Van Jones is back with a message for disappointed progressives, Occupy Wall Street and other “post-‘Hope’” Democrats still looking to President Barack Obama for the change they voted for in 2008: Get over it.
“I think you need two sources of power to make change, and not just one. I think you need a head of state that’s willing to be moved, and a movement to do the moving,” said Jones, the former West Wing insider-turned-disillusioned outsider and a lightning rod for conservative critics. That’s the gist of Jones’ new book, “Rebuild the Dream,” his blueprint for grassroots action to restore the economy as well as attempt to turn Obama into the kind of president they want (A dictator?….OM). The book is a companion piece to Jones’ activities since leaving the White House — and his new rock-star status within the progressive movement. He’s in town to sell his vision for a new liberal strategy almost as much as the book, which comes to stores Tuesday.
Liberals must work hard to give Obama a second term, then force him to the left, Jones explained.
“We have to re-elect the president, and we have to re-energize our own movement. That’s how we get change. We’re not going to have a ‘vote and hope’ strategy. We’re going to have a ‘march-and create change’ strategy,” Jones said. (Hey Jones, we are a REPUBLIC, not a DEMOCRACY ruled by mob rule, but by laws…OM)
On Friday, Jones will appear on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and follow up with an interview with George Stephanophalous on ABC’s “This Week.”
Since leaving the White House under heavy fire from conservatives, Jones has fully embraced the liberal agenda. Last year, he helped organize a summit which drew more than 200 progressive organizations, and he’s been active in the movement to protect union rights against Republican plans to strip away their bargaining power in the Midwest. But he’s also linked up with the Occupy Wall Street leaders, helping them craft a long-term strategy for political power, and criticized the White House for ignoring liberals — and squandering opportunities to tack leftward, especially after compromise with the right seemed unlikely.
To his supporters, Jones’s combative stance personifies the uncompromising liberal they wish Obama would be, especially after White House compromises to the right on issues like health care and the budget deficit. But Jones credits the vocal right for giving Republicans the openings they needed to increase their power on Capitol Hill and changing the public debate. And he blames liberals waiting for directions from Obama.
Though he says he still wholeheartedly supports the president, Jones said Obama turned a deaf ear to what former press secretary Robert Gibbs called “the professional left” during the first half of his first term because no one was marching in the streets to make him listen. Cases in point: The tea party protests in 2010, and the subsequent GOP “shellacking” in the midterm elections forced Obama to the right on issues like the debt, but the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations gave him the political space for his current, more populist rhetoric on wealth inequality. (Where in any of our founding documents does it say there should be “Wealth Equality”? If you have the talent the ambition, and the good old fashion go get itness, then you too can be “wealthy…OM)
“I have a unique perspective on the Obama era so far. I was a grassroots outsider who became a White House insider who became a grassroots outsider again. I have a 360 view on how the movement for hope and change rose, fell and is now being resurrected,” Jones said.
Though he says the White House missed some obvious signs, Jones insists he’s not an Obama hater, and that there’s more than enough criticism – and praise — to spread around about the president’s first term, and the financial mess with which his administration is still grappling.
“People say, ‘This guy is coming down on Obama,’ and I’m not,” he said, praising Obama for the steps he’s taken to protect the middle class, including tax breaks tied to college tuition and mortgage modification programs for struggling homeowners. “There’s been some progress [but] there s a lot more than needs to be done. There’s a level of urgency out there in the country about this stuff that has not registered in DC.”