WASHINGTON - It's hardly amazing that ACORN, the embattled community organizer that has done so much good in the nation's inner cities, is considered a latter-day embodiment of the anti-Christ by the nation's right-wing fringe.
First came the baseless allegations of voter fraud that popped-up in the late stages of last year's presidential election. Then two conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute did a gotcha video at several ACORN chapters seeking - and surprisingly, getting - advice on how to set up neighborhood bordellos. The gullible ACORN workers who dispensed the advice, it should be noted, were fired promptly by the group's national office.
Now, the right-wing is going ballistic because the cap-and-trade legislation currently on hold in Congress contains money for ACORN and other community organizations to combat global warming by helping the urban poor to become more energy efficient.
Why all the fuss? A consensus of world-class international scientists has repeatedly stated that we are approaching the doomsday hour in confronting a climate change crisis that - if allowed to continue unabated - could well wipe out civilization as we know it.
Yet community organizations have played a storied role in modern American crises. They did yeoman work in aiding huge numbers of the down-trodden survive - and often thrive - during the decade-long Great Depression. They encouraged the notion of shared sacrifice on the home front during the darkest days of World War II when everything from gasoline to sugar and coffee were strictly rationed. In the '60s, their cultivating of the grass roots pushed the long-held dream of civil rights into law and helped spur the movement that ultimately led the United States to withdraw from the quagmire of Vietnam.
Now - as we finally come to terms with the pending crisis that former Vice President Al Gore calls "a more serious threat to Americans than World War II" - community organizations can be our frontline troops in what must be an all-out war against catastrophic climate change.
Who better than ACORN's 500,000 national members to act as energy auditors and educators in our battered big cities? They already are on the ground helping deprived city residents to weatherize their homes and obtain discounted home heating oil.
Who better than ACORN and similar groups to expand such efforts to help re-educate energy wastrels in our affluent suburbs, where gas-guzzling SUVs and luxury cars still abound nearly four decades after the Arab oil embargo 1973-74? That's why both the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House last June and the Boxer-Kerry bill now stalled in the Senate provide generous amounts of taxpayer dollars for community development groups such as ACORN.
Waxman-Markey allocates up to $300 million for community organizations that help small businesses, homeowners and renters in blighted neighborhoods comply with developing mandates for conserving existing materials and improving energy efficiency. The Kerry-Boxer bill has up to $200 million to "promote green development in distressed communities."
Saving the planet ought to be the No. 1 goal of every American since it will save their lives and those of their descendants. Sadly, it isn't. Polls show a majority of Americans have become deniers about the threat of global warming and that a larger number rank it far down the list of problems that need an immediate and concerted societal effort to solve.
Community organizers like ACORN can reverse these gloomy numbers by applying their highly effective brand of persuasion firsthand to skeptical Americans. ACORN can be - and should be - a vital force in America's belated decision to join the rest of the world in thwarting global warming.
If anything, the current climate change legislation does not go far enough. President Obama should borrow a page from FDR and establish ACORN as a federal program similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps that helped rebuild a Depression-wracked America from 1933 to 1942. Now that would drive the yahoo complainers into a frenzy!
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive Online Journal (www.onlinejournal.com). Readers may write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.