Tonight, Watch: Van Jones Jumpstarts New Progressive Movement to Confront and Push Back American Conservative and Corporate Dominance
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Tonight, in New York City's venerable Town Hall, Van Jones, arguably the most visible progressive "organizer" in America, and surely one of the country's best orators, steps up to assume a bigger role -- that of major progressive strategist and visionary. Tonight is Jones' opening gambit in a large-scale, ambitious effort to create what many hope will be the progressives answer to the Tea Party.
Jones, with major support from MoveOn.org and other groups, will present a big-picture vision for mobilizing progressive forces of many types and stripes under the patriotic umbrella brand of the "American Dream Movement." The goal is nothing less than a broad "open source" movement of millions who, via organizing, house parties, events, technological savvy, and electoral activity, will attempt to shift America's focus away from the budget-cut mentality and the protection of big corporations and banks, to the human and economic support of tens of millions of unemployed and downsized Americans, including returning war vets and young people. (The event, which also features musical group the Roots, will be streamed live beginning at 8:15pm EDT on many Web sites, including AlterNet. Tune in tonight.)
There is much anticipation for this moment, and more than a little skepticism. Many have been wringing their hands, wondering why progressives seem so impotent in the face of the Tea Party. We've been hugely disappointed in the Obama administration for not mounting a more populist, people-oriented challenge to the corporate and banking dominance of our economic system, which has resulted in both the bailout of the banks, and the obscene shift of wealth to an increasingly small number of super-rich Americans. Jones hopes to offer an answer.
It's true that in the wake of the radical right-wing assaults on public workers there has been outrage and push-back, particularly in Wisconsin. Nevertheless, the collection of conservative governors, including those in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Maine, and most recently New Jersey, have spread the gospel of budget cuts and attacks on all things public, including our treasured public school system. Each governor is seemingly trying to outdo the other, but they all operate from the same playbook. So far they are piling up victories that will take some hard work to reverse.
I spoke with Van Jones, and with MoveOn director Justin Rubin, on Tuesday. My initial sense is that they have done their homework. They have done serious thinking and planning and are in a position to create a framework that has the potential to mobilize people who have not yet been engaged. And that will be key, since mobilizing the generally well-off progressive establishment has not proven to be an effective antidote to the powerful right-wing infrastructure and echo chamber. It's time to bite the bullet and energize the grassroots, the disenfranchised, just as the Tea Party, in its early stages, was able to do. Jones will be heading an action center, an operational arm, rebuildthedream.com, which he hopes will play the catalyst to a bigger idea: the emergence of what Jones and Co. are calling the American Dream Movement.
Don Hazen:How did the vision and the structure for the American Dream movement emerge?
Van Jones: Since I left the White House I spent a great deal of time doing two things: studying the Tea Party Movement and going all across the country, speaking to people and listening. What I discovered out there -- and I probably talked to about 30,000 people in the past 12 months, face to face, small groups, big groups, churches, auditoriums, universities, union halls -- what I discovered was an awful lot of pain out there economically.