Bertha Lewis, the relatively new head of ACORN, took over the group in 2008, promising to clean up its finances, oust those responsible for corruption, and concentrate on enacting its goals of helping the poor. Her bio can be read here. When she took over the job as ACORN’s head, she replaced the controversial group’s founder, Wade Rathke, whose brother compromised the organization by embezzling money, an act which Wade Rathke concealed from ACORN’s board. Crain’s magazine called Lewis one of the most influential women in New York City business.
Despite stories to the contrary, Lewis recently told NPR that ACORN was not disbanding, only transforming itself into a “leaner and meaner” operation so that it could continue its work. Lewis explained: “Some of our state chapters have chosen to go their own way. We haven’t been able to maintain the resources, state-by-state, that we had, so we have gotten a little bit smaller. We’ve had to change some of our programming.” The reason for this, Lewis claims, is the repercussions that took place after the now famous videos “showed ACORN employees giving legal advice to conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp.” Congress voted after this to cut off further funding of ACORN, and hence, state affiliates have acted to continue by changing their name and dropping their old membership lists.
Now, thanks to the website Verum Serum, a new video has emerged featuring portions of a speech Lewis gave in mid March to the Young Democratic Socialists, the youth arm of Democratic Socialists of America:
In her presentation, Lewis said:
Any of these groups that says, “I’m young, I’m Democratic, and I’m a socialist,” is okay with me. You know that’s no light thing to do — to actually say, I’m a socialist. You’ve got to know, actually, we are living in a time that’s going to dwarf the McCarthy era. It is going to dwarf the internment of World War II. We are right now in a time that is going to dwarf the era of Jim Crow and segregation.
They are coming. And they are coming after you. And they are going to be brutal and oppressive. They’ve already shown it. … This is not rhetoric or hyperbole — this is real. … This tea party so-called movement — a bowel-movement in my estimation — and this blatant uncovering and ripping off the mask of racism.
Her words deserve not only widespread attention, but serious comment since they emanate from a leader acclaimed by both New York magazine and Crain’s as someone who commands both respect and attention. The first point to note is Lewis’ remarks that “it’s ok to with me” to call oneself a socialist.
This is particularly important since Saul Alinsky, the theorist of community organizing whose ideas inform ACORN’s leadership, made it clear, as David Horowitz has written in his study of Alinsky, that “the most basic principle of Alinsky’s advice to radicals is to lie to their opponents and disarm them by pretending to be moderates and liberals.”
The goal is then to activate the base by gaining power, which will be used to slowly but surely subvert the existing system and transform it.