Diary

Stealth Senator (Obama), Dennis Jacobson and the Gamaliel Foundation (pre-ACORN)

This is an in depth, 3 part blog on what Obama learned from his first employer, the Gamaliel Foundation. This explains where Obama learned to appear pseudo-conservative while maintaining his ultra-liberal ideology.

I use excerpts from Stanley Kurtz’s “Senator Stealth” as published in the National Review. His article is 6 pages long so I have only pulled what I deemed necessary for this diary. When you have 20-30 minutes I suggest you read Kurtz’s article.

www.nationalreview.com Kurtz’s article can be found on the front page.

* Part One: Obama and the Gamaliel Foundation*

Obama has long been linked — through foundation grants, shared political activism, collaboration on legislation and tactics, and mutual praise and support — with the Chicago-based Gamaliel Foundation, one of the least known yet most influential national umbrella groups for church-based “community organizers.”

The connections are numerous. Gregory Galluzzo, Gamaliel’s co-founder and executive director, served as a trainer and mentor during Obama’s mid-1980s organizing days in Chicago. The Developing Communities Project, which first hired Obama, is part of the Gamaliel network. Obama became a consultant and eventually a trainer of community organizers for Gamaliel, (and later ACORN).

How can Obama be radical and post-radical at the same time? Perhaps by deploying Gamaliel techniques. Gamaliel organizers have discovered a way to fuse their Left-extremist political beliefs with a smooth, non-ideological surface of down-to-earth pragmatism: the substance of Jeremiah Wright with the appearance of Norman Vincent Peale. Could this be Obama’s secret?

Part Two: The Gamaliel ideology that was imparted to a young Obama.

Before outlining Gamaliel’s techniques of political stealth, we need to identify the views that they are camouflaging. These can be found in Dennis Jacobsen’s book Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing. Jacobsen is the pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Milwaukee and director of the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus. Jacobsen’s book, which is part of the first-year reading list for new Gamaliel organizers, lays out the underlying theology of Gamaliel’s activities.

In Jacobsen’s conception, America is a sinful and fallen nation whose pervasive classism, racism, and militarism authentic Christians must constantly resist. Drawing on the Book of Revelation, Jacobsen exhorts, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! . . . Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins.” The United States, Jacobsen maintains, employs nationalism, propaganda, racism, bogus “civil religion,” and class enmity to bolster its entrenched and oppressive corporate system.

According to Jacobsen, the desire of most Americans to create a safe, secure life for themselves and their families constitutes an unacceptable emotional distancing from the sufferings of the urban poor. Jacobsen says that whenever he feels himself seduced by the American dream of personal security — this “unconscionable removal from the lives of those who suffer” — he rejects its pull as the deplorable “encroachment of America on my soul.”

The last part was made bold so you would be compelled to reread it.

The solution, says Jacobsen, is community organizing: “Metropolitan organizing offers a chance to end the warfare against the poor and to heal the divisions of class and race that separate this sick society.” “Militant mass action . . . fueled by righteous anger,” he maintains, offers authentic community, and therefore “the possibility of fulfillment in a vacuous society.”

Part Three: Obama as “Senator Stealth”

It might have been all but impossible to penetrate the strategic thinking of Obama’s cohorts if not for the fortuitous 2008 publication of Organizing Urban America: Secular and Faith-based Progressive Movements, by Rutgers political scientist Heidi Swarts. This is the first book-length study of the organizing tactics and political ideologies of Gamaliel and ACORN

Swarts calls groups like ACORN and (especially) Gamaliel “invisible actors,” hidden from public view because they often prefer to downplay their efforts, because they work locally, and because scholars and journalists pay greater attention to movements with national profiles (like the Sierra Club or the Christian Coalition). A newspaper might report on a demonstration led by a local minister or priest, for example, without noticing that the clergyman in question is part of the Gamaliel network. “Though often hidden from view,” says Swarts, “leaders have intentionally and strategically organized these movements that appear to well up and erupt from below.”

Because of the suspicions that blue-collar members might harbor toward its elite, liberal leaders, Gamaliel’s main “ideological tactic,” says Swarts, is to present its organizers as the opposite of radical, elite, or ideological. As Swarts explains, they deliberately refrain from using leftist jargon like “racism,” “sexism,” “classism,” “homophobia,” “oppression,” or “multiple oppressions” in front of ordinary members — even though, amongst themselves, Gamaliel’s organizers toss around this sort of lingo with abandon, just as Jacobsen does in his book.

To avoid seeming like radicals or “hippies left over from the sixties,” Gamaliel organizers are careful to wear conventional clothing and conduct themselves with dignity, even formality. Since liberal social movements tend to come off as naïve and idealistic, Gamaliel organizers make a point of presenting their ideas as practical, pragmatic, and down-to-earth.

What Gamaliel really wants… is for the public as a whole to fork over funds to the government, but they’re careful to frame this demand as a call for “personal responsibility” by particular government officials. Again bold added for emphasis.

In Conclusion:

The tactics of Gamaliel and ACORN have been shaped in a “post-Alinsky” era of welfare reform and conservative resurgence, posing a severe challenge to those who wish to expand the welfare state. The answer these activists have hit upon, says Swarts, is to work incrementally in urban areas, while deliberately downplaying the far-Left ideology that stands behind their carefully targeted campaigns.

These are so obviously the same tactics and ideology that Obama has demonstrated throughout his campaign.

You could say this was the FOUNDATION of Obama’s young adult life. The bedrock of his political career.