The peculiar attack on community organizing

Harry Boyte comments on democracy and community organizing in this Sept. 9 Star Tribune op-ed.

During the Republican convention Rudolph Giuliani and Sarah Palin heaped scorn on "community organizers" with snappy sound bites. Giuliani laughed off the idea that Barack Obama's community organizing background could count for anything. Palin followed, calling herself "just your average hockey mom" who became mayor and then governor, also mocking Obama's experiences. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities.
The problem for Republicans is that community organizing is at the heart of the democratic tradition. They knew this not long ago.


Harry's powerful piece reminds us that uniters, not dividers, make real and lasting change. It relates to a piece I sent to the Chicago Tribune, also published today.,0,2019321.story

Our country is defined by the maverick women and men who dared do the hard work of seeking and fighting for our shared values, not the easy work of disparaging to defend exclusive agendas.

I await Mr. Boyte's defense of small town mayors. The abscence of such an article will confirm the partisan purpose of his message rather than the civic ideal it claims to espouse.
Robb Turner

Good to hear Robb Turner's dissent -- I think (we'd like to hear more his own view, not simply mine).

I am a great fan of small town mayors -- in my recent book, The Citizen Solution, I praise many, both Republicans and Democrats.

The point of the short Strib piece is the same as the argument of the book: community cultures and organizations (religious congregations, neighborhood groups, ethnic organizations, and family networks, to name a few) are the roots of democracy. They've been trying up as they turned into service operations for clients and customers. Unless they regrow - like environmental revegetation -- the trunk and branches of the tree of democracy will die.

I give examples, like Phyllis Wheatley settlement in the black community in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s -- it educated all sorts of black leaders, but all credited Wheatley as their civic learning school. Humphrey does the same for his father's drug store (his father, by the way, became mayor of Doland, SD, town of 600). But his father always thought his organizing work as a businessleader was the most important.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs