As I’ve said before, Van Jones is a good man whose goal is to do the right thing and help produce social and economic justice in the US.

Here is a very good interview with him from July of 2011.

Exclusive: Van Jones on What We Can Learn From the Tea Party

by: Amy Dean, Truthout | Interview

In late June, Van Jones – a former “green jobs” czar in the Obama administration and currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress – officially launched a new organization known as Rebuild the Dream. The group’s first mission is to help spark a new economic justice effort called the American Dream Movement, an alliance focused on economic justice fights across the country. Amid conservative efforts to divide Americans by blaming scapegoats such as immigrants and unionized teachers for our county’s problems, the American Dream Movement instead seeks to recreate a politics of common purpose – one that advocates for broadly shared prosperity in our country, appeals to a set of common values and highlights the need for creating good jobs that will allow people to work with dignity.

Founded in partnership with groups including, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the Center for Community Change and the Campaign for America’s Future, Jones describes the endeavor as “a national movement to defend the American Dream itself.”

At the June 24 launch event for Rebuild the Dream in New York City, Jones elaborated on this general idea, emphasizing the need to reframe our national political discussion so that we refute four key lies: 1) that our country is broke, 2) that asking the super-rich to pay their fair share hurts America; 3) that it’s patriotic to hate America’s government and to undermine our national infrastructure; and, finally, 4) that we are helpless to change things.

Shortly after the New York event, I had a conversation with the ever-busy Jones to discuss the vision for the American Dream Movement, what we can learn from the Tea Party and what it will take to change the direction of national politics.

Defining the American Dream

I first asked Jones to define what he means by the “American dream.”

“By the ‘American dream’ I don’t mean the ‘American Fantasy,'” he said, “which is what the commercializers have done with that concept. They’ve promoted the idea that everybody’s going to be rich someday and that buying a bunch of stuff will make you happy. That version of the dream has led to an ‘American nightmare’ for most people.

“I reject that stuff,” Jones continued. “I believe in something much more fundamental to the American ideal. I’m talking about the idea that you don’t have to have a fancy last name to make it in America. That where you start off in life does not determine where you end up. That hard work should pay. And that ordinary people should be able to work hard, play by the rules, have a decent job, a paycheck, that give their kids a better life. That is the American dream that we are seeking to defend.

“The real fight is not between conservatives and liberal, or even between Wall Street and Main Street. The real fight is between ‘cheap patriots,’ who are trying to destroy the American dream and ‘deeper patriots,’ who are trying to restore it. It’s really a fight between two different versions of patriotism, two visions of what American greatness will require in the next century.

“You have these cheaper patriots who have taken their wrecking ball agenda,” Jones explained, “painted it red, white and blue and used it to smash down all of the institutions that made America exceptional: unions, public schools, the sense of responsibility among Americans to invest in the country that made their success possible.”

How Did We Get to the American Nightmare?

I asked Jones to say more about how we got to the place we’re in now: the American economy is in crisis and the historic link between increasing productivity and rising wages has been severed. We have undone the connection in our country between economic competitiveness and community well being. Given this, I was curious about what institutions he thought would need rebuilding, especially in the context of our global economy.

“I don’t have a magic answer to the question,” Jones said, “but I do try to promote a process that will get us closer to good answers. It’s going to take a mix of approaches, some of them governmental, some having to do with individual behavior, some of them having to do with finding smarter ways for the labor movement to revive. But fundamentally, the deck is stacked against patriotic corporations that want to hire in America.

“You have trade policy and tax policy that encourage companies to take advantage of every possible benefit and to give back nothing. So you have your tax havens, where you can hide your money overseas. If you want to create a job or open a plant, you can do that overseas. You aren’t punished for doing that by the tax code; in fact you’re rewarded for doing it. It’s an exploitative relationship. I say that corporate America would be the worst boyfriend ever: just take, take, take and give nothing back.

“We need to make sure the American government is a partner to the American people in solving this problem. Right now, unfortunately, the American government is a captive of some of the worst economic interests on the planet.

“So there has to be change in trade and tax policy. But also, we can’t wait on Washington, DC to fix these things.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

To explore how this change might come about, I asked what people who are not currently part of a union or community organization can do to connect with the movement.

“First, people who are Internet savvy should go to,” Jones said. “We are having house meetings on the 16th and 17th of this month across the country. They can find a meeting to go to. You don’t have to be a part of any organization to go to these meetings and bring your best ideas.”

Still curious, I mentioned that, in his public speeches, Jones had spoken of the need to build a progressive version of the Tea Party. I wondered what exactly that meant – what the constituent elements of such an effort would be? What really would we want to emulate?

Jones replied, “The Tea Party is really an extraordinary achievement and people who disagree with their politics do themselves a disservice not to study them very carefully. Twenty-four months ago, nobody was talking about austerity. People were talking about a New New Deal and Keynesianism and about the return of [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt. Twenty-four months later, even the Democrats mostly talk about cuts. That’s a big achievement by the Tea Party.

“On the whole, what we call the Tea Party represents a set of preexisting assets – both ideas and individual organizations that long pre-dated the declaration of the new movement. Some of them go back to the Ross Perot days. Yet this set of libertarian ideas was not taken very seriously, even within the Republican Party.

“It’s sheer genius to be able to take a very old set of ideas and an aging set of assets and realign them and re-brand them so that they must be taken seriously in the current context. That’s something we can learn from the Tea Party: How to take existing infrastructure and ideas but find a way to re-present them to the American people.

“We don’t have to go out and start a bunch of organizations from scratch. We can bring together groups that are fighting effectively against cuts, against tuition hikes, but that are fighting alone, without a common banner. I would say, frankly, that we are already outperforming the Tea Party at its peak in terms of popular mobilization, if not in terms of electoral success. They got all this credit in September 2009 for bringing 150,000 people to D.C. and it shook everybody up. Well, we had 150,000 people on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin. We’ve had major protests in Ohio, in Montana – with the largest protest in the state’s history – and more.

“In terms of the level of popular mobilization and fight back, we’re probably two to three times the size of the Tea Party. But we don’t have a common banner or a shared patriotic narrative about what common values we’re advancing.”

The Appropriate Use of Leadership

I asked what sort of leadership would be required in order to make the American Dream Movement into this kind of common banner and also what we can learn from past efforts on the left. Jones pointed to the limits of charismatic leadership.

“We have to be very attentive to the appropriate use of charisma,” he said. “I think we had a big overdose of charisma with President Obama in 2008. People surrendered a lot of their own authority and initiative to our president. This is quite understandable because of his personal gifts and what he meant to the world. But I don’t think it gave us the outcomes we wanted.

“The Tea Party has made a brilliant use of charismatic leadership. They have leaders that people can look to – Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Dick Armey and others. But none of those individuals could stand up tomorrow and say, ‘the Tea Party is over’ in a press conference. It wouldn’t be over, because they have a network that is much bigger than any individual who is part of that network.

“One of our aspirations is to create a banner under which many leaders can shine and grow and learn, but where no one leader is the personification of the movement. People will always let you down. Principles endure. So having a network that is based on principles and values first, not based on politicians or even a political party, is critical.

“What the Tea Party has been able to achieve is that they have the benefits of a third party, but none of the downside. They can run primaries against Republicans they don’t like. They can take very, very strong values-based positions. And at the same time, when it’s all said and done, they don’t have to go their own way, as they did in the Perot years.

“I think the people on their side of the divide have learned the lessons of Perot and come up with a very positive solution. For lack of a better term, we have not learned the lessons of Nader and come up with our own positive solution. So those of us who are in the American Dream Movement and care about partisan politics still have a great deal to learn from them.”

Hard Struggle and Hard Study

Our time was growing short, yet I was interested to gain more insight into how Jones approaches his own work as a thinker and movement builder. While I doubted that he has a lot of free time on his hands these days, I asked what he has been reading in the spare moments he does have available this summer.

