When Senator Obama was running for the nation’s highest office, his list of resume enhancers included the nebulous position of “community organizer.” Nobody really knew what the heck that meant, only that it held an air of respectability and responsibility somewhere between Jesus and the Artful Dodger. The community organizer shtick provided fodder even for Sarah Palin, who defended her time as mayor of a small Alaskan town as “sort of like being a community organizer, but with real responsibility.”
The industry of “community organizing” is really more about politics and power than improving the lives of the needy. It’s a tradition that dates from the backstreets of Rome to the better organized machines of Tammany Hall. The Affordable Care Act may be the greatest act of community organizing to date, and it sheds light on what being a community organizer is really about.
The primary goal of a community organizer is to secure political support. It’s about power and politics, plain and simple. The professional class might call these people lobbyists or activists. A more crude term might be street hustler. Part of the job of a community organizer is to secure the support of voters by giving them things – grain, protection, or a city contract. There are tens of millions of Americans who voted for Obama because they believed they were going to get free health care. Only now, the promise of free health care for all isn’t as attractive as it initially appeared when we start to learn that it’s not really free, that it won’t cover everybody, and that costs might actually go up. No matter. The street hustle worked for two elections. Now it’s time to pack up the cardboard box and playing cards and move to another block before all those young people wise up and get angry.
There are still loyalists out there, and they will be rewarded for their loyalty. In the grand tradition of community organizers everywhere, the Affordable Care Act contains the modern equivalent of “walking around money.” Tens of millions of dollars have been set aside to train what the government calls “navigators.” These are people who will be hired to explain the law and enroll people for benefits. Of course, these jobs will go to people who supported the endeavor in the first place. No vocal opponent of the law would apply for these jobs, nor would they be hired if they did. This is a cash payment for those who stood by the President. It pays $20-$48 per hour to those who pass a 30-hour training course that has yet to be developed (though due to pending deadlines, it has been suggested that 20 hours would suffice. I guess that means they’ll have to cut out the homemade Star Trek parodies and Harlem Shuffle dance lessons). Short and sweet, this is payday for all the Acorn and Planned Parenthood staffers who are down on their luck, but have waited patiently for their reward. Now they’ll be taken care of.
A community organizer by any other name is merely a Roman patron to a client needing protection, or a New York party boss helping a ward captain secure a city contract. Politics is politics. Some things never change, no matter how much we hope. The Post-Partisan President has turned out to be nothing but a modern party boss. “He seen his opportunities, and he took ‘em.”