Deconstructing Obama’s Alinsky Message On Gun Control
President Obama made a very interesting decision on Wednesday by not only appealing to people’s emotions, but also openly demonizing and mocking the NRA and the U.S. Senate for not passing the Manchin-Toomey plan. It is several tactics defined by Saul Alinsky in “Rules For Radicals.”
The first is openly ridiculing the NRA, gun owners and the Republicans (and Democrats) who voted against the measure. By saying, “… instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill…but that didn’t matter. And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators (emphasis mine).”
Obama is trying to put the NRA, the GOP and gun owners into a box. It’s an attempt to make them ‘the bad guy,’ and out of the mainstream. He does this again with the, “90 percent of Americans want background checks.”
This doesn’t tell the entire truth. There are several Quinnipiac polls showing 90 percent surveyed want background checks, but the question is too simple. The survey doesn’t say who should be doing the checks, whether it was national, state or local. It simply asks whether background checks should be done. This is an important distinction supporters of gun control bills aren’t discussing.
However, gun rights advocates haven’t explained this. They are instead going on the defensive, which is what Obama hoped. The NRA is only using the “background checks will do nothing to stop crime,”strategy and raising fears about a national gun registry. These are valid concerns, but won’t work long-term because people will get tired of hearing it. As Alinsky says, “A tactic that drags on too long, becomes a drag.”
It’s also helping Obama marginalize them even further. The President can now use another Alinsky rule of, “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Obama can now bring out legitimately hurting families, like those in Newtown and Aurora, to have them push gun control. This tactic puts a face on those who have suffered in horrific tragedies. It makes it easier for the President to point at the NRA and say, “these people are keeping children from being safe.”
However, there are ways to use the personalization for gun rights. The best way to do this is bring out the Lone Star College student, who said on live TV, he wished he could have been armed when someone stabbed 14 people. Or have 15-year-old Sarah Merkle talk about gun rights. Or Mark Mattioli who lost his young son at Sandy Hook discuss why new gun laws won’t work. These can be effective push backs against Obama.
Obama isn’t going to back off on the push for gun control. While his original attack may have gotten an alternative he was looking for in the Toomey-Manchin plan, that thankfully failed. He, along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are going to come up with new plans.
The NRA and gun rights supporters need to come up with their own plan, using new tactics, to beat it off. Encouraging people to the ballot box is one thing. TV and radio spots work as well. However, it’s important for gun rights supporters to remember to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to get the word out.
It’s not over, and while Obama is president, the fight for gun rights may never end.