Community Organizing: Power and Redistribution
In a 2001 interview on Chicago’s WBEZ radio, Obama unveiled his belief that economic justice in America can only be achieved through the redistribution of income – a concept not unlike that voiced by Karl Marx many years earlier. He also appears to have suggested that the way to achieve redistribution was not through the courts, but in the streets – through agitation and community organizing.
“But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth – and more basic issues of political and economic justice in the society – and to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren court, it wasn’t that radical.
“It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution – at least as it’s been interpreted – and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties.
“It says what the states can’t do to you. It says what the federal government can’t do to you. But it doesn’t say what the federal government, or the state government must do on your behalf.
“And that hasn’t shifted – and one of the – I think – tragedies of the civil rights movement, I think, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways, we still suffer from that.”[i] (emphasis added)
In little more than a sound-bite, Obama provided us with a very important insight into his view of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting it. Here, he seems to be touching on the argument for bigger government (“what…government must do on your behalf”), while chastising the Warren Court for upholding the Constitutional constraints written by the Founding Fathers. Then, as if echoing these words from Karl Marx – “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”[ii] – he talks about both the redistribution of wealth and the ability of community organizers to put together coalitions capable of producing “redistributive changes.” [iii]
That line produces instant images of ACORN pressuring banks and nonbank lenders to adopt a financial paradigm in which loans could be made to people regardless of their credit worthiness and ability to pay.[iv] Indeed, history strongly suggests that Obama’s formula here, would result in coercive, disruptive, “in your face” practices. Was this his intention as an expert Organizer?
[i] Odyssey, WBEZ 91.5FM , Chicago, (2001) audio contained in story by Steve Schippert,(October 27, 2008), Wizbang blog.com, Wealth Redistribution An Unattained Civil Right: Obama Interview, retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://wizbangblog.com/content/2008/10/27/obama-wealth-redistribution-an-unattained-civil-right.php
[ii] David Lane, Politics and Society in the USSR, (New York, 1978, New York University Press), 8
[iii] Odyssey, WBEZ 91.5FM , Chicago, (2001) audio contained in story by Steve Schippert,(October 27, 2008), Wizbang blog.com, Wealth Redistribution An Unattained Civil Right: Obama Interview, retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://wizbangblog.com/content/2008/10/27/obama-wealth-redistribution-an-unattained-civil-right.php
[iv] Steven Malanga, Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer, (Chicago, 2010, Ivan R. Dee), 133-151