This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.
The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure. The Preface makes a bold opening statement. The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement. The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable. The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.
The Midwest Academy
Origins. In 1969 the Students for a Democratic Party (SDS) started to fall apart. The socialist movement was losing its spearhead organization. Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were preparing for their Weather Underground bombings; the socialist movement was going militant. Then a 27 year old woman named Heather Booth, aided by her husband Paul, founded an institute named The Midwest Academy in 1973.
The Academy became a synthesizer for socialist ideas. Just as “All roads lead to Rome.”, all socialist roads eventually led to the Midwest Academy. The institution restored cohesion to the now scattered groups of socialist operatives. It became an intellectual gathering point where prominent activists debated different strategies for achieving their common goals. Alinsky and his radical followers were considered too harsh and militant to be successful in a prosperous Democratic country like America. Harrington’s pragmatic way of ‘evolution not revolution’ gained acceptance.
The central question then became whether to go with a plan of stealth or open advocacy. Open advocacy for establishment of a socialist state was deemed unpalatable to most Americans so stealth became the approach of choice.
The Midwest Academy was more than just a gathering and planning spot. It was also a training school. Role playing sessions were conducted where students staged mock confrontations between demonstrators and business and municipal officials. There were even alma mater songs like one honoring academy leader Steve Max sung to the tune of the communist/socialist anthem Internationale.
During the same time period, Paul Booth joined with Harry Boyte to form an organization called The New American Movement (NAM). It was envisioned as a new home for former SDS members. It foundered at first but gained new vitality later when under the influence of the Midwest Academy it grew as a force coordinating the common interests of socialism and community organizations.
A National Strategy. The price of oil rose rapidly under OPEC’s influence in the 70’s. Heather Booth and Michael Harrington seized this as an opportunity to form a group called the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition (C/LEC) in 1978. The idea was to create a coalition of labor and middle class citizens and confront the major energy companies. A decision was made to exempt the nuclear power industry to avoid alienating labor unions who wanted the construction jobs. The goal was to gain incremental control of the non-nuclear energy industry by placing coalition members on corporate boards to promote legislation favorable to their cause.
CLEC identified a politically vulnerable conservative district in downstate Illinois and then trained and supported a young attorney named Lane Evans to run for office on the Democratic ticket. Evans campaigned on a platform that highlighted themes like family, faith, hard work and patriotism. Evans’ popular platform enabled him to win a seat in a conservative district where, once elected, he compiled one of the most liberal voting records in Congress.
Obama has spoken admiringly of Evans on several occasions and has credited him with the downstate support he needed to win election to the U.S. Senate. Bill Ayers’ brother, John served on Evans’ congressional staff. CLEC’s placement of Lane Evans in office is a perfect example of stealth political power gained through community action.
By the mid 80’s the Midwest Academy had acquired real political power. The stealth strategy was succeeding where Harrington’s more open policy had not.
The Obama Connection. C/LEC morphed into a push called Citizens Action with leadership provided by Ken Rolling and Alice Palmer. Rolling worked with Obama on school reform, served with him on the board of the Woods Fund, provided funding for Obama’s US Senatorial campaign, and served in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge under the leadership of Obama and Bill Ayers. Alice Palmer was the Illinois state senator who ceded her office to Obama by not running for re-election.
Obama’s own community organization in 1985 was called the Developing Communities Program. Most of the funding came from two sources. One was the Woods Charitable Fund on whose board Obama would later sit along with Bill Ayers. The other was the Campaign for Human Development (CHD) which was the brain child of Saul Alinsky for bringing in money from the Catholic Church.
The CHD eventually became the CCHD (Catholic Campaign for Human Development). The money comes primarily from a special collection taken at Thanksgiving time, ostensibly to help the poor. It is controversial among parishioners because they know some of the money goes to support abortion and unwed motherhood. The campaign literature reads like a socialist pamphlet but never uses the word “socialism”. Proponents of the stealth approach to advancing socialism point to the CCHD to bolster their view. This is money that would be lost under a policy of openness.
In 1992 Barack left Harvard and returned to Chicago where he became one of only two board members of Public Allies (PA). The other board member was Jackie Kendall. Public Allies mission was to recruit young people for community organizing work. Barack persuaded Heather and Jackie to hire Michelle to head the PA Chicago office.
A man named Robert Creamer played an intriguing part in the connections between the Obama administration and the Midwest Academy. Creamer was a founding board member of the MWA and at one time the head of IPAC where Rahm Emanuel served as the financial director. Creamer was also a political consultant for ACORN, the SEIU and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
While serving time in prison for tax evasion and bank fraud, Creamer wrote a book that carried endorsements by UNO founder Greg Galluzzo and SEIU head Andrew Stern. [Stern was one of the most frequent White House visitors during Obama’s first year in office.] The book outlined strategy for health care reform. It was titled “Listen to Your Mother: Stand up Straight! How Progressives Can Win”. Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod contributed a blurb for the book.
Barack Obama did not campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to run for his Illinois state senate seat. He was chosen by the Democratic Party to have Alice Palmer’s seat. He could not have been chosen without the recommendations of the many people connected with the Midwest Academy.