I agree that community activists can be a force for good, and that Republicans shouldn't dismiss them out of hand. However, I do think that Barack Obama's experience in that endeavor has been overhyped by much of the mainstream media. Yes, he brought summer jobs to teenagers and expedited repairs and asbestos removal in South Side Chicago's notorious Altgeld Housing Project. I don't see how this warrants him being treated as if he were the new messiah.
This project still has a serious crime and gang problem. If three and four generations of tenants still live there, this is far from a smashing success. Obama seems to me like more charisma than substance.