Van, Again the Man

How Glenn Beck and Fox News may have just unleashed progressives' greatest hope. The wingnuts won't have Van Jones to kick...

How Glenn Beck and Fox News may have just unleashed progressives' greatest hope.

The wingnuts won't have Van Jones to kick around anymore. Victim of a month-long, flagrantly dishonest smear campaign orchestrated by Glenn Beck at Fox News, Jones resigned last Saturday-as you've surely heard-from his post as the White House's special adviser for green jobs, enterprise, and innovation.

Thank you, Glenn Beck, for giving us Van Jones back.

Like many folks who've long admired Jones's work, upon first hearing that he'd been offered a job in the administration, I was torn. Yes, it was a validation of the "green collar" vision, one that would presumably be delivered by a true progressive visionary within the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But anyone who'd ever talked to Jones or seen him speak-recognizing him, then, as the most powerful, charismatic, and eloquent communicator in the whole environmental realm-worried about what the movement would be losing when he stepped into the hypersensitive, message-controlled, make-no-waves halls of Washington. Surely he'd have to tone it down, rein in the rhetoric, and play nice for no drama Obama. Many of us knew deep down that this wasn't how he made an impact. As Arianna Huffington so rightly put it, "Van Jones was the best person for the job he just gave up. But the job was not the best use of Van Jones."

Now don't get me wrong, the fringe Right's take down of Jones is sobering and sad, and more than a little bit scary. Lies-loudly repeated lies-brought him down. Beck's screaming points have been debunked again and again, and weren't even taken seriously at first. ("We all blew it," Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope confessed.) Dave Roberts at Grist, one of the very few people who stood up to the scam as it was unleashed, squashed one after the next of Beck's faulty claims: Jones was never a "green jobs czar" ("there is no such thing"), nor was he a "criminal" or an "ex-con" (and he was "never charged with a crime, much less convicted"). Jones's old boss, Eva Paterson, held up more truths about his personal history against the deceptive bile spewing from Fox News. But the lies rang louder.

Thankfully, the silver lining here is quite bright. Jones has been pulled out from behind a desk deep in the shadows of D.C., "a low-level political appointee," as Roberts wrote, "with two Senate-confirmed layers between him and Obama," and is free again to do his best work: speaking the truth about climate, energy, and economy; promoting solutions; and rallying citizens around the cause. For a progressive environmental movement that is desperately short on charisma, an unmuzzled Van Jones is exactly what we need. And now, thanks to Beck, he's more of a household name. More famous. More influential. More powerful.

Jones has the spotlight. He's also got a freshly-motivated network of support from throughout the progressive and environmental community-from his partners, colleagues, and supporters who regret sitting a little too silent as he was chewed up and spat out of Washington. And he's got a vision, a broad comprehensive vision spelled out in his book, The Green Collar Economy, for how America can effectively combat climate change, while reducing our energy dependence and creating millions of jobs for those hungriest for work. The environmental and progressive movement badly needs more powerful, electrifying voices. Jones just got his back. So while the unceremonious exit of Van Jones, politician, should cause us all quite a bit of unease, Van Jones, activist, organizer, leader, has his best work ahead.


Beck Backfire Book Buy: The paperback version of Van Jones's book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, will be released at the end of the month. The hardcover, published a year ago to much acclaim, hit The New York Times Best-Seller list. So should the paperback. In it, Jones provides a blueprint for how we can, as a nation, combat climate change, achieve energy security, and bring millions of new jobs to the Americans who need them most. I rarely ask anyone to buy anything, but we should all stand up and support Jones (better late than never), purchase the paperback, and put The Green Collar Economy back on the best-seller lists. (Guess who's atop the paperback nonfiction list now?)

Van Jones photo (cc) by Flickr user PSD.

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