If you are going to vote in tomorrow’s Florida Republican primary—don’t be squeamish! Your votes have been pivotal before. For twelve years, the world has connected your state’s good name with the election of George Bush. You and the Supreme Court destroyed Al Gore and gave us Iraq and Karl Rove. Tomorrow, however, you can destroy Newt Gingrich, honor Saul Alinsky, and bring two wonderful words—moderate and radical—back to mainstream America.
Of course, the Manchester Guardian and the New York Times will sniff that Gingrich was crushed by big money and America’s neurotic attachment to stable Christian marriages. And Gingrich will struggle on for awhile. Birds won’t sound any sweeter and my tan will fade, but there’s much good to be said about ending Gingrich’s political career. You will deserve to be congratulated, if you do it.
Let’s imagine that you are taking Gingrich at his word: that the centerpiece of his campaign is “American exceptionalism verses the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.” This sounds a bit ambitious, but in rejecting Gingrich tomorrow, can’t we say that you’ve voted for a more inclusive vision of America, indeed, for the rightful place Saul Alinsky and his followers in American politics?
Saul Alinsky died when Barack Obama was an eleven-year-old Hawaiian. So, it’s rather farfetched for Gingrich and the Tea Party to call him Obama’s radical mentor. However, it’s fair to say that Florida is populated by millions of comfortable yuppies who’ve profited handsomely from the courage and inspiration of Saul Alinsky.
As a community organizer and writer, Alinsky harassed banks, promoted safer working conditions and pensions for workers, exposed discriminatory real estate practices, championed immigrants, blacks and women, and scorned hippie drop-outs. His efforts for the little guy and his irreverence toward comfortable elites benefited millions of first-generation middle class, flag-waving Americans now living in Florida. It would be nice if they returned the favor.
Sure, poets behind the lines like the idea of a bitter personal confrontation between Gingrich and Obama. Some Republican strategists think they can get away with putting a radical up against a supposed radical like Obama—and some liberals dream that such a confrontation would finally draw out Obama’s wild side. These sentiments have little merit. Florida will demonstrate tomorrow that loose rhetoric by politicians is ultimately no more convincing than massive negative advertising, that the ceiling for support for McCarthyism isn’t any higher today than it was in the 50s.