September 8th, 2008
04:01 PM ET

GOP shouldn't knock community organizers

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/08/art.rnc1.jpg]
Roland S. Martin | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Political Analyst

The Republicans have made it clear where their focus was last week with their convention slogan, "Country First."

With the abundance of flags, chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A." and tributes to those in the military, they have been laying it on thick.

Sen. John McCain has often talked about the need for Americans to dedicate themselves to service, namely military, and he is on the money.

But a line of attack that was used consistently by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and later by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, tried to call into question whether community organizers put their country first.

Palin focused on the issue, mainly to criticize the Obama campaign for offering up his community organizing work opposite her experience as mayor.

But when you examine Giuliani's dismissive tone - and the subsequent laughter by the Republicans in the XCel Energy Center - regarding the community organizer jabs, the Democrats could have an opening.

After praising Palin's speech, I said as much, and that they can expect the Obama-Biden camp to seize on that point. Later, I read an e-mail from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who incorporated the community organizer argument into a fundraising appeal.

Republican operatives I talked to said the lines were brilliant and that community organizers don't play to the GOP's strength.

I disagree. And so do the many folks who have sent me angry e-mails. They include white Republicans, black Democrats, people from Small Town, U.S.A., and Big City, America.

At a time when Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure, folks are trying to get by after layoffs, people are struggling with lack of healthcare, and we're facing pressing environmental issues, it's ludicrous to slam the little man and woman who isn't asking the government for handouts, but is doing what they can to make their neighborhood and city better.

I think of my parents. As a child growing up in the Clinton Park neighborhood in Houston, Texas, my parents were just regular folks trying to raise their five children (sounds like Gov. Sarah Palin). They were always present at our local elementary school (sounds like Gov. Sarah Palin) and were heavily involved in our church.

But our neighborhood was dying. Drugs were ravaging it. Older homeowners were dying and their children didn't want to live there, so they began renting to people who really didn't care. We saw abandoned homes, weeded lots, no sidewalks, a park falling into disrepair, and a senior citizen center shuttered.

So they joined several others neighbors and decided to form a civic club. Others called them crazy for trying to advance their ideas, but they didn't give up.

They enlisted their children in passing out flyers and putting up signs, notifying folks of the monthly meetings. A few folks showed up, but they kept going.

And going. And going. And going.

After months, and then years, we began to see progress: Stepped up police patrols and crack houses raided by the Houston police, DEA and FBI. Abandoned houses torn down. Weeded lots cut. More heavy trash pickup days. New streetlights. New sidewalks. New sewer pipes. A refurbished park.

Bottom line, these average, low- to middle-income people didn't have political power. They focused on people power. They organized a community to take action.

So when Rudy Giuliani and Palin mock community organizers, they don't just toss a barb at Sen. Barack Obama, they demean Reginald and Emelda Martin. They degrade the women who fought for their rights. They disrespect the labor activists and immigrant worker activists like Cesar Chavez.

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Editor’s Note: You can read more from Roland at RolandSMartin.com

Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. nerakami, Miami

    to answer Eric's question above... " who betted Obama.".. the media and the public vetted Obama for the past two years.

    September 8, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  2. Eric Garcia

    Also, consider other politicians who were Community organizers. Washington was a community organizer, who helped get clean water for the the-colony of Virginia. Abraham Lincoln was a Community Organizer during his time as a lawyer. Community service is a big part of the road to presidency

    September 8, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  3. Eric Garcia

    I think it is absolutely dispicable what the Republicans did. It is at times like this I am thankful I left the party and became an independent. It is really just crap to hear Rudy Giuliani laugh about Obama's career. At least he is not picking up a check everytime he says 9/11. They keep on talking about "Country First" and "Service." And with Sarah Palin, she has no room to talk. She lived in Mooseburger, Alaska and has only governed the state for about 300 days.

    Also, they make it seem like he didn't do anything for those comunities. However, he worked to get Asbestos out of apartments in inner city Chicago, worked to get neighborhoods to recieve proper Civic rights, such as getting their trash picked up.

    Also, they make it seem like that is his most imposing credential. No it isn't! He did that before he went to Harvard where he became President of the Harvard Law Review, and the first African-American one. Also, it's betting than Sarah Palin putting friggin PTA Mom as a credential to be President. That, not being a community organizer, is stupid to put on your resume. It is ridiculous what the Republicans are doing.

    September 8, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  4. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Community organizer or Gov. of Alaska, I think I'll take the Gov.
    Who is this lady that's stealing his show, it's about time. Obama better hope the women don' t decide this election, or his goose is cooked. Somebody please tell Sarah Palin that Pelosi has a private jet that is funded by the tax payers.

    September 8, 2008 at 8:51 pm |
  5. Gilby-HI

    There are certain important things that a 'Community Organizer" must have. When I was a kid the "Project Head Start" came to my neighborhood. President Lyndon Johnson son was a community organizer at Oakwook Park two blocks from my house. He was beaten badly and left.
    The Muslim took over and did redevelopment, Much like the South Chicago.

    September 8, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  6. Lee White

    I am quickly tiring of everyone telling me "About" Sarah Palin, what she's done and what she believes. It is way beyond time for the American public to hear what Sarah Palin believes from Sarah Palin – not from a canned stump speech. She can't just get a pass here and I won't believe what other people say about her. Sarah get on the hot seat and let us make an informed intelligent decision about you.

    September 8, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  7. Mesha

    I think it's not only disrepsectful, but rather ignorant. The truth is, community organizers have contributed more to humanity than just about everyone that has come through the White House to date. The RNC was out of line and their comments (in particular the Gov from NY and Palin)were down right demeaning.

    September 8, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  8. ,Barbara-Dalton Ga

    Thank God for the Community Organizers, if it wasn't for them alot and
    I mean alot of things would never get done. People who do this have
    good organization skills, able to work with people, manage funds
    or donations given, can see ahead where many of us would think this
    is hopeless. To me Katrina is a good example of community organizers coming together, the government sure let the ball drop.
    McCain has always function in a group, I mean no one senator makes
    the final decision on anything. If we have community organiaers deciding how our tax dollars were going to be spent we would probably see the money go alot further and many more sucesses
    than the many failures we have seen in the past.

    Ok, by the way is the Red Cross not more or less a group of community organizers that gets the job done when all hell has broken
    loose due to a natural disasater has happen!!

    September 8, 2008 at 8:17 pm |
  9. MW / Calif

    Palin and Rudy did a wonderful job (During their speeches) of alienating the millions of people that depend on "Community Organizers" to do the job that the Republicans have failed to do over the past 8 years. Politics should be about serving the people. It should not be about serving rich people or serving certain people that belong to certain religious groups.

    September 8, 2008 at 8:05 pm |
  10. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    I am not surprised at the demeaning-hateful-divisive comments made by the RNC. As a volunteer, I was offended.

    The comments were a clear disrespect to EVERY community organizer, EVERY leader in our communties......... THAT LABOR TO MAKE LIFE A LITTLE BETTER FOR THOSE WHOSE VOICES ARE TOO OFTEN UNHEARD!


    September 8, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
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