Truthout Interview with Van Jones

Amy B. Dean had a great, wide-ranging interview at Truthout with Van Jones about the problems facing the American middle class, how they might be addressed, and where he sees himself and other leaders in the movement.Here are some of the highlights:On what the real conflict is:

"The real fight is not between conservatives and liberal, or even between Wall Street and Main Street. The real fight is between 'cheap patriots,' who are trying to destroy the American dream and 'deeper patriots,' who are trying to restore it. It's really a fight between two different versions of patriotism, two visions of what American greatness will require in the next century.

"You have these cheaper patriots who have taken their wrecking ball agenda," Jones explained, "painted it red, white and blue and used it to smash down all of the institutions that made America exceptional: unions, public schools, the sense of responsibility among Americans to invest in the country that made their success possible."

On what needs to be rebuilt in order to rebuild the American Dream:

"I don't have a magic answer to the question," Jones said, "but I do try to promote a process that will get us closer to good answers. It's going to take a mix of approaches, some of them governmental, some having to do with individual behavior, some of them having to do with finding smarter ways for the labor movement to revive. But fundamentally, the deck is stacked against patriotic corporations that want to hire in America.


"So there has to be change in trade and tax policy. But also, we can't wait on Washington, DC to fix these things."

On learning from the Tea Party:

"On the whole, what we call the Tea Party represents a set of preexisting assets - both ideas and individual organizations that long pre-dated the declaration of the new movement. Some of them go back to the Ross Perot days. Yet this set of libertarian ideas was not taken very seriously, even within the Republican Party.

"It's sheer genius to be able to take a very old set of ideas and an aging set of assets and realign them and re-brand them so that they must be taken seriously in the current context. That's something we can learn from the Tea Party: How to take existing infrastructure and ideas but find a way to re-present them to the American people.

On leadership:

"One of our aspirations is to create a banner under which many leaders can shine and grow and learn, but where no one leader is the personification of the movement. People will always let you down. Principles endure. So having a network that is based on principles and values first, not based on politicians or even a political party, is critical.

As I said, these are just some of the highlights. Van Jones gets into some more specifics on all of those points, and also talks quite a bit about how he personally approaches his work. As they say, read the rest

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