“It’s interesting. There’s a couple things. Carl Jung is back on my list. That relates to one of three things I feel I don’t know well enough yet that I am trying to address. The first is persuasion. I’m still trying to figure out how to be a decent communicator. I think I’ve improved, but I think I have a long way to go. And I think to really understand persuasion you’ve got to go fairly deep into understanding human psychology. Jung is somebody I have admired a great deal, but who I still don’t know enough about.

“I also am still learning about the American economy beyond green jobs. Green jobs is such a big chunk of the economy: it’s energy and water and many other areas in which I feel very well prepared. But I’d like to learn about things like how Wall Street works. That’s another of my goals for the summer.

“The last piece is trying to understand and refine my grasp on social media and social networks,” he said. “I think that the Tea Party and Madison and Egypt and the Green Revolution in Iran all showed that you can drive a lot of change in a society really fast with no one leader. You can drive an awful lot of change with surprising tools.

“But I’m old fashioned,” Jones concluded after reflecting another moment. “I think that hard struggle without hard study leads to futility and hard study without hard struggle leads to impotence.” Creative Commons License

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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46 Responses to “Interview With Van Jones”

  1. bisawceton sell says:

    yep your right. and thats why were the world superpower. 😛 you and the 26 people who liked this are stupid

  2. sebaid scho says:

    Why would I go back to the camps where my ancestors were and butchered? Are you a Nazi of some If you believe that people are created equal, at least read my post – notice I”m QUOTING what CHRIS SAID and REFUTING IT… it seems like all for equal rights and marriage equality, but just read?

    I hope this and not that actually wishing more holocost on someone immediate family was butchered in the camps you want me to go back.

  3. Worst-case scenario’s closing fast: Occupy Wall Street growing. But no political power or allies yet. Feared yes, attacked by GOP proxy tea Soon the Occupation will explode into a new American Revolution. When? A string of European bank collapses is dead ahead. And like the Arab Spring, they will trigger an economic disaster for American banks.

  4. maedray dirozsga says:

    Some chick on Hannity tried to justify the RAPES in by saying that OWS is just a ‘microcosm’ of the real world. 2 words. TEA –

  5. noah turonze says:

    PTI is probably gonna end up like the Tea in the US. They were hijacked by the Republicans mainly, PTI’s…

  6. sagashimog des says:

    .OriginalBeOnIt My mother wants me to marry Van Jones. I explained that he was already married. Her response? “Not to you.” :-/

  7. I’m thinking of throwing a of Tea / anti OWS strategy event. not my place but I’m good at organizing events

  8. The reason for that being, you’ve yet to ask me anything answering that isn’t rhetorical or meant as a half-assed insult.

  9. kirme siewanetta says:

    FACT: While Gingrich was the first Tax Day rallies in 2009, Mitt Romney was pretending the Tea didn’t exist. –

  10. heisio dosteros says:

    Stand up to bullies and they just whine. .Just look at House GOP , as the clock ticks in the Tea Tax hike. tax hike

  11. A couple weeks ago I had my own run in with the Tea They were going around town putting up signs & going door to door. When I dared remove their signs they had a fit. They put them in my front yard without my permission. Wasn’t until I told them that if they didn’t get off my yard & take their bs signs with them or I would get my gun that they got the message.

  12. gis corzington says:

    I love how everyone here thinks we all booed him (but get me wrong, I think we were all a little dissatisfied with the choice). I have footage of the same event without any booing. I guess we Midwestern scouts handle rejection better.

    SPL of Troop 1108

  13. jega ostimbierw says:

    Van Jones at : society must provide the ladder for people to climb. That ladder has fallen, been kicked over.

  14. 68% of tea Repubs say Romney is NOT a strong conservative in Pew nat’l poll, up from 41% in Nov.

  15. Pelosi hails Van Jones as future political star. The queen of the most bankrupt state, praising communists, isn’t that special.

