Can Van Jones Create a 'Left-Wing Tea Party'? Don't Bet on It
You remember Obama’s departed Green czar, the once self-proclaimed revolutionary Communist Van Jones? Well, the man is back. According to Michelle Goldberg, writing in The Daily Beast, on July 23 Jones threw a Washington, D.C., party to announce the creation of what he predicts will be the left-wing’s Tea Party, which he calls the “American Dream Movement.” Goldberg writes:
Launched at a July 23 event in New York City that was part rally, party dance party, the American Dream Movement aims to restore the fight for economic justice to the center of progressive politics. On Aug. 9, the movement put out its crowd-sourced “Contract for the American Dream,” a 10-point economic manifesto that called for new investments in education and infrastructure; higher taxes for corporations, Wall Street and the wealthy; and curbs on lobbyists. The next day, it was published as a full-page ad in The New York Times. Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois will soon introduce the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, legislation based on the document.
Since I read the Times online, I did not see the full–page ad -- one of the benefits of not reading the print edition. Actually, Jones’ movement was first announced last February at the Huffington Post -- but somehow, the earlier announcement produced no traction. Nothing like a re-release to try again.
While Jones introduces it as a left version of the Tea Party, it is more accurately thought of as a 21st century version of the Communist Party’s Popular Front of the 1930s. After all, just as the CPUSA hid its Red politics and communist aims under the guise of “20th century Americanism,” Jones too hides his real aims in a similar fashion. Remember CP’s wartime chief Earl Browder, who proclaimed the slogan “Communism is 20th century Americanism,” under photos of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Karl Marx? The slogan lasted until old Joe Stalin took offense at the audacity of undermining loyalty to the Soviet Union, and ordered that the slogan be ditched overnight.
Jones, as we may recall, in a now famous 2005 newspaper interview said that “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” No longer announcing that he is a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist, Jones is proceeding to try and build social movements along the classic lines of the old communist movement of the 1930s and 40s that he once sought to openly emulate.
With his new movement, Jones hopes not to have to depend for cadre on a small group of East Bay radicals in San Francisco, but to create a movement from above that appears to be like the actual Tea Party, a movement that started from below. It’s a classic CP strategy. As the Old Left sees the New Deal era, FDR was pushed to the Left by a powerful social movement composed of the working class that was organizing the CIO -- the industry-wide new trade union movement. That pressure from below supposedly forced Roosevelt to turn to more left-wing programs, hence the slew of legislation that became the hallmark of the Second New Deal after 1935.
Hence Jones’ belief is that with his American Dream Movement, a groundswell of protest will emerge that will both keep Barack Obama in the White House and at the same time force him to do what the Left so far has not been able to accomplish: openly force him to espouse and to gather momentum for new widespread government spending, all based on increasing the U.S. deficit through Keynesian spending mechanisms.
Of course, in the 1930s there was an actual social movement that was based in reality and enabled labor to eventually reject radicalism and move into the middle class. Big industry welcomed the stability it got through contractual arrangements with big labor, and easily made peace with the unions -- until recent times, when the deals they made came crashing apart under the strain of the collapsed New Deal model of a modern economy.
Now, there is no viable real left-wing movement, except it lives in the dream world of people like Van Jones. As Jones explained it, “The job of leading an independent movement to bring out the best in our country is not the same job as being head of state. I’m glad [Obama] is there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure he stays head of state until they have to pull him out of there. I might block the driveway at the end of 2016. But the job of creating an independent movement that brings out the best in the American people, that’s our job.”
Jones, since he is an old hand of the Left, must realize that an “independent movement” cannot be created by an announcement, by funding from the likes of a George Soros fund for left-wing activity, or by throwing a dance party in Washington, D.C. It has to have some basis in the real world, not just in the minds of leftists. Of course he has deluded followers like Michelle Goldberg, who seems to actually believe that Jones’ “careful study of American political movements” led him to create this one new organization that will succeed because it is the “distillation of what he has learned.”
It sounds pretty old fashioned to this writer. Its umbrella front will be called “Rebuilding the Dream,” and its work will be carried on through the extreme left’s favorite group, MoveOn.Org. How this will lead to success is something Ms.Goldberg cannot explain. Indeed, reveals a bit of desperation for Van Jones, who otherwise would avoid a group like MoveOn.org like the plague. Indeed, MoveOn’s director proclaims that the new Jones group will be “the Tea Party Express.” Goldberg goes on to give what is in fact a rather pathetic example of this. She cite 1500 people gathering at Montana’s state capitol to protest local budget cuts!
What is unique about Jones’ effort -- as sure to fail as his earlier attempts to create a movement -- is his adoption of a patriotic theme -- again, taken directly from the old communist movement playbook. As one of his supporters, Rep. Keith Ellison, says, “I’m so glad that he has clearly recognized that we as progressives cannot concede patriotic themes to the right wing. Why would we ever do that? Everything we love about this country -- the right to vote, equality before the law, the right to organize—these things were won by patriotic Americans.” Members of the Tea Party, he says, “wrap themselves in the flag, but they’re not upholding core American values. We are.”