May 25, 2019

Crooked Timber

Ever since Joyce Kilmer’s celebrated poem, the beauty, majesty and power of trees has served as an inspiration to millions. In 1734 essayist, Alexander Pope, wrote that education forms the common mind. Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.

A 100 years before a sniper’s bullet ended Kilmer’s life in the Marne, Immanuel Kant used a philosophical approach to trees when he referred to man’s fallen nature as out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight was ever made.

Now as the Obama Legacy nears its final stages, this might be a good to time to reprise its dark essence. When Barack Obama emerged as presidential timber in 2004, the tree and its many variations served as an apt metaphor for assessing the president’s character, and ideas. But just what did we know or maybe not know about our 44th president, eight long years after he first occupied the White House? Many unanswered questions about his family tree, namely his parentage, country of origin, religious affiliation and intellectual formation still remain unanswered or fully explained by the protective mainstream media.

The partisan media has erected a cordon of insulation around the president that has allowed him to ignore or obfuscate these serious questions about his family tree. He remains, bar none, the most opaque man, ever to occupy the nation’s most esteemed office.

More importantly, the press has ignored the many intellectual forces that helped to shape the roots of his intellectual tree. Had the media investigated how Obama’s intellectual twig was bent and who were the leading arborists in his ideological family tree, the public would have seen through his vague notions of hope and change.

In the wake of his election, it became apparent there were at least three significant ideological branches on his family tree who unofficially served as his mentors on politics and social change. The first of these thinkers was family friend Frank Marshall Davis. It was Davis who suggested he attend Occidental College in California, known for its radical faculty. After transferring to Columbia University in New York, a hotbed of socialist fervor two years later, Stanley Kurtz demonstrated in his book, Radical-in-Chief, that at the Socialist Scholars Convention in the early 1980’s, Obama was exposed to the thinking of professors Frances Fox Piven, and her husband, Richard Cloward, who developed a strategy for destroying capitalism and replacing it with a socialist paradise.

After Harvard Law School, Obama tested his timber against urban normalcy in Davis’ ideological stamping grounds in Chicago, which had become a hotbed of liberal ferment as well as political and moral corruption. In Chicago, Obama learned the practical organizing techniques of Saul Alinsky to complement his theoretical knowledge and strategies, serving as the perfect habitat for a budding revolutionary.

In Obama’s book, Dreams From My Father, he casually mentions a poet named Frank, who visited them in Hawaii, read poetry, and was full of hard-earned knowledge and advice. This Frank was Frank Marshall Davis, who was much more than a casual friend to Obama and his grandparents. According to Gerald Horne, a contributing editor to the Communist Party of America (CPUSA) publication, Political Affairs, Davis was a decisive influence in helping Obama to find his present identity as an African-American. Davis had a long history of anti-Americanism. He had become interested in the Communist party in 1931 during the famous Scottsboro Boys case in Alabama and became a champion of black activism to combat the oppression of White America. At the suggestion of fellow traveler, Paul Robeson, Davis left Chicago for Honolulu in 1948 with his second wife, Helen Canfield, a white socialite. Robeson, who was a popular actor and singer, as well as an active member of CPUSA, thought the Hawaiians would be more tolerant of a mixed race couple.

Davis was unequivocally identified as an active member of CPUSA in a 1951 report of the Hawaii Territory legislature, which, along with the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC,) also charged that Davis was affiliated with a number of communist-front organizations. In Hawaii, Communists effectively controlled the Democratic Party through the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, until the election of Republican Governor, Linda Lingle, in 2002. In 1949, Davis began writing Frankly Speaking, a regular column for the communist newspaper, Honolulu Record. In his column, Davis advanced the communist agenda of racial, social and legal justice.

After completing his education, which is still shrouded in mystery, at Occidental College and Columbia University, Obama gravitated to Chicago where he came into contact with more far-left political forces, including the Democratic Socialists of America. In 1985, he began a four-year stint as a community organizer, which served as a valuable incubation period. He worked for Gerald Kellman’s Developing Communities Project on the far South Side of Chicago, where he studied and later taught Alinsky’s methods for community organizing.

Though the two never met, Alinsky’s philosophy had a lasting impact on the impressionable Obama. Some called him Obama’s mentor from the grave. Born to Russian-Jewish parents in Chicago in 1909, he is considered to be the founder of modern community organizing and has been often been compared to Thomas Paine.

Alinsky, who died in 1971, spent nearly four decades organizing the poor, especially in black neighborhoods, for social action. Some U.S. college students and other young organizers in the late 1960s adapted his radicalism to foment the uprisings of the late 1960s on college campuses. Though Alinsky never formerly joined the Communist Party he became an avatar of the post-modern leftEven after his death in 1971, Alinsky’s writings have remained central to the revolutionary movements that still thrive in American society.

