In the run-up to his election in 2008, President Obama jokingly warned attendees at a political fundraiser in Philadelphia that the general election could get ugly, paraphrasing a line from the Chicago gangster movie The Untouchables: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl.”
The original line, delivered by actor Sean Connery playing tough guy cop Jimmy Malone, was, “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!”
The fact that recent undercover videos by an investigative reporter reveal a close associate of Mr. Obama participating in a scheme to incite violence at the rallies of Donald Trump should, therefore, be unsurprising. Chicago Way politics preceded Barack Obama—he just seized upon the opportunity to take the quaint, parochial practices of the Windy City national. Also unsurprising is that his political heir Hillary Clinton, herself a native of the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, is the primary beneficiary of this action.
In fact, Obama and the current Democrat running for the White House share more than just geographic, political and ideological connections. They are both devotees of the father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, another Chicagoan. Obama famously rose from his position as a Chicago community organizer to positions in the Illinois Senate, the U.S. Senate, and the Presidency. Clinton met personally with the leftist author of Rules for Radicals, based her Wellesley college thesis entitled There Is Only the Fight; An Analysis of the Alinsky Model on his work, and carried on a correspondence with him after her graduation from law school.
At its most basic level, the term “community organizing” connotes images of neighbors banding together to achieve common goals or to right wrongs. In reality, however, neighborhoods rarely take collective action together without a lot of prodding. Poor people overworked from manual labor or exhausted from a discouraging lack of employment are unlikely to organize themselves to take on the effort necessary to effect change. Organizers like Alinsky were happy to take on that work in the pursuit of political power—and often brought in a motley collection of Marxists, union thugs, and outside professional agitators in the process.
Obama’s is a model for political victory and societal collapse.
For all the romance and good intentions of community organizing, the enterprise was always about exploiting existing grievances or fomenting new ones in order to gin up enough anger to get people to the voting booth. Angry people are motivated and motivated people vote. The key then, as now, was directing that anger toward some perceived enemy of “the people”—often Republicans.
All of which leads right into our current presidential elections. The James O’Keefe Project Veritas videos show an operative from an organization called Americans United for Change discussing how his group hires people (including the homeless and mentally ill) to “bird-dog” supporters at Trump rallies. That is, in order to demonstrate the supposedly inherent, violent nature of the Republican base, the Democrats hire agitators to pick fights with Trump supporters in view of cameras outside of campaign events.
These tactics are the brainchild of a political consultant named Robert Creamer, another Chicagoan and today’s reigning Prince of the Political Dark Arts. In the O’Keefe videos, Creamer admits to working on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. White House records also indicate that Creamer has visited there 342 times since the beginning of the Obama administration including 42 visits that involved President Obama. Despite their recent World Series run, it strains credulity to think that Creamer and the president met 42 times just to discuss the Cubs.
It’s unlikely, however, the either will ever reveal the nature of their political discussions and James O’Keefe probably doesn’t have any surreptitiously recorded videos of those meetings. Not that the intrepid reporter wouldn’t try if he could. O’Keefe was once arrested and pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “entry by false pretenses” in a failed sting on the offices of former Sen. Mary Landrieu.
For his part, Creamer also has a conviction in his past, a felony for defrauding nine banks in a $2.5 million check-kiting scheme in connection with a consumer group he ran, Illinois Public Action. For good measure, he also pled guilty to federal tax charges of failing to make required income tax withholding payments.
Illinois Public Action’s most significant achievement may have been in deploying its army of paid canvassers in support of getting Creamer’s wife, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, elected to Congress. Although Schakowsky was on the board of the group, signed IRS documents along with her husband, and clearly benefitted from the six-figure income he supported with his dubious financial dealings, she was never charged in the scam.
She does, however, have an interesting background in community organizing of her own. In 1989 while serving as executive director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens, Schakowsky led a group of about 100 senior citizens in accosting House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowsky after a meeting on proposed Medicare benefit changes. When Rostenkowsky refused to address their concerns during the Chicago meeting, the group surrounded his car waving signs and jeering him. “It was quite spontaneous,” Schakowsky claimed at the time. Eventually, Rostenkowsky fled on foot and had to be picked up around the block to escape the mob. Any piker can organize a group of moms to support a teacher’s union strike or a group of young black men to protest questionable police shootings. It takes real chutzpah to motivate a group of old ladies to attack the most powerful man in Congress.
Today, apparently with the consent of the President of the United States, Creamer and Schakowsky continue to expand their organizing activities in Chicago and nationwide. On the same day that Creamer’s paid bird-doggers were closing down a scheduled Trump rally on one side of Chicago, Schakowsky and the couple’s allies at Americans United for Change were leading a protest against Trump, former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner at a fundraising dinner Rauner was holding downtown. Schakowsky, microphone in hand, led the group in chants angrily demanding, apparently without irony, that Republicans “Stop the hate.” Attendees had to run a gauntlet of unruly protesters hurling epithets. Many of the protesters were apparently students and professors bused in from Northeastern Illinois University for the occasion.
Americans United for Change is organized as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt social welfare organization. According to the Internal Revenue Code, such organizations “must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” Such organizations are also prohibited from directly coordinating with political campaigns.
Schakowsky’s Republican opponent in her upcoming reelection bid, Joan McCarthy Lasonde, believes that Schakowsky’s association with Americans United for Change is illegal and has called for investigations. She believes that this protest does not “promote social welfare” and that Schakowsky’s participation represents an illegal coordination between her campaign and the group. As evidence, Lasonde points to a photograph from the rally of Schakowsky holding a “Gang of Hate” sign that that has clear markings indicating that it was provided by Americans United for Change.
Election attorneys consulted about this matter disagree, however. Because the event happened outside of Schakowsky’s district and was not directly related to her own reelection, she probably hasn’t violated the letter of any election-law prohibitions. If, for instance, the social welfare organization had printed up signs that said, “Elect Schakowsky,” there would be more of a problem.
This black and white reading of the law neglects the larger issue, however. Robert Creamer met with the President, the leader of the Democratic Party, dozens of times in the White House. Creamer then coordinated his activities with both the DNC and the Clinton campaign and hired prohibited groups to promote the themes of the Party and the campaign on the ground. Virtually every Democrat campaign in the nation could be guilty of illegal coordination.
By promoting the meme that Trump and Republicans are “haters, racists, and bigots” Clinton, Schakowsky and congressional candidates around the county are lining up behind a common message no less than McDonald’s franchisees are benefiting from advertising developed at their headquarters in Oak Brook. Using so-called social welfare groups that also promote the message through community organizing is, of course, de facto coordination and, therefore, should be illegal.
This type of coordination also has the added benefit of keeping Clinton from negative campaigning on her own. While super PACs and 501(c)(4)s attack Trump mercilessly, Hillary can stay above the fray pushing positive messages like “Stronger Together.” In Illinois, this takes the form of ads deriding “Donald Trump and the Rauner Republicans”—even though Rauner isn’t even running this year. No particular campaign can be accused of coordinating the ads even though the theme may well have been developed in Washington by a DNC-paid consultant and all Democrat candidates benefit.
President Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America and he’s working on doing it through the same political model used in Chicago. If successful, all of America may soon be subject to the same kind of single-party rule that his hometown enjoys, along with the corruption and bankrupt institutions that have come with it. The communities he organized helped lift him to the White House and Jan Schakowsky and Robert Creamer to a million dollar home in Evanston, but stay mired in crime, unemployment, and drug addiction themselves. It’s a model for political victory and societal collapse.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.
Keith Liscio is a small businessman and resident of Illinois’ 9th congressional district. He is a longtime observer of Illinois politics.