Rebuild The Dream

Sometimes you have to wonder if conservative leaders, to the extent that they do reflect on their actions, regret their role in hounding Van Jones out of the White House.

Jones, a charismatic speaker and organizer, was toiling in relative obscurity in President Obama’s administration, promoting “green jobs,” when Glenn Beck targeted Jones as an agent of Obama’s supposed black socialist agenda. Beck used his Fox News show to smear Jones in the most vile terms until Jones quit to remove himself as a distraction.

Now Jones has returned as organizer of Rebuild The Dream, which he hopes will create a progressive populist movement to restore the American Dream — that hard work and education can result in a better life in the middle class that the corporatized Republican Party has been working for the last 40 years to destroy.

In a sense, Jones is trying to recreate Barack Obama’s movement from 2008, but without Obama at the head. “It’s time for the deep patriots to stand up to the cheap patriots,” Jones told progressive activists at Netroots Nation in Minneapolis June 21.

He explained to progressive activists that Obama had a “meta-brand,” to which progressives affiliated.

“And that’s why 2008 felt so great. You know why? Because you didn’t have to quit your labor union to be a part of this meta-brand. You didn’t have to leave your lesbian rights group to be a part. You got to keep everything you ever had, you got to keep your identity, everything you were passionate about. You could still put on that baseball cap and be a part of something bigger: That’s a meta-brand.

“And we thought ‘Well, you could only do that if you got a presidential candidate.’ But our friends in the Tea Party said, ‘Au contraire.’ ... They have their own groups. They have their own causes. But they came up with a meta-brand too, called the ‘Tea Party.’ And they affiliated to that.”

But Jones noted, “There is no Tea Party. You can’t go to Washington, D.C. and go to the Tea Party Headquarters Building, buzz on the buzzer, go into the lobby, steal a mint ... This is an open-source brand, that 3,528 affiliates have agreed to use, but nobody owns. They operate off of an operating system called the ‘Contract From America.’ The Contract From America was written by 100,000 people, as a ‘wiki.’ [a document that is written and edited collaboratively on a website by a community] ...

“They talk rugged individualism – that’s their whole schtick, right? ‘If you had a problem, don’t look to the government. Just be more rugged, and more individual. And your problem will be solved.’ ... But they have enacted the most collectivist strategy for taking power in the history of the Republic. Because they use an open-source meta-brand that they all share, they wrote their document as a wiki, and they’re based on a principle and a value. And as a result, you now live in their world, 24 months after you thought we had changed everything.”

Jones proposed that progressives find a common banner to march under — one that nobody owns, and that speaks to American values that progressives can affiliate with. The movement would not rely on a single charismatic individual, he said, “because people are fallible. People let you down ... but principles are enduring. And values are enduring. And it’s time for us not to just have a charismatic leader, but a charismatic network.”

Working with progressive groups such as MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for Community Change, Progressive Strategies and the organized labor coalition Change to Win, Jones proposed that the movement “crowdsource” a people’s agenda at RebuildTheDream.com and on Twitter @RebuildDream. (If you don’t have Internet access, try Campaign for America’s Future, which has a phone number: 202-955-5665.)

Jones recalled that, as a kid, he watched Popeye the Sailor, who would get pushed around by the bad guys until, at a certain point, Popeye would say, “I’ve had alls I can stand, and I can’t stands no more!”

“Well, I’m here to tell you, after a two-year, unmitigated smear campaign – not just against me, but against you and every value we hold – I have had all I can stand, Fox TV, and I can’t stand no more,” Jones said.

“Dr. Martin Luther King said never let someone drive you so low that you will hate him,” Jones added. “That’s not our movement. We can be outraged, but we don’t hate anybody ... I’m mad, but I’m not hateful.”

He challenged Beck to a debate in the week remaining before Beck left Fox News. (Beck never accepted the challenge.) Jones concluded, “Let’s have this fight. Let’s have this discussion. Let’s have this argument, let’s have this battle of ideas, battle of ideas, and let’s fight for Liberty and Justice for All.”

We constantly hear that liberals and progressives must do a better job of framing the issues, but the right has an inherent advantage in framing progressives such as Jones (as well as Obama). After all, the right is on the side of organized money, and there is no more wonderful organizing principle than an open purse such as the world’s corporations can afford.

Unfortunately, progressives tend to represent the interests of people who have the truth on their side, but less cash on hand, in pursuing such radical notions as providing for the health, education and welfare of working people. That agenda, after all, is no more radical than the teaching of Jesus Christ in the Gospels (though some right-wing preachers apparently have not gotten that far in the New Testament).

It is remarkable that solid majorities of Americans still support progressive ideals such as Social Security and Medicare (including expansion of Medicare to cover everybody). Those progressive views hold on despite the hostility of corporate media pundits to those programs, which the conventional wisdom in D.C. deems to be archaic holdovers from the New Deal and Great Society.

Election totals show that Democrats are at least roughly equal to Republicans in popularity. That seems to prove that the commercial radio and TV market is unfairly tilted by owners of stations and networks. Talk radio is 90% conservative and Republicans routinely outnumber Democrats on the Sunday network talk shows, and the Dems who are allowed on generally are corporate friendly. Only 21% of Americans called themselves liberal in 2010, the Gallup Poll found last December. But 80% oppose cuts in Medicare and Social Security and support a surtax on millionaires to balance the budget instead of more budget cuts. But the working majority has trouble getting their act together.

We think that is why Republicans have resisted the DISCLOSE Act that would require corporations to at least disclose their political activity, which often tries to drive a wedge into the working majority. Republicans also have sought to reduce funding at federal and state levels for public broadcasting, which is more likely to at least remain neutral in its reporting.

The Internet offers an opportunity for liberals and progressives to get their views out to the middle class, but the corporations are trying to figure out how to put tollbooths on the Information Superhighway and Republicans are resisting “net neutrality” efforts to prevent Internet service providers from controlling content and limiting competition.

In the past few elections, seniors who largely relied on commercial radio and TV for their news have preferred Republican candidates, while younger people who increasingly get their news over the Internet have supported Democrats. That is encouraging.

Publications like The Progressive Populist still have an important role, of course, in providing a forum for debate on issues that have an impact on workers, small businesses and family farmers, and we hope you continue to enjoy our twice-monthly tabloid newspaper. But the 2008 election of Barack Obama showed that the Internet and blogs such as DailyKos.com and MoveOn.org have changed the game. Big Money would like to change it back. We can’t let them. Rebuild The Dream can help progressives get back on the offensive. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2011


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2011 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652