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Rebuild the Dream Hardcover – April 3, 2012
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This guy is a Yale-educated lawyer, he is a best-selling authority about his specialty.”
Howard Dean, Former Governor of Vermont, Presidential Candidate and Chair of the Democratic National Committee
Van is a gifted leader of ideas and of action. He makes connections, thinks beyond the box, and inspires others to join He inspired people across the country with the insight that the transition to a sustainable economy could be the greatest jobs program since the mobilization for World War II and that we could insure that those who were left out of the old economy could be central to the green jobs of the new economy.”
Robert Borosage, President of Institute for America's Future
Van Jones has worked tirelessly to bring jobs and environmental progress to some of the poorest communities in our nation. His dedication and leadership are exactly what we need more of in Washington.”
Justin Ruben, Executive Director of Moveon.org
Jones is an extraordinarily important leader. He cares, passionately, about helping young men and women find their way in the world, even if they had the misfortune to grow up in bad neighborhoods or make bad choices and he sees in a new green economy a powerful instrument to heal their lives.”
Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club
About the Author
Van Jones is founding president of Rebuild the Dream, a pioneering initiative to restore good jobs and economic opportunity. He is the co-founder of three, thriving organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All. Jones is the author of the New York Times best seller, The Green Collar Economy.
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Jones tries hard to navigate all this, arguing strenuously that polarization has to be overcome and policy proposals have to serve the 100%, not the 1% as conservatives are routinely accused of favoring, or some fragment of the other 99% as the fragments of the left favor. This book provides a useful analysis of the social movements behind the rise of Obama, and especially social movements of various stripes since the 2008 election. More could be said about all of this, but Jones provides one of the few analyses out there of both the Tea Party and Occupy/the 99%. Not surprisingly, Jones criticizes the Tea Party and its "cheap patriots" for offering proposals that in practice will not benefit many people and thus weaken the country. But to his credit, he recognizes that the Tea Party has an electoral agenda and has been very effective at advancing toward its goals insofar as its candidates have won elections and it has colonized the Republican party. On the other hand, Jones organizes a large portion of the book around the logic of Occupy, which suggests favoritism, but Jones also acknowledges that Occupy has explicitly disdained and avoided electoral politics, seeking deeper and more fundamental change. How that will play out, and whether it will have a chance if the Tea Party continues to get its candidates elected, remains to be seen.
Jones also provides some useful analysis via Grid Theory to make the point that in politics, having stories that yank our emotions matter, in addition to clear policy proposals. As critics of this book have noted, this point is itself not new. Nonetheless, it is especially important in the current political moment, given the irrational hysterics on Fox News and right-wing blogs about the Obama Administration, as contrasted with the administration's dry and technical responses to the economic crisis. Similarly, the logical fallacies of the Tea Party haven't blunted the impacts of their effective use of info-bites, images and stories; interestingly, Occupy has sought to combine hard facts with their own turns of phrase, images and stories. Despite these similarities, Jones recognizes, the impact of the first is so far much more evident than that of the second.
For me the most important passage in the book is on pp. 233-235. Here, Jones makes the case for why Occupy/the 99% needs to define itself and practice as "the 99% for the 100%". Jones draws crucial distinctions here. It is not wealth per se that is the problem, it is cheating to get it and pretending that the system is a meritocracy. A market system is vital, but becomes dangerous when it is rigged and yet our elected representatives pretend it is not. And the 1% per se is not the problem, but rather a system that protects the 1% when they risk and lose and expect others to bail them out. These points build bridges among elements of ostensibly adversarial politics by bringing together traditional conservative values such as personal accountability with liberal values like equal treatment. If somebody can take that ball and carry it, then there is hope. Jones includes not a little self-promotion in this book, but he also makes clear that this is not his ball to carry; it will require a movement, and that sentiment is consistent with the logic of advocating for the 100%.
Despite this plethora of doom and gloom, Jones firmly believes that we, as Americans, have within our grasp, the means to extricate ourselves from this economic abyss. We can't do this as we have, though, by placing too much trust and faith in the almighty powers of the free enterprise system, Jones attests. Regulation and responsible ARE necessary despite what libertarians and anti-government types trumpet. We need an internal movement, a grassroots expansion of the Occupy movement well-directed and orchestrated. The corporatists have succeeded in wresting government's function from We the People are we NEED to get it back. But it won't be easy. Nothing worthwhile is.
In one notable section, Jones speaks about cheap patriots vs. deep patriots. Cheap patriots are those who profess allegiance and wave the flag to be conspicuously viewed by others while setting up offshore tax havens bilking their government and their nation from billions of tax receipts. Many of them are also "chicken hawks", heaping mountains of praise upon those who served in wars where, of course, they were able to sidestep due to privilege and bloodlines. Deep patriots are many of those from the less-privileged classes who actually DID serve, pay their full tax share and love their country by questioning authority for the good of many.
Jone's book is a call to action and not outside reality. In fact, he insists, it needs to happen to recapture our government's function, restore it to the people and slowly, by steadily, Rebuild the Dream before it becomes a quaint memory.