By Peter Dreier
In their recent documentary ACORN and the Firestorm, Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard not only reveal how the mighty ACORN fell but also show how the attack on ACORN was a dress rehearsal for our current toxic political culture, including the rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right.
Through archival clips and interviews with ACORN staffers, leaders and members, friendly and hostile politicians, and political analysts, the film recounts the group’s history, starting with its founding in Arkansas in 1970 by Wade Rathke, a charismatic and brazen young organizer.
In addition to registering millions of voters, ACORN assisted the working poor to buy homes and avoid foreclosure, challenged banks’ racist and predatory lending practices, stopped companies from spewing cancer-causing pollution in low-income neighborhoods, got local governments to fix up abandoned buildings that had become havens for crime, and fought for fair treatment by employers, landlords, insurance companies, and government. ACORN led the campaign to get Congress to strengthen the anti-redlining Community Reinvestment Act. It organized the victims of Hurricane Katrina to gain a voice in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. It spearheaded the living-wage movement in more than 100 cities and helped make the federal Earned Income Tax Credit an effective anti-poverty program. [Read more…]