Despite Flaws, Van Jones a Compelling Progressive Voice

COMMENTARY | Controversial green activist Van Jones used the Take Back the American Dream Conference as a platform for advocating a more radical approach to progressive politics. Suggesting that the moderate majority needs to counter the tea party with an equally devoted faction of its own, Jones accurately identified the Democratic Party’s biggest problem: a lack of motivation.

Jones suggests the tea party succeeds because it is decentralized and independent from any specific candidate. “We talk collectively … but we have enacted the most individualistic strategy in the republic,” Jones says, referring to the tendency of progressives to look to President Obama to realize their agenda for them, according to Fox News.

Much has been made of the drop in enthusiasm among Obama supporters. The president focused on this issue in a recent speech, per The Washington Post: “I have to make sure that our side is as passionate and as motivated and is working just as hard as the folks on the other side.”

Jones agreed.

“We’ve been wrong,” he insisted, according to Yahoo! News. “We had the wrong theory of the presidency…We thought that if by electing a single person, an individual who was inspiring…we could sit back and pop popcorn and just watch him.

“You can have a crappy president, [But] if you have a strong movement we can get the job done.”

There’s some question about whether or not Jones is actually backing the president here. However, this quote does illustrate that while Jones often puts his foot in his mouth, he’s an effective motivator with a clear vision of where the progressive movement needs to go.

Jones has too many skeletons in his closet to make his own political run, but just enough to render him a formidable opponent to conservatives and a consequential force for pursuing a more aggressive style of activism. In 2009 Jones resigned after less than five months as special adviser to the White House for green jobs. With some embarrassment the White House admitted he had not been adequately vetted, according to The Washington Post.

Jones apologized for calling congressional Republicans “A–holes.” He also insisted that he did not agree with a petition sponsored by “truther” group 9/11 Truth which bore his signature. The petition advances the notion that Washington was somehow “in on” the terrorist events of 9-11, according to ABC News.

Jones admits he was once a communist, and he has a past affiliation with Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), a now defunct group of Bay Area activists who embraced Marxist ideology.

Jones has characterized his involvement with communist and socialist activities as youthful indiscretions, abandoned with age and wisdom. These experiences give his resume a dangerous edge appropriate for a man who aspires to grow a branch of the Democratic Party extreme enough to counter the tea party.

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