Obama of the Community

Ryan Lizza’s recent New Yorker piece on Obama is well worth the hour. Not for the first time, it strikes me that this sort of political profile is the very best of long-form journalism and that it is something we could use a lot more of here in Canada.

Overall, it’s a useful look at Obama’s political rise, although the ultimate conclusion is not anything we couldn’t have guessed: BHO is a politician like any other (“Superheroes don’t become President; politicians do”), and his image as a post-partisan authentic is just that — a carefully crafted image. There are some neat glimpses at Chicago politics (e.g. the ongoing presence of SDS/Weatherman figures), and I like the distinction made in passing between machine-politics and image-politics. There’s a book to be written on that, if one hasn’t been already (and if you don’t count Politics Lost).

The piece has some gaps though — I have yet to see a proper examination of Obama’s relationship with Tony Reszko. But here’s a serious question: What the heck does it mean to be a “community organizer”. The piece talks about how important BHO’s three years as a “community organizer” were, and how he tried to bring the principles of “community organizing” to public office.

Is that code for something, or is it one of those US jobs that we have no equivalent to here in Canada. What does a community organizer do? Is it a partisan position? How much do they get paid? Who pays them? etc.