Saul David Alinsky was a dedicated Marxist who helped establish the dual political tactics of confrontation and infiltration that characterized the 1960s. Though Alinsky was a Marxist, his legacy is more practical than ideological. Like the enlightened Jean Jacques Rousseau, Alinsky believed that that the pathologies of the urban poor were not hereditary but environmental. A change in surroundings should change their lives. This led him to revive the old term community organizer.

In the Alinsky paradigm, organizing is a euphemism for revolution — a wholesale revolution whose ultimate objective is the systematic acquisition of power by a purportedly oppressed segment of the population, and the radical transformation of America’s social and economic structure.

Alinsky’s thinking turned Machiavelli’s on its head. He believed that the Prince was written to teach the wealthy how to keep their power over the peasantry while he wrote Rules to teach the poor how to take it away. Alinsky urged his disciples to force America’s leaders to honor every word in every law, every Judeo-Christian moral tenet, and every implicit promise in the liberal social contract. When their human agencies inevitably fell short, there would be enough public discontent, moral confusion, and outright chaos to spark the social upheaval that Marx, Engels, and Lenin had predicted.

He warned that true revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism. To achieve his goal of the complete collapse of the existing capitalist system, Alinsky urged his followers to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties and transform it from within.

While Frank Davis provided the philosophical underpinnings for Obama’s thinking and Saul Alinsky the methodology, it was Frances Fox Piven who provided the concrete strategy to make Obama’s revolutionary change a reality. Serious concerns about the City University of New York professor’s influence are rooted in a 1966 article she wrote, with her husband Cloward, who died in 2001, for the Nation magazine. Inspired by the deadly Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965, The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty, suggested that if the poor could overwhelm the welfare rolls, the fiscal and political stress on the system would give rise to a guaranteed income.

The Nation article quickly became the Cloward/Piven Strategy, which was designed to push society into eventual economic collapse by mobilizing the poor to overload government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands. When the welfare class no longer had their benefits, they would take to the streets and there would be serious violence. These riots would be then used as a means to expand government power and usher in a new era of complete government control over the American people.

For Cloward and Piven, the core strategic lesson of their activism is that, rather than channeling poor people’s anger into conventional political activity, community organizers should escalate the momentum and impact of disruptive protest at each stage in its emergence and evolution. Theirs was a direct form of economic sabotage.

Frances Fox Piven was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1932. She came to the U.S. in 1933 and became a citizen in 1953, the same year she received her B.A. in City Planning from the University of Chicago. After a brief stint in New York as a city planner, she became a research associate at one of the country’s first anti-poverty agencies, Mobilization for Youth, which was a community-based service organization in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  In 1994, she was listed amongst over 100 activists who were builders of Barack Obama’s New Party.

In 1977, their book, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, detailed the rationale behind the infamous crisis strategy of a decade before. The core argument is that the poor and unemployed are so isolated from the levers of power in America that their greatest potential impact is to withhold quiescence in civil life: they can riot. At the heart of the book, the authors gleefully describe instances of mob looting, rent riots, and similar disruptions, and egged on especially by communist organizers during the Depression.

They believed that each new offensive would find an ample pool of volunteers willing to advance their radical agenda and expand their voter base. Piven realized that successful offensives would create a perpetual drain on the volatile resources of government. Their strategy clearly explains why the Democrats’ economic policies include trillions in new spending and debt that the country will never be able to pay or absorb. Since these programs are financed with deficit spending, the effect of the Cloward/Piven Strategy becomes doubly destructive. Democrat fiscal policies seem designed to collapse the nation’s economy and destroy America’s traditional way of life.

With its unbridled enthusiasm for social welfare programs, the bishops may have lost sight of two traditional Catholic teachings from Pope Pius XI’s 1931 encyclical, Quadregesimo Anno (40 Years), social charity and subsidiarity. Both teachings decry the socialistic trend prevalent in America’s move for bigger government.

The larger government becomes, the more people who really need help will be buried under a landslide of bureaucratic red tape that will weigh down the poor, making a perpetual and dependent class. Taxpayers are supposed to take solace in the fact that 44% of English citizens are on the dole. This ignores the fact that several European nations have finally reached the tipping point and are starting to reverse that formula for national disaster.

Obama has learned well from his mentors. From Alinsky, Obama learned the dark art of destroying political adversaries. One can only wonder with trepidation about a third Obama term under a Hillary Clinton administration.

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Written by
William Borst

WILLIAM A. BORST has taught at virtually all levels of education from elementary school through university, published commentaries in many local and national publications, and hosted a weekly talk show on WGNU radio for 22 years. Having recently served as editor of the Mindszenty Report, Dr. Borst is the author of two prominent books: Liberalism: Fatal Consequences (1999) and The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy (2005). He holds a PhD in American History from St. Louis University.

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Written by William Borst