Indy Star: Community Organizers Suddenly 'Cool' Because of Obama

In keeping with the Old Media’s penchant to lionize The One, the Indianapolis Star is pouring on the saccharine to celebrate the Obammessiah once again in a piece that praises the fact the Obama has made community organizers “cool” at long last. But, a closer reading shows that this new craze for community organizing isn’t all the IndyStar tries to make it out to be.

The Star starts out with the hearwarming tale of law student Zac Elliot who has assured the paper that he has changed his mind about what he wants to do with his life. Gone are his selfish, capitalist dreams of becoming a high paid lawyer and in is his newfound desire to be a “cool” community organizer like his idol Obama. He now wants to help the regular folks because “coincidentally, it’s also become cool” to emulate The One.

Three weeks ago, Elliot accepted a full-time position with the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana for an annual salary of less than half the median starting income for a first-year lawyer. The Indianapolis resident said mobilizing people around issues such as progressive energy policies has brought a sense of satisfaction that’s more important than money.

Coincidentally, it’s also become cool.

In an era when Obama touts community organizing as an important part of his early career, a gig that was once little-known, or seen as a draw for burnout-prone bleeding hearts, has gained more mainstream prominence, experts say. That, along with factors such as the sour economy, has helped the field attract a growing number of this year’s college graduates in Indiana, as well as middle-aged adults making a job switch.

What could be better than this wonderful young man deciding on a life of service instead of one of personal greed, eh? But the IndyStar only hints at what seems the more likely reason behind this assumed bout of altruism: it’s a resume padder, not really any kind of life commitment.

“Now that our president has a background in community organizing, it lends more credibility to the public perception of what community organizers do,” said Elliot, who plans to apply for law school eventually and thinks having community organizing on his resume will be an asset.

Well, that doesn’t sound as if community organizing is so much a wonderful career choice as a better resume padder. It seems more like a plan wherein when Elliot later goes to get that high law degree and enters his real career, he can point to his brief stint as a community organizer and say he did something meaningful with his early days.

But that aside, even after all this ballyhooing, the IndyStar has to admit that the pool of these folks is still small.

The newfound publicity, some say, has helped expand the still-small pool of applicants to jobs and fellowship programs.

And that isn’t all…

The increased interest is reflected nationally. DART received 750 applications for its 23 fellowship positions in 20 cities, including Evansville, this year; 560 were received last year. The Public Interest Research Group, which has offices in 26 states, has seen its applications this year spike to 2,300, up from 1,600 for 100 positions last year.

Seriously? Out of a nation of 300 million people they got that “spike” to 2,300 over last year’s 1,600? That is pitiful!

Still, the IndyStar tries to bloat this up as a more important and popular phenomenon than it is. But, if you pay attention there is another explanation that the Star doesn’t much dwell on.

Of course, it’s impossible to separate the influence of the economy, which some experts say could be the driving force behind the growth.

At a time when other jobs have dried up, community organizer positions at places like Indiana Public Interest Research Group have remained funded.

In other words, it isn’t that this new community organizer gig is suddenly so popular but that Obama is continuing to artificially pump in government money into unnecessary programs that can continue to offer the make-work jobs that these people are applying for.

The truth is somewhat different than the rosy picture the IndyStar tries to paint, isn’t it?