I’m sure many of you are puzzled about President Obama’s strange leadership style. How does he manage to leave his base practically foaming at the mouth in anger, while at the same time ticking off conservatives? Stanley Kurtz explained it – it boils down to one word: Alinsky.
“Leading from behind” is classic Alinskyite strategy. The idea is for the organizer to find out what the people he’s organizing want, give them enough of that to gain authority and control, then slowly and quietly push the group in his ideological direction, all the while making it seem as though the plan is what the people themselves have asked for. Obama used to literally lead from behind, by stage-managing his group’s protests from the back of the room, while the ostensible leaders took charge on stage. That is what Alinskyite organizers do.
Alinskyite organizers are tough when facing down the “enemy” (their word), but subtle, stealthy, and incremental when dealing with the members of their own group. Above all, they are never openly ideological. Everything is portrayed as pragmatism.
The trouble with Obama’s Alinskyite leadership style is that he’s trying to adapt it to the presidency, a role it was never designed for. When he tries classic Alinskyite polarization, he’s treating people he’s supposed to be leading as his enemies. When he tries to bring about leftist results under the guise of a neutral pragmatism, he disappoints his base, which desperately wants him to turn his eloquence to the task of persuading the country of their principles.
Obama is a bad negotiator because Alinskyite’s don’t negotiate, they intentionally polarize. As for their own groups, here they try to placate all factions and hide their own goals. That about describes Obama’s performance on the debt deal, which included a dollop of both of these stances.