Is Van Jones ‘Rebuild the Dream’ Book a Blueprint for the ’99% Spring?’
Reflecting on his brief but pivotal stint at the White House and even delving into the media onslaught he claims was waged against him by Glenn Beck, former Obama administration green jobs czar, Van Jones, has released a memoir entitled, “Rebuild the Dream.” Named after his “progressive Tea Party,” the book reflects on Jones’ “journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider” and appears to lay out a blueprint for his upcoming “99% Spring” uprising.
Rebuild the Dream also claims to give readers insight into why Jones “chose to resign as special adviser to the Obama White House.” Or, as Jones put it, why he was forced to resign from the White House after Glenn Beck “and his minions” launched a “jihad” against him. This, Jones said, was in retaliation for the successful media boycott his group, “Color of Change,” engineered to “rid the national air-waves of Beck” by obliterating the media figure’s advertising base on the Fox News network.
Ousted from the White House
Of the incident, Jones writes, ”Color of Change’s crusade to rid the national air-waves of Beck was destined to become one of the most successful pushes for an advertiser boycott in the history of the American media.” He adds “hundreds of top national advertisers deserted the show and never came back.”
“Fox News could make very little money on the highly watched program — because only marginal companies were willing to risk being associated with Beck. To retaliate, Beck launched a jihad… I was an easy target. Beck and his minions could dig up a photo of me in my angry young man phase, with my dreadlocks and combat boots and Black Panther book bag. They could prove that I’d studied Marxism. They could find a more recent video in which I had used vulgarity to describe the GOP…”
But in addition to those historical truths Beck and his “minions” were able to unearth during their “jihad,” Jones asserts that they also simply “made stuff up” and that “nutty” Beck’s “lies and libels were endless.” He maintains throughout the book that he had not signed a petition calling the September 11 attacks an inside U.S. government conspiracy, but that regardless of the truth, the scrutiny eventually pushed him from the White House.
Downtrodden by the event, Jones wroties it was not until he was inspired by Al Gore’s example that he was able to move on.
Van Jones and the 99% Spring
But while such story-lines may lend the narrative a modicum of drama and entertainment value, Van Jones’ book might in fact serve a grander purpose — namely as road-map for participants in his upcoming “99% Spring” revolution.
Bear in mind Rebuild the Dream promises to deliver to readers “a powerful game plan to restore hope, fix our democracy and renew the American Dream” — all similar platitudes espoused by Jones on a near-regular basis since launching his progressive movement and its “Contract to Rebuild the American Dream.” As it happens, Jones is in fact one of the prime movers behind an upcoming “American Spring.”
It is when taking into account these very puzzle pieces combined with Jones’ book, that a picture begins to form — one where Jones may very well see himself as a revolutionary, leading a newly-formed American uprising.
The movement, which promises to “rise up” and ”reshape” the country through non-violent action “in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi,” sounds as if it was crafted from the very pages of Jones’ book, Rebuild the Dream. Take, for instance, the following passage from the 99% Spring website:
Every day, the American Dream seems a little farther away. More of our grandparents are being thrown from their homes. Our mothers and fathers can’t retire because their pension funds tanked. Our brothers and sisters are burdened by student loan debt. For our children, budget cuts have resulted in crumbling schools, skyrocketing class sizes, and teachers being denied the supports they need to do their best. Our friends and family are being denied collective bargaining rights in their workplaces and are falling further and further behind. Our neighbors are being poisoned by pollution in our air and water.
The site goes on to write that the above scenario occurred by no accident, but rather was a direct “result of rampant greed—the deliberate manipulation of our democracy and our economy by a tiny minority in the 1%, by those who amass ever more wealth and power at our expense”:
We are at a crossroads as a country. We have a choice to make. Greater wealth for a few or opportunity for many. Tax breaks for the richest or a fair shot for the rest of us. A government that can be bought by the highest bidder, or a democracy that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Sound familiar? Even more strikingly, the introduction to Jones’ book begins with the title: ”Rebuild the Dream for the 99%.” He goes on to state that it will “take a movement” comprising “millions of people” to “rescue and renew” this dream and that this dream can only be realized if done so in the spirit of “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Not coincidentally, it should perhaps also be noted Jones’ book was released on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
Glenn Beck discussed the 99% Spring and Van Jones’ return in detail back in February:
As the first Obama official to release a book, Jones memoir appears to express some disillusionment with the administration, hinting it will provide readers with an explanation as to why the 2008 “‘hope’ bubble burst.” Jones also promises to reveal “the seven biggest mistakes made by the White House and its supporters.”
But other excerpts from the book description reveal a familiar narrative — one where Main Street “plays by the rules” yet “cannot succeed” while “the worst of Wall Street break every rule, but cannot fail.” The book jacket adds:
He explores the origin and fate of the movements that helped to elect President Obama, as well as those that have challenged and shaped his presidency. Along the way, Jones systematically reveals surprising parallels between Obama’s people-powered campaign, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. [...] At this pivotal moment, Jones argues that we must make our economy respect the 99% and work for the 100%, not just the 1%.
Ideas inspired by “progressive values”
Passages of the book relive moments Jones shared with his father, described as a “by the boot-strap” school principal who escaped southern segregation by joining the U.S. military in a law enforcement capacity and who later went on to put himself through college. Jones benefited from his parents’ tenacity and propensity for higher learning, subsequently earning entry into one of the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions, Yale University.
But Yale was not the experience Jones had imagined it would be — at least according to his account. There, he claims he witnessed injustices perpetrated against “inner-city” kids while those who hailed from affluent backgrounds were essential given a free pass. It was then, he wrote, that a “rage” within him began to boil over.
