In Defense of Community Organizers, Part 2

posted by Josh Ran

There they go again, smearing community organizers. The way McCain was talking about Obama’s connection to ACORN – and the way Obama was running away from that connection – would have you convinced that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now was some kind of criminal syndicate working to subvert democracy. Oh my!

In truth, ACORN represents one of the best efforts to build and protect true democracy (of the people, by the people and for the people) in this country. Founded in 1970 to unite welfare recipients and working people to address shared issues, the organization registered more than 1.3 million disenfranchised, low income voters this year. During the Reagan years, ACORN took on the housing crisis with a squatting campaign to get low- and moderate-income people into vacant houses and fix them up, with neighborhood approval. Fifteen thousand ACORN members and allies established “Reagan Ranches” in over 35 cities, building tent cities to symbolize the homelessness Reagan’s policies created. ACORN continues to work for housing rehabilitation and other reforms to meet the need for fair, affordable housing.

So what’s the truth about the voter fraud allegations? There was none. Nobody ever tried to cast a vote improperly. A handful of the 13,000 people ACORN hired to register voters got lazy and turned in falsified registration forms. ACORN’s quality-control process flagged those registration forms as bogus and turned them in to state officials (as required by law) with a note identifying the suspected problems. Sounds like a pretty laudable operation to me.

When political campaigns on either side attempt to paint legitimate grassroots organizing and voter registration efforts as something tainted, we need to speak up. Community organizations are the bedrock of our democratic system – go out and support one today!