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September 5, 2008

Palin on commmunity organizing

This line from Sarah Palin's convention speech has people in my world--the non-partisan world of civic engagement--furious: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

I wrote a letter to my new home-town newspaper, the Boston Globe, but they printed a better one instead. I submitted mine online and didn't keep a copy, but the gist was this. It's strange that a Republican candidate would imply that only people who work for the government and use tax dollars have "responsibilities." Community organizers organize citizen volunteers in civil society, in the great tradition of the Committees of Correspondence, the abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, and the labor movement. There was a time when Republicans prided themselves on recognizing the power and responsibility of the private sector. But apparently they are so zealous to retain control of Washington power that they are willing to disparage active citizenship.

September 5, 2008 2:28 PM | category: none


Chris Wells writes:

    I was struck by the same thing—downgrading the contributions of average community members to highlight those of ‘big’ government. It seems to reveal a deep internal conflict for Republicans between incredible dislike for government and reverence for authority.

    On the other side, it’s fascinating how quickly the attack on community organizing has been taken as an outrageous attack by so many on the left. For a day or two I thought it was just me, coming from a community organizing background and with many friends still in that network (I recommend the ‘We are all community organizers’ group on Facebook). But having seen many critical references to the comment in other places, I see that it’s widespread. I would guess the respect for community organizing on the left originates in exactly the establishment-challenging movements that you note.

    My question is: how is this all playing out for the many Americans for whom ‘community organizer’ doesn’t have an immediate ring? Is a community organizer Jesus/MLK/George Washington (all figures noted as community organizers in the Facebook group’s discussion)? Or someone more subversive/threatening?

I hate to offer a "teaser," but I actually know the answer to Chris' question. We asked it in a survey that the National Conference on Citizenship will release on Sept. 22. Stay tuned.

By the way, I'm told that McCain basically repudiated Sarah Palin's statement on "Face the Nation" this morning.

September 7, 2008 5:43 PM | Comments (3) | posted by Peter Levine

It is sort of ironic that Republicans have been disparaging 'community organizers' because they've touted that activity in the past as an alternative to 'big government', and to help reduce it. As I understand it Republicans used to be in favor of community based initiatives in order that people would not rely or depend on government so much. Now they seem to be against it. Isn't this sort of a flip-flop on their part?

It is also ironic that the Republicans have been parading an unwed, pregnant teenager as though she is some kind of role model.

September 8, 2008 2:53 PM | Comments (3) | posted by airth10

It is also ironic that the Republicans have been parading an unwed, pregnant teenager as though she was some kind of role model, in view of their so-called 'family values'.

September 8, 2008 3:25 PM | Comments (3) | posted by airth10

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