While there was much to react to last night in Minnesota, I have to comment on a particular line of attack employed by Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin. The utter contempt and disdain they showed for Senator Obama's history as a community organizer is something that we all must stand up against. I'm particularly angered by the lies and distortions because my foundation has proudly financed millions of dollars of incredible work by community organizers over the past fifteen years. I was also reminded that the ghosts of Willie Horton and Jesse Helms were on display in the Twin Cities. Make no mistake: inside that convention hall "community organizer" was shorthand for radical, black activist. It's certainly not all community organizers they trivialize and dismiss. What else is the pro-life, creationist, anti-tax, pro-gun movements but the work of Right-wing community organizers? Clearly, Palin is specifically condemning those organizers who work to improve the lives of poor and marginalized Americans.
In belittling community organizing work, the Republicans made the case for what they really stand for. Just to review the record, community organizers work in houses of worship, neighborhood centers, union halls and schools. They have taken the lead in fighting for living wage laws in cities across this country, defended tenants against illegal evictions and foreclosures, led the rebuilding of Los Angeles in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict and the rebuilding of New Orleans following Katrina. They have registered millions of young people, African Americans, Latinos and senior citizens to vote for the first time. It is they, not people like Rudy and Sarah, who respond when factories are shutdown and families find they have nowhere else to turn. Community organizers were the first people in this country to stand up against the war in Iraq. Their organizations are also the first to provide basic services such as health care and education in the wake of a generation of mean-spirited and hateful conservative policies. Community organizations, and their talented organizers, arethe social safety net for many in this country.
If America had any doubt that the McCain/Palin/Rove playbook is down to one option -- divide this country by class and race -- all that is put to rest now. How dare they look down their noses at Senator Obama and thousands of other great Americans who put community, and yes, country first by trying to make life a little bit better for other people. The community organizers that I know could have made their way in the fields of finance, medicine or, yes, politics. All of these choices would have been more lucrative and easier for many of them. Apparently, it's not enough that they work under incredibly difficult circumstances for little pay and no recognition. Now the party of Bush and Cheney wants to belittle their contributions to American families. We cannot, and will not, let this attack go unchallenged.