  16. kadaou phu says:

    70.000 Tweets soon TY AMERICA 4 following Washington DC Tea Patriot Americans Constitution Breathing Citizens UNITED To REMOVE OBAMA –

  17. The Tea in Italy: So, not long ago it was brought to my attention that there is a (small but fervent)

  18. The Occupy Okc punks at the Santorum rally were full of hate, just like Van Jones has taught them to be.

  19. crummer vedt says:

    Marxists! Let no 1 doubt the message: Barack Obama IS Derrick Bell, Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Charles Ogletree, Van Jones” –

  20. strourgerh says:

    ” must work hard to give a term, then force him to the left.” Van Jones shares his political strategy. –

  21. Being a big kid but still being able to play make believe with your best friend >>> Lets have a tea

  22. InquisitionNews: Green Jobs Guru Back To Energize Progressive Base?: Activist Van Jones served as special adviser to Presid… (NPR) –

  23. Central to the move towards localized clean energy is a little-known policy called “net metering.” Today, there are over 100,000 rooftop solar energy systems in California and net metering is the policy responsible for 99% of them.

  24. hanh hildishivn says:

    …”The New York Sodapop Works for me! BTW, the American affinity for coffee is a residual from the Original “Tea

  25. yoka kacprotsuj says:

    Tomorrow: How to tell if your grassroots TEA or Occupy group has been usurped by a major political –

  26. A website being promoted by former White House official Van Jones offers one-stop shopping of progressive candidates endorsed by unions, environmental groups and rights organizations, among others, in what is a nationwide voter guide for Election Day.

  27. viver karump says:

    ! Sunday so far … ABC’s “This Week” roundtable — George Will, Jonathan Karl, Ann Coulter, Van Jones, Steven Rattner

  28. brunon clavano says:

    Gore Vidal’s ‘Burr’: A Tea Antidote – Truthdig: In 1973, Gore Vidal published a novel that struck at the a…

  29. adraidwort leffero says:

    ….simple yes or no. Not a silly twitter fight. Second….if the Van Jones question wasn’t serious, why did u ask it?

  30. Now please tell me again how much the TEA rallies cost the American people to clean up after & police? NOT U SAY! –

  31. Van Jones: We need to ensure we don’t build an elite, hip sharing economy that leaves out those for whom it means ife& …

  32. Katycats! Remember Katy will be on Ellen tomorrow! 🙂 Tea with Sophia Grace and Rosie! 🙂 9/13/12 WATCH IT! (It’s p …

  33. I’m always envious at how energised the US get over politics- Tea or liberal, both are better than the lethargy and apathy seen here.

  34. You can also download cool stuff, like special Tea invitations! To help you get into the spirit, we’ve got our hands on a bundle of Wallace and Gromit goodies for you to in, including the board game Fleeced! and a watch! Click here to win!

  35. fancy a 1920’s vintage tea as seen on BBC? – then hire from Tea Delights – Vintage Crockery & Accessories Hire

  36. Grover Norquist, like Sarah Palin and the Tea is one more monster the GOP created, fed, promoted, and was bi …

  37. Wow I can’t believe Boehner couldn’t get Plan B passed in the House. Democrats hate it, but it’s not right wing enough for the tea

  38. mural hailynn says:

    What is: “Top Down, Bottom Up, Inside Out Revolution” – as assembled by Obama’s former green jobs czar, Van Jones?

  39. ciattello achapler says:

    Because Obama won’t talk. You got it wrong and backwards! Republicans and Tea people are to blame for the crisis.

  40. machornari says:

    Cincinnati Tea president George Brunemann swings from the fetid ass hairs of the Koch brothers and corporate money. Not a patriot! –

  41. hittke danimaho says:

    What are you always crying about? Do you have unresolved issues or are Tea members and Cantor disrupting your sleep? –

  42. Leftists pinned Giffords on Palin, Aurora on the Tea & SandyHook on the NRA..none which were remotely linked. F …

  43. 9pm EST I’ll be on Piers Morgan tonight with Van Jones to talk women in combat, guns, and Benghazi. Tune in.

  44. Opinion: How to stop a bullet Van Jones says of course we need gun control. But we also must face that a lot

  45. snotovsen head says:

    My dad is a tea republican and drives a prius, I get 14 mpg in my giant suv. My dad thinks I’m a socialist. The universe is balanced.

  46. Van Jones is now on MSM. He is also a open Communist. He has worked for George Soros. He is the New Democrat.

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