That reveals a turning point in Jones’ life that would shape his political and social justice aspirations forevermore.
But perhaps one of the most telling aspect of Jones’ book is outlined in its vow to propose “bold ideas” inspired “by the progressive values that made the twentieth century the ‘American Century.’”
If you have been following “The Glenn Beck program” closely over the last month, this theme will likely ring familiar, as Beck has explored in depth the roots and current trajectory of the progressive movement and its purported value-system. Based on Jones’ belief that “progressive values” made the twentieth century great, this seems a key element of the leftist-agenda and one worth noting.
Influenced by the Tea Party
In his book, Jones maintains that the president — any president — walks a political “tightrope.” If moved either too far to the left or right, he or she will lose balance and succumb to the “political laws of gravity.” It is in this tightrope metaphor, Jones posits, that the ”genius” of the Tea Party is revealed.
He asserts that the Tea Party did not try to “move the tightrope walker” but instead “moved the tightrope itself.” It is not difficult to guess in which direction Jones surmises that move took place. Countering this upheaval is the Occupy movement, which, according to Jones returned the tightrope to its former place — but still needs to keep moving.
That’s echoed in the way the first section of Jones’ book is divided: three parts tracing the evolution of recent political movements. In the first part, Jones examines the political movements that “ultimately coalesced” around Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008. “I analyze the success and setbacks of both the Obama administration and grassroots movements seeking change,” Jones writes. He then claims he will answer the following questions: “What can Americans who want to fix the system learn” from “hope and change” and what can be learned “from its collapse after he [Obama] entered the White House.”
Part two examines “the rise and triumph” of the Tea Party movement in 2009 and 2010 and asks what progressives can learn from the Tea Party’s “equally impressive capture of the national debate …and its successful pivot to electoral politics in 2010.”
Part three discusses the emergence of Occupy Wall Street and the “99%” and what it can do over the long-term to achieve its ultimate goal.
It seems then, in keeping true to his claim that Rebuild the Dream is a “progressive Tea Party,” Jones gleans lessons from the Libertarian-leaning movement in order to instruct the rise of the 99% Spring. In essence, he wishes for progressives to emulate the Tea Party model to gain entry in electoral politics and to do so in an even more successful way than conservatives have done.
The second section of the book introduces a framework for studying narratives which underscore “the role of villains, threats, heroes, vision and patriotism” in moving American public life forward. It also discusses the “novel application of the swarm theory” to the Obama “phenomenon,” the Tea Party and the Occupy movement.
But in addressing the “swarm theory,” or swarm intelligence, Jones may be disparaging the very people he seeks his own movement to emulate. Swarm theory is an organic phenomenon that gives creatures that do not possess individual intelligence the ability to thrive through a “collective” reaction to stimuli. This behavior is what gives ant colonies the ability to carry out its daily functions in what seems such a clever way. It seems Jones might consider activists ineffective on their own, but en masse, a force with which to reckoned.
The final section of the book explores pathways toward creating a movement “powerful enough to rescue the 99%.”
Cheap patriots versus deep patriots
Another noteworthy entry in Jones’ new book is a section dedicated to what he calls “cheap patriots versus deep patriots.”
The “cheap” patriots, in this instance, are likely the Tea Party, which Jones accuses of taking a “wrecking ball to America’s government.” He adds that the Tea Party’s “reckless policies ” will financially “decimate” the country.
“The cheap patriots seem to despise most of the American people, hate America’s achievements and fear America’s government. So how come those people get to be called patriots—but not us?” Jones asks.
“A movement of the 99 percent for the 100 percent—powered by a deep love of working people and laying claim the best of our nation’s values—could yet transform our nation.”
Inviting the 99% to join forces with Rebuild the Dream
In an interview with Democracy now, the former green jobs czar discussed the role Occupy Wall Street should play in aiding President Obama’s reelection. He also defended his Rebuild the Dream movement claiming it is not trying to co-opt the Occupy movement but rather invite the “99%” to join forces:
“Occupy saved the country from destruction”
But clues on Jones’ 99% Spring intentions have been mounting for months. Just recently while in Los Angeles, Jones reinforced his pro-Occupy narrative by stating members of the 99% actually “saved the entire country from destruction.”
“[The] Occupy movement pretty much saved the entire country from destruction,” he said.
“Both political parties were barreling toward more austerity, more cutbacks, more pain for the people and more — basically both political parties had managed to converge on this idea of basically no rules for the rich, no rights for the poor, no middle class to speak of. That was basically the agenda, the question was just how much pain how fast.”
He then credited Occupy Wall Street for prompting “even Republicans” to take pause and “talk about income inequality.”
“The American nightmare”
Indeed, Jones has been making his media rounds. On March 21, The Blaze’s Becket Adams reported on a visit the former self-proclaimed Marxist paid to a rally in Hawaii where he focused on tearing down “the American fantasy,” which, according to Jones is where everyone “is going to be rich.”
“Everybody. And we’re all going to be able to ride out to the great white suburbs, get a McMansion, get flat-screened TV to cover up the holes in our lives,” he said.
“That is the American fantasy, which is turning out to be the American nightmare. It is dying out on its own accord – it deserves no defense and it will get no defense. I am glad that is going away. That was not serving anybody.”
Finally, Jones talked about the 99% Spring at the “All in for the 99%” rally in Los Angeles on March 31:
So has Van Jones gone from merely a charismatic activist to becoming a prime architect of an all-out American uprising? Is his book, “Rebuild the Dream,” a blueprint for the upcoming 99% Spring that Jones along with unions, communists, progressives and Occupiers alike have been promising? A review of Jones’ history and recent public addresses combined with the telling content for his book just may indicate the answer.
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