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Perhaps no rule so clearly defines the Obama strategy as rule thirteen. It says,
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Barack Obama and his two chief strategists, David Plouffe and David Axelrod, are absolutely in love with rule thirteen. In fact, at times it seems they get so stuck on rules five and thirteen that they almost lose sight of the fact that it is consistent pressure that is the true goal, and that the other tactics only serve as methods to achieve that goal.
It’s no surprise really that anyone practicing Alinsky tactics would growenamored with rules five and thirteen. After all, they are the simplest and the most fun to use.
Let ‘s begin with an explanation of just what each part of the rule means. You may recall that I wrote a previous article explaining each of these. I would encourage you to read Alinsky’s “freezing, polarizing, and personalizing” explained first and then come back to this one, but here I will attempt to explain the components of this rule in a slightly different way.
Why target and freeze your opponent? Alinsky says,
In conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and “frozen.” By this I mean that in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil.
The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
Keep in mind that, as with all of Alinsky’s rules, he’s thinking in the negative. That is, his goal is to bring disorder out of order, to agitate, to bring about the discontent necessary for the “have-nots” to finally rise up en masse and usurp the power from the “haves”. Alinsky himself said,
The first step in community organization is community disorganization
It is with this as our backdrop that we must consider rule twelve. What Alinsky considers a “successful attack” is one that somehow wrestles some level of power from those who hold it. As a side note, while Alinsky claimed not to be a Marxist, it is often impossible to distinguish his teachings, and his goals from those of admitted Marxists.
So keep in mind that a “successful attack” is in the mind of the beholder. To a thief, a successful attack is one in which he “successfully” steals what is not his, and is not caught and punished for his actions.
Likewise, a “constructive alternative” here should be thought of as lawfully placating and even satisfying the needs of those who do not possess the wherewithal to provide for themselves. This, like most of Alinsky’s teachings, must remain very fluid in its definition for to define things too rigidly would severely hamper Alinsky-ites from claiming the moral high ground when their actions would seem clearly wrong in any traditional (or rigid) definition of the terms.