“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities,”

  1. Hmmmm…

You also don’t get Ted Stevens getting earmarks for you. You make $12,000 instead of $64,000 a year.  You work on issues like removal of asbestos instead of what time the bars close or whether to ban books at the library.

Community organizing is what ordinary people do in order to clean up messes made by politicians and their failed policies.

There’s nothing wrong with being a small town Mayor.  There’s also nothing wrong with being a community organizer. The problem with Palin’s ‘experience’ isn’t the jobs she has held as much as a complete lack of interest in those issues that a VP must have a background on.  Of course, Obama was an organizer 25 years ago before going on to:

  • Harvard Law and the first African-American President of the Law Review
  • Running an incredibly effective voter registration turnout operation in 1992
  • 8 years in the Illinois Senate
  • Being a Board of Director to a multi-million dollar grant to improve education in Chicago
  • Running against an entrenched incumbent in Bobbie Rush
  • Becoming the third African-American Senator since Reconstruction
  • And then his Senate Record which includes bipartisan bills to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and make government more transparent

That, my friends, is experience you can believe in.

On top of that, he beat the Machine backed candidate in Dan Hynes who had every County Chair supporting him and a multimillionaire who threw money around like it was nothing.   After that he beat back Mike Madigan and elected a young progressive to the State Treasurers position.


The power of the presidency is to persuade.

The irony of the charge is that he’s supposedly the elitist when he was the one working on the most basic conditions and services for people.

“Reading about people not that much older than me who had gone to jail and suffered beatings in order to liberate a people,” he said, “I thought there’s something powerful about that.”

Fellow Harvard University student Kenneth Mack remembered walking around the Harvard Law campus with his friend, who was constantly quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

” ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’ ” Mack remembered Obama saying. “For other people to say things like that, people wouldn’t take it seriously, but with Barack, people really did take him seriously. They thought of him as someone who really sincerely believed it.”

But Obama was about 20 years too late to join King’s movement. So, he decided to do the next best thing. In 1985, a few years before he went to Harvard, Obama took a job as a community organizer. Test your knowledge about Obama »

He worked with Jerry Kellman’s Developing Communities Project. As a leader, he stayed in the background, but he taught residents of Chicago’s poor South Side how to effectively lobby their government to get badly needed services.

“Remember, at the time in Chicago, the wards were really politically motivated,” said the Rev. Alvin Love, pastor at Lilydale First Baptist Church. “If you weren’t onboard with the political process and people in leadership, then your garbage didn’t get picked up on time and your street didn’t get fixed.”

Obama helped bring pastors like Love and other community activists together to work on their neighborhood’s problems. En masse, they showed up at city meetings, and in a professional but firm manner made their concerns heard.

“Politicians understand that the number of community residents that come out for a community meeting probably represent 10 times the number of votes,” Love said. “So they pay attention.”

At first, the group achieved simple things. It got the city to clean up Palmer Park, a park filled with garbage and overrun with drug dealers. It got the city to start an after-school program. It even got the area its first badly needed job center. Photo See photos of Obama campaigning »

“It might have been small victories to the outside world, but to us, it was big. It meant those kids could get the jobs; they could buy things to start back to school,” said Yvonne Lloyd, one of the residents Obama trained to lead lobbying efforts.

The small success gave residents something that would last a lot longer than a clean park or a job center. Residents said Obama gave them hope.

“We saw what could happen. We saw what can be done if the community has the resources and somebody to come in and train them. I’ll always be grateful for that,” Lloyd said.

The biggest challenge Obama’s group faced was the one that eventually ended Obama’s career as a community organizer.

Linda Randle, a fellow activist, brought a dramatic injustice to Obama’s attention.

At her job at the Ida B. Wells housing project, she noticed workers removing asbestos from the Public Housing Authority’s offices in that building. When she asked management when they planned to remove the dangerous substance from residents’ apartments, she said they told her they had no such plans. She was livid.

“I’m a lot more of a hothead than Barack is,” she said. “Barack is more for compromise, you know. He’ll wait and see.”

Obama joined the growing effort to lobby the city to remove the asbestos from public housing. Randle said he counseled calm and added that was good for her, because he encouraged her to take the high road in negotiations. “So I would say to myself, OK, I’m not really great at the high road, because the road is already crumbling, OK? So, I don’t know if I can make the road higher.”

