Van Jones on the American Dream 2.0

By Heather King

Van Jones may have resigned his post as Obama’s green jobs czar, but he continues his crusade for a better America. This afternoon at the SOCAP 2011 conference, he rallied support for the “American Dream 2.0” and railed on the Tea Party.

“There was a tech bubble and a dot com bubble. Now we have the Tea Party bubble,” said Jones, “and I want to pop it.”

In his view, the Obama campaign and administration started off on the right track. The Obama campaign made patriotism cool again, and represented the core American value of ‘e pluribus unum.’ He inspired. The future was all about hope and change, cultural and spiritual renewal disguised as politics. Then the President and his supporters got embroiled in running the government. “We stopped doing what was working for us; our messages were all about subcommittees.”

This created an opening for the Tea Party. They launched their own patriotic story in which Obama was the villain and was a threat to a sacred American value: liberty. It was powerful, and the progressives underestimated the impact. And they have hijacked Obama’s agenda.

Mr. Jones concedes that the Tea Party strategy was well executed and highly leveraged – an open source brand that used wiki technology to galvanize previously existing communities. The originators pulled together 3,528 groups from the Ross Perot era and had them sign on as tea party affiliates. He observed, “There is no Tea Party headquarters or lobby. They don’t exist as a physical entity.”

Six months ago, in an effort to rebuild community and reignite people-powered politics, Jones launched “The American Dream” movement.

“We need to stop criticizing Washington for what it is not doing, and focus on what we as concerned citizens, can do. Change doesn’t come from Washington, it comes to Washington.”

Mr. Jones is working to ‘one up’ the Tea Party movement, using technology and tapping existing support networks. So far, the movement has trumped the Tea Party in terms of number of parties and organizations involved. The American Dream put up a platform with 70 brand name organizations. To date, they have hosted 800 house parties – double that of the Tea Party. They’ve had more media play and received over 24,000 ideas from around the nation on how to fix the economy. From this base, the American Dream is now working to broaden the coalition – reaching out to veterans, farmers, and teachers.

Jones’ charge to the SOCAP 2011 audience: get involved, bring your innovations, bring your leadership. “The time is now to get back on track. Your work is about making this a better country and better world.”

“All levels of American society are starting to move – including Warren Buffet and Howard Shultz. It’s a good sign. It’s an organic uprising. People are going to look around and figure out solutions that make sense – like the green movement.”

Van Jones is currently a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress and a senior policy advisor at Green For All. He also holds a joint appointment at Princeton University as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Heather King

Heather is President of kingconsulting, a leading strategy consulting practice focused on sustainability, clean tech, and green tech. Heather has over 30 years experience working with pioneering technology, consumer, B2B companies and international non-profits - including Apple, Microsoft, Disney. Oracle, Ogilvy, Waste Management, Stanford Center for Social Innovation, Day in the Life, and multiple start ups. She serves on the boards of Trust for Conservation Innovation, a fiscal sponsor and incubator for over two dozen environmental non-profits, and the Presidio Graduate School, the leading MBA/MPA program focused on sustainability.

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