Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community activist and political theorist. His work through the Chicago-based Industrial Areas Foundation helping poor communities organize to press demands upon landlords, politicians and business leaders won him national recognition and notoriety. Responding to the impatience of a
generation of activists in the 1960s, in his widely cited Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer (1971) Alinsky defended the arts both of confrontation and of compromise involved in community organizing as keys to the struggle for social justice.
Influence on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
Once it appeared that links could be drawn between Alinsky and two major Democratic-Party presidential hopefuls, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator, later President, Barack Obama, conservatives were interested less in appropriating from the organizing tactician than in demonizing Alinsky. It was discovered that Alinsky had been the subject of then Hillary Rodham's senior college thesis. Clinton had not been uncritical of Alinsky. Alinsky believed that community leaders who generate pressure on the system from the outside could produce more effective change than the lofty lever-pullers on the inside. But Clinton argued that sub-urbanization and a federal consolidation of power meant change needed to be achieved at levels that Alinsky's model was not designed to target. Nonetheless, her conclusion allowed that Alinsky "has been feared – just as Eugene Debs or Walt Whitman or Martin Luther King has been feared, because each embraced the most radical of political faiths — democracy."
For three years, from June 1985 to May 1988, Obama was the director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization on Chicago's far South Side. Alinsky biographer Sanford Horwitt, saw the influence of Alinsky's teaching not only on Obama's work in Chicago but also on his successful 2008 presidential run. Yet Obama too commented on having seen "the limits of what can be achieved" at the community level. He also expressed the view that "Alinsky understated the degree to which people's hopes and dreams and their ideals and their values were just as important in organizing as people's self-interest." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a friend of Obama's, saw another difference. "If you read Alinsky's teachings, there are times he's confrontational. I have not seen that in Barack. He's always looking for ways to connect."
In his 1996 biography of her, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, David Brock dubbed Hillary Clinton "Alinsky's daughter." Barbara Olson began each chapter of her 1999 book on Clinton, Hell to Pay, with a quote from Alinsky, and argued that his strategic theories directly influenced her behavior during her husband's presidency. The conspiracy theories were supercharged when Clinton asked Wellesley College to seal her thesis for the duration of her husband's presidency.
Saul Alinsky - Wikipedia