1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

2. Never go outside the experience of your people. It may result in confusion, fear and retreat.

3. Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat.

4. Make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules.

5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

8. Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.

9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into it’s counterside.

12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.

(from Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky)

It’s funny that for someone as radical as Alinsky, the most faithful adherents to these 13 principles are some of the most reactionary people in American politics. Stuff like this isn’t ideologically left or right, nor is it meant to be.

My belief is that a radical, in the Alinsky sense, is someone who seeks fundamental, basic change in the system, whether that change favors the Right or the Left.

When I say that it’s funny, I mean it in the strange sense. Food for thought: how many candidates, how many progressive campaigns, have you participated in where most, if not all of these 13 rules were shattered?

And we wonder why we lost Congress for 12 years, we blew health care, and have elected two Democrats to the Presidency in 40 years.


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