Eventually, the Housing Authority gave in to the residents’ pressure. The management promised to remove asbestos from all parts of the buildings, not just its offices.

8 thoughts on ““I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities,”

  1. If you are going to site
    Being a Board of Director to a multi-million dollar grant to improve education in Chicago

    Can I talk about the other board members? (I have beaten that one to death so that is mostly a joke)

    However considering all of the BS that Obama kept his mouth shut about using running against Bobby Rush is a bit of a reach.

    — Where was he when Lipinski stepped down so his son could run without having to face a primary?

    — Where has he been as the Democratic Party has completely screwed up Springfield (our last governor may be in jail, but stuff did get done)?

    — Obama endorses Tom Weisner for mayor of Aurora, Weisner wins election, Aurora hires guy who worked for Obama.
    Still waiting to Obama to comment about that lobbyist.

    — The whole Todd Stroger thing

    Sorry but when it comes to standing up to what may be ‘wrong’ within your party Governor Palin blows him away.

    Also I would argue a small town mayor has to make more hard choices than a back-bench state senator in Illinois does.

    You make a valid point about her ‘not showing an interest’ in Vice Presidential things, however I still don’t get how three years (he has been a little busy in the last year) makes him fully qualified to be president.

  2. Let’s talk about the others….;) Ayers wasn’t on the Board of Directors. It was a two tiered system much like an Empowerment Zone Board is usually organized. Ayers group had to go to Obama’s Board of Directors to get approval for projects. The first group is the community group, the second works to be the responsible fiscal agent.

    Other members of the Board of Directors included:
    Susan Crown of the General Dynamics Corp. family
    Patricia Graham, former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
    Arnold Weber, past president of Northwestern University and of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

    The current project that grew out of Annenberg includes Ed Rust–the head of State Farm Insurance. Crazy radical man.

    How does she blow away anyone? She was supporting Stevens with a 527 formed to back him–was verbally supportive of him during the month he was indicted.

    As someone said to me today, she’s Rod Blagojevich with a skirt–she cannot get along with the same party members in the Alaskan lege, she’s under ethics investigations, and she’s lying about earmarks.

    You won’t find me arguing experience is all about the amount of time served–I can imagine a Mayor being President or certainly the Governor of Alaska. I’m far more worried about how they have prepared themselves, their temperament, and do they listen. And that’s where I don’t see much evidence she’s ready or in any way planned to be ready this soon.

  3. A girl can’t change her mind? I would argue that it’s perhaps harder and more impressive to stand up to someone you used to support…

    From Newsweek a while back
    Although she has been in office less than a year, Palin, too, earns high marks from lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. During a debate earlier this year over a natural-gas bill, State Senate Minority Leader Beth Kerttula was astounded when she and another Democrat went to see the new governor to lay out their objections. “Not only did we get right in to see her,” says Kerttula, “but she asked us back twice—we saw her three times in 10 hours, until we came up with a solution.”

    Hard to imagine Rod doing that.

    Also it’s one thing to help steelworkers, it’s another to be married to one 🙂

  4. Maybe Sarah Palin is better than Rod but that is like comparing the stink of a skunk to the stink of an outhouse. You gain nothing by figuring out which is worse.

  5. You cite chairman of the board of the $160 million Annenberg Challenge Grant:
    1. Why does he not list that as part of his resume any more?
    2. Could it be because the post-mortem report by Annenberg said the $160 million had zero effect on student performance?

  6. I don’t know, but I’m sure you can give us a conspiracy theory.

    It’s not a conspiracy to conclude that the local school councils were a bad venue for change. The successor organization has worked more on principal and teacher development and leadership which is largely where the consensus of the literature has said to focus.

    The idea of local councils was to empower parents–something you might be sympathetic too given your ideology. The problem is that in the worst off schools, the parents are largely not able to effectively participate and it turned out to be an ineffective model.

    In theory giving parents control was a worthy goal. Empirically it was a failure. Trying to make it sound like some grand failure of the challenge is rather silly since it was efforts like Annenberg where we changed our view on what worked.

    Experimentation is how you figure out what is the better solution and the entirety of the Annenberg effort in and out of Chicago helped us reach a general consensus that democratic boards at the level of the school were not a strong method of improvement.

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