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Pondering The Candidates' Community Organizer Backgrounds

While we're waiting to hear what the people of New Hampshire have to say, it's a good time to think a little deeper about the two leading Democratic candidates, who share a common interest in community organizing.  Start with this fascinating 1995 look at Barack Obama (What Makes Obama Run?) from the Chicago Reader tells us a lot about Obama's four years as a community organizer in Chicago (1984-88).
Alinsky384 From it, we learn that Obama's work led only to what he describes as "modest successes," and his involvement on education issues was primarily as a board member on two local foundations (Joyce and Woods) and as chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which was in Chicago as elsewhere not nearly as transformative as intended or advertised. (Think Gates Foundation.)

Twelve years later, Obama's credibility and involvement on education issues remain a concern among many readers of my Chicago blog, who among other things see his endorsement of charters and other "new" approaches as overly centrist and top down. Click here to see some of their recent comments.

Meanwhile, this 2007 Washington Post article also focuses on Obama's background as a Chicago organizer, pointing out that both he and Clinton were fascinated with famous organizer Saul Alinski (A Common Ideological Touchstone).  Obama took the job offer from Alinski's IAF.  Clinton wrote a paper about the organization, but turned down the job. 


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