Ben Carson’s RNC speech was mostly uneventful: It was, for someone who is not exactly the most disciplined speaker, blissfully short, though it was also very Ben Carson-y, which is to say that it was simultaneously impassioned and weirdly low-energy and peppered with ideas that are politely referred to as “eccentric.” One of those ideas was that Hillary Clinton is a disciple of Saul Alinsky, who Carson claimed dedicated his seminal book Rules for Radicals to Lucifer. Because Clinton is a disciple of Alinsky, Carson implied that she is therefore also a disciple of Lucifer. As with most of the claims made about Clinton at the RNC, there’s a kernel of truth buried in a mountain of bullshit.
Rules for Radicals is not dedicated to Lucifer. It’s dedicated to the legendary editor and publisher Jason Epstein, among other (real) people. Instead, Alinsky attributes a quote to Lucifer on the book’s epigraph page, seemingly inspired by Milton’s conception of Satan as a free-thinking rebel. (Alinsky is considered to be the father of community organizing.)
Clinton did write her senior thesis at Wellesley about Alinsky. While Clinton obviously was interested in Alinsky, she also rejected his more radical ideas and instead argued that they could be adopted more effectively inside of existing institutions. When Alinsky offered her a post after she graduated college, she turned it down, though they did correspond for a period in the very early ’70s. And while the Clintons continued to associate with Alinsky disciples—they would be hard to avoid in post-’60s Democratic politics—the connection between Clinton and Alinsky ends there.
Unless you’re someone who hates Hillary Clinton, that is. The right has been fixated on the Clinton-Alinsky connection for decades. When the then-conservative journalist (and current head of a pro-Clinton Super PAC) David Brock wrote The Seduction of Hillary Clinton, his 1996 biography of Hillary, he devoted a substantial amount of time making a tortured case that Clinton was something of a Manchurian candidate—a secret Alinsky-ite who had decided to infiltrate the highest levels of the federal government. The Lucifer thing, meanwhile, came from Glenn Beck (obviously) who is also obsessed with Alinsky. Given the right’s fixation on the Alinsky connection in the past, it’s surprising that Carson—who also brought it up at an August debate—is the only person holding a candle for it now.