’re upset. Hoping for that big promotion to community organizer?
Readers with an interest in racism may also enjoy this racist description of the position, by the racist writer Tom Wolfe. (Courtesy of racist blogger Steve Sailer. The author of Palin’s speech is said to be a crony of Sailer’s, so…)
I find it especially interesting to compare Wolfe’s ’70s racist treatment of community organizing to older works from the racist tradition, such as racist Thomas Nelson Page‘s racist The Negro: The Southerner’s Problem. Obviously, this is a very racist book. I’d say Page is about ten times as racist as Wolfe, who is about ten times as racist as Palin. So if you’re interested in racism, you should definitely check it out.
If you actually believe that Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK were simply ‘community organizers’, I suggest that you review your history. I’ve worked in social services for over a decade and interact w/ community organizers very frequently. Community organizing is necessarily limited in scope and often a catch-all for all sorts of advocacy which may or may not address the community. It certainly doesn’t entail national liberation, spiritual transcendence, or the organization of a national civil rights movement. It’s offensive to suggest that Senator Obama is equivalent to the figures you’ve cited and I suspect that he would be chagrined by the comparison.
On a related note – this habit of equating Obama to the messiah is getting very creepy. Isn’t that the province of the right? It’s frightening how quickly progressives have dismissed secularism in the face of a charismatic figure.
Max must be new here – challenge: find Obamamania on this blog.
How about Palin-mania? Hindrocket (of the despicable Powerline blog) himself noticed that they like Palin because the conservatives were jelaous: they also wanted to “feel” how it is to follow a Messia. But, the difference is, they take it literally.
If John McCain wins the Presidential elections this nutty and inexperienced right wing extremist Sarah Palin could very likely become the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world.
She’s “Pro-life” but forced in legislation that legalized aerial hunting of wolves and moose that the vast majority of Alaskans actually opposed. She wants to take the Polar Bear and Beluga Whale off the Endangered Species List (so they can be hunted) since they’re getting in the way of more arctic oil drilling. She even supported the groups that club baby seals (for fur).
Ms. Palin wants Creationism taught in all schools and she opposes embryonic stem cell research (which holds great promise for dozens of aging and fatal diseases such as Alzheimers, Cancer and Parkinson’s Disease).
If John McCain dies and Ms. Palin steps in as our U.S. President we can say goodbye to our wildlife, environment, medical research and much more
Some speak in code and then there’s the Ga. politician who actually called the Obamas uppity… didn’t mean anything by it… no codebreaker needed.
I am NOT a community organizer, but today’s efforts by community organizing bloggers have inspired me to blog about community work and the spirit of hope!
Daughtry’s message of hope
This video shows images of hope and help. Remember: Sara Palin is in the minority, a vocal one with a big stage, but she really doesn’t get it.