Community Organizers

COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS…. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, best known as the right-wing, “family values” Republican who got caught hiring prostitutes, made a surprise appearance yesterday at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. He received a standing ovation.

Vitter used the opportunity to try out some of his new material.

…Saturday morning, Vitter strolled out to introduce former Sen. Rick Santorum — and to push back a bit against President Obama. “If that’s the choice in 2012, I’ll take a TV personality over a community organizer any day,” he said.

Good lord, they’re still talking about community organizers — 18 months after the last presidential election.

Taken at face value, Vitter’s observation is painfully dumb, even for him. Obama worked for three years a community organizer — working with churches to create opportunities in economically depressed areas — more than two decades ago. He went on to become a lawyer, a professor, a state senator, and a U.S. senator, before seeking the presidency. A few too many on the right make it sound as if Obama went from being a community organizer to a national campaign. This overlooks nearly all of the man’s adult life

In contrast, former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin — apparently the intended beneficiary of Vitter’s comment — is a television personality right now. If/when she runs for the Republican nomination, Palin will try to go directly from TV personality to the White House.

In other worse, the choice for voters in 2012 wouldn’t be a TV personality vs. a community organizer; it would be a TV personality vs. a successful sitting president.

But putting these details aside, the snide, condescending denigration of community organizers among right-wing leaders got tiresome quite a while ago. Working with communities in a bottom-up model may seem worthless to the modern Republican Party, but community organizers deserve respect. Martin Luther King was a community organizer. Susan B. Anthony was a community organizer. Cesar Chavez was a community organizer.

Community organizers made the 40-hour workweek possible. They served as the foundation for women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. Community organizers tend to be all the more necessary when American families are crushed by the bankrupt governing philosophy of clowns like David Vitter.

If Republicans want to ignore this often-thankless work, fine. But let’s not pretend that community organizers deserve this kind of right-wing derision.