The Wrong Black Man: Van Jones’ Faux Activism

June 29, 2011  |  

As of late, the Left end of the political blogosphere has been all abuzz about a grassroots group started by Van Jones.  Jones is most remembered as a former activist, Green Czar, and the second (Rev. Jeremiah Wright being the first) in a long line of black and brown people thrown under the bus by Obama. I haven’t heard this much hoopla about an organization since another black man, equally as vacuous, promised change we could believe in back in 2008.

Seeing as how there’s been no substantive change in the status quo since Obama took office, thus ripping open a gaping leadership chasm on the Left, I’m not surprised that liberals have chosen another black man as the embodiment of their political ambitions. The problem is that, yet again, they’ve got the wrong black man. At this point, I’m unsure if those on the Left who supported Obama and now support Van Jones are activists or L.A.P.D. patrol squads.

I mean, how many times can they pick the wrong black guy based on a murky, but generally agreed upon, standard that he fit the description? In the lead-up to the kick-off of Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream launch, Jones tweaked his predecessor’s motto a bit, boldly announcing that “it’s not ‘Yes He Can’, it’s ‘Yes We Can’, thereby shifting the responsibility of governance from Obama to the American people. This was the first Van Jones assertion to get my spidey senses tingling. Because no matter which side of the aisle you come out on, we should all agree that the responsibility of governing rests with the people we elected; members of Congress and the President.

The people made their choice at the ballot box, now it’s up to our elected officials to carry out their end of the bargain. If not, then what are they doing on Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue anyway? If they are not responsible for translating their campaign promises into legislation, then we’d all be better off setting up tent cities in Washington D.C. and coalescing around a direct democratic model.

Van Jones’ call to action – that we are responsible for our own governance – is weak. It’s weak because it is a thinly veiled ruse to drum up support for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Only a week after NetRoots attendees voiced their displeasure with Obama’s tepid approach at executive leadership, Van Jones kicks off his “we’re the problem and the solution” outfit and expects us to believe that it’s the natural outgrowth of activism? I don’t buy it. I think Van Jones’ leadership role in this organization is payback from the White House for his willingness to exit without incident after he was summarily fired without cause. I know one thing for certain:  The role of Van Jones is that of gatekeeper, not activist. He’s part of the power ecosystem now.

In exchange for bowing to Glenn Beck, he’s been awarded a platform. A platform that allows him to redirect the broad dissatisfaction that liberals have with Obama to the Tea Party.Van Jones doesn’t desire to usher in real transformation of our political system anymore than our President does. They have power.  Why would they seek to alter or diminish it? And our battle is not with ourselves but those with real power. Our battle is not with a handful of Tea Partiers who hold seats in the House and Senate, but with a group of Democrats who hold a majority in the Senate and one Democrat who occupies the Oval Office.

These are the people we voted for and these are the people who abandoned us. Someone should tell Mr. Jones that most Democrats didn’t vote for the Tea Party in 2008 or 2010 and thus, aren’t looking to hold Tea Partiers responsible for pushing the progressive agenda.

But since our vote is our currency in this transactional enterprise  known as  politics, and since we did vote for Obama and a slew of other anemic Democrats, we are looking to Democrats to hold up their end of the bargain. If Rebuild the Dream aims to hold real people with real power accountable for real failures, then I’m game. But if the aim of the organization is to jedi mind trick us into believing that the Tea Party is the reason for our season of discontent, then spare me. And most certainly don’t insult me.

The democrats don’t need us to rally in order to get the job done. They need them. And until Van Jones and others can get onboard with that idea, I’ll pass on rebuilding the dream and opt instead for tearing down the status quo. This, of course, is the real job of activists.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger. She currently publishes two blogs, and

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