Redux Revolution Pt. II: Sanders, Alinsky and the False Campaign

Part One of this series looked at Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and how Bernie Sanders overlays Alinsky in his campaign process.

This second part continues with a look at Rules 4 through 7.


  • First Rule: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
  • Second Rule: Never go outside the experience of your people.
  • Third Rule: Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy.


Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.

SAUL ALINSKI (1909-1972)

“Rules” in the context of this political campaign is not so much an instruction book as it is a declaration of policy or statement of political identity.

Rule Four plays out as a “Gotcha!” moment; it is meant to shame, to stop momentum; to disparage. It’s a tactic that can be overwhelmingly effective or drawn out to its nastiest extreme.

Early in the campaign, Sanders chose several hot button areas for this ploy: civil rights, gay rights and same-sex marriage. He and his team hammered Clinton. He portrayed himself as a civil rights activist, marching with Martin Luther King while contrasting her as a “Goldwater Girl” for her brief internship with the GOP conservative. Sanders accused Clinton of coming late to rally for the rights of people of color. Bundled with this was the term “super predators,” used when she was First Lady under Bill Clinton’s term of office. When it came to LGBT and same-sex unions, Sanders vilified the path most politicians have taken – the evolution in acceptance.

Echoes of these attacks are still murmuring around the edges. They are brought up periodically to shame Clinton, to cast her as a liar and hypocrite. And, they are meant to anger voting blocs and place Clinton in a defensive mode.

Rule Four can fall apart though. One’s hands must be clean before launching an attack or it will boomerang. So it was in this campaign. Clinton’s team could easily direct those same accusations toward Bernie Sanders.

In the case of civil rights activism, Sanders’ history is weak. He has been rejected by the Congressional Black Caucus and by Rep. John Lewis in particular. Numerous black leaders have endorsed Clinton rather than him, and his three black surrogates – Cornel West, Killer Mike and Nina Turner – have limited appeal. There were also several questionable photos from the 1960s portraying him as a Chicago activist or marching in Selma with MLK. The controversy over identity resulted in a Snopes site, and the messiness of it all detracted from his claims.

But the nightmare for Sanders came after his NY Daily News interview when he admitted to not having studied how big banks would be broken up. |SEE FULL TRANSCRIPT| Clinton wasted no time in attacking him for this in the last CNN debate. Not only did he not follow his rule book, Sanders didn’t know the rules. Clinton, who is a student of Alinsky, tore into him and the effect is still reverberating.


Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

Nearly every supporter of Hillary Clinton on social media has felt the blistering contempt  foisted upon them and their candidate. It works as an extension of the Fourth Rule, and goes far beyond what is typically considered “ridicule.” Early on, this degenerated from mockery to arrogant condescension to outright abuse. One needs only to think:  #BernieBro.


The Sanders team broke all records of vulgarity with this Rule. Humiliation is a “potent” weapon. But when it is hurled at groups of people who have long suffered from levels of abuse (women, people of color, immigrants, Southerners), its value is quickly undermined. When used in electoral politics, where candidates are both seeking the same voters, this tactic is suicide. Huge voting blocs are alienated. Campaign issues are hijacked. Anger churns.

When Bernie Sanders opened this box, all kinds of ugliness slithered out. He has yet to put a lid on it, and it is doubtful he can. The loathing is killing his campaign.


A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

Rule Five in concert with social media appears to be a favorite of the Sanders coalition. It is so pervasive, so repetitious and so easy. Not an hour passes without some form of ridicule from his online corps. There is no filter, no hesitation and it takes little to provoke these attacks. The internet is filled with this crude “tactic.”


A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

Notwithstanding the clear delight that Bernie’s supporters take in insult, at some point, it becomes dead weight, a drag on the “revolution.” Unfortunately. the campaign was unconcerned with the excesses, weighing it as an effective tactic. Its lack of sensitivity provoked an opposite but equal reaction among Hillary supporters.

The first occurred with the #BernieBros slurs against women. It reached the point of diminishing returns in February when the outcry from the Hillary side was so loud that the Twitter account with that name stopped tweeting. Around February 15-16, activity with many affiliated #BernieBros accounts stopped and never restarted.  It’s not clear whether this was a result of campaign directive or Twitter pressure.

The abuse climaxed with a Bernie Sanders rally in Washington Square Park held prior to the New York State primary. Dr. Paul Song, head of the progressive Courage Campaign, decried  Clinton and the Democratic party with his infamous “corporate Democratic whores” reference.

Song, a Sanders surrogate, introduced his candidate with a tirade clearly aimed at Clinton. The audience cheered. Sanders took the stand and thanked him. It was not until the following day – after a storm of objections – that Sanders called his remark “inappropriate.” The doctor suffered for his insult as well. His Twitter account was overwhelmed with angry Hillary supporters and within days, it joined the #BernieBros and closed down. Song resigned his position with the Courage Campaign.

Blue Nation Review called out Bernie Sanders for advocating the “verbal savaging” of Hillary Clinton and her supporters and the overall toxicity of his campaign:

Instead of thanking these speakers, Bernie should have immediately repudiated their inflammatory language (and the supporters who cheered them). But as we’ve detailed time and again, the culture of Bernie’s campaign has become toxic — and it starts from the top. His campaign went from being about something to being against someone. Hillary-bashing is becoming the central purpose of Bernie’s “movement.”

The Seventh Rule was never properly applied by Bernie Sanders. Instead of reining in the defamers, Sanders and friends let the hatred boil over. The Bernie Sanders “revolution” is dependent upon invoking unmoderated hatred toward Hillary Clinton. The direct result is seen in today’s headlines: Clinton wins the NY Primary and earns 139 delegates, adding to an insurmountable lead. The Sanders campaign is viewed as dead by all except Bernie Sanders and company.

Saul Alinsky would rightly want to close the book on this lost revolution.

NEXT: The Final Rules (8-13)


  1. The irony is that if Sanders’ people are following Alinsky, they’re botching it badly, just as Alinsky thought the US lefties would. They are classic humorless introverted old-school Marxist types who hate electoral politics as much as they hate people (especially those who don’t look or talk like them) and only bother with either under protest. The internet has been a godsend to them as it means that they can pretend to be effective while ignoring their next-door neighbors.

    On the other side, we have Hillary Clinton, who not only has read Rules for Radicals, but studied Alinsky’s work in college so assiduously she got a job offer from him. (And of course our current president learned community organizing from the Chicagoans of Alinsky’s group.)


  2. Forgive the sports metaphor, but this piece is a home run, Grace!

    Bill Moyer’s reminded social justice workers, “All too often, the greatest obstacle to reform is the reform movement itself. Factions rise, fences are erected, jealousies mount, and the cause all of us believe in is lost in the shattered fragments of what once was a clear and compelling vision.”

    As explained above, Sanders’ brand of “revolution” is his defamation campaign against Hillary, and as we press forward, the political arena will be more gruesome. The male-dominated left is not a benevolent authority that will grant or champion women’s rights or civil rights. Our work requires day-to-day engagement to achieve Hillary’s victory and a functioning democratic culture in which we play some role in policy-making.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the Bill Moyers quote, Pris. He is an important voice that unfortunately is drowned out in the brouhaha that’s dominating social media. And you’re right on target – they will not give way without a fight to the death, though I don’t speak literally. When Hillary enters the White House, it will be done – the cosmic shift. It won’t be perfect but it can never return to the days of outright misogyny.

      Liked by 2 people

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