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The Game Has Changed

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Van Jones

Van Jones. Photo Credit: Zach Gross

All the talk since the election has been about Republican weakness, but I want to talk about Democratic strength. Tuesday night was a watershed moment for our country. We have been able to hold together the coalition from 2008. People said that coalition was only lightning in a bottle, all about Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Surprise, surprise. That is not true. This coalition’s organizers were the biggest winner on Election Day — in fact it was a revenge of community organizers.

There is a new governing coalition emerging in this country. It looks different, talks different and thinks different. It has a different view from the traditional electorate. The president won because the African-American community went out in record numbers, and young people stood in long lines in Florida and Ohio and voted. It was also a big night for marriage equality and the right to collective bargaining.

We saw this coalition in 2008, followed by a backlash in 2010. On Tuesday, that 2008 coalition found its voice and reasserted itself at the center of American politics. It was the backlash against the backlash, and smart leaders will recognize that the game has changed. The deficit-mania, tax cuts for the rich, and outright meanness of the far right are losing ideas — a lesson our leaders should remember as we approach the fiscal showdown over the end of the Bush tax cuts.


Van Jones is president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, an organization he helped start in June 2011 to advocate for economic justice. Before that he was a green jobs adviser to President Obama. In April, BillMoyers.com did a Q&A with Jones.

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  • http://twitter.com/Chase821 Chase Stallings

    Van you are so right. A great deal of media attention (especially on Fox) has been devoted to the GOP conspiracy theories and reasons on why they did or did not execute a campaign worthy of defeating President Obama. The fact is that the 2008 campaign resurfaced, restructured, and re energized. In addition, the Romney campaign did more harm than good by trying to restrict voters rights. Those that never voted, did; those that never had ID’s, do; and those that saw through the lies refused to leave the line to cast their vote.

  • SarahS

    I’ve been thinking about you, Van! We need a coalition NOW to fight the Democrat’s tendency to back down and give in, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We need a place and a movement to fight for progressive values, take control of the narrative and put pressure on the President and Congress to do the right thing (which, as it just so happens, is what polls show a majority of the American people want too).

    We need something like MoveOn, only better and more responsive, willing to join with intelligent and thoughtful conservatives such as Andrew Bacevich. We need a powerful web site and charismatic, brilliant people like you to lead us in the early stages of the movement.

    Are you ready for this kind of challenge?

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcus.stringer1 Marcus Stringer

    Don’t forget other immigrant/minority communities. Obama was a known, there were too many unknowns with Romney.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s time for you, Van, to get back in the game. How can we hold the administration’s feet to the fire when it comes to sustainable energy production, energy efficiency and transitioning our economy to one that is green? I’ve been working on these measures since first being elected in a small Vermont town to be Town Energy Coordinator in 1976 and I’m willing to keep working for it. It seems the rules have changed and we need some guidance on how you think we can make a difference. P.S. It was great meeting you at Shelburne Farm in Vermont, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Vermont Natural Resource Council. Thanks for that! I recorded it it you’d like to see your talk – VERY inspirational http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrTKJpDauOM16JEW9w4WRTFjoqxJXpqCV

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=139801036 Mustafah Dhada

    It is clear, the Tea Party-infused conservative right returns to
    Congress severely chastised if not maimed… At present, I hope democrats do
    come to see that the November electoral contest was a battle in part over
    culture and values, not just over change; the battle forward however is and
    will be to empower women, a woman as President, women in equal numbers with men
    in Congress, women as leaders in all walks of life; the battle therefore is not
    solely against proponents of dogma, and faith-based policies… The present
    administration may now have an opportunity to redress the balance of
    socio-economic inequities – but it will have to act with lightening speed.
    Otherwise, the prospect of returning to gridlock will increase as we near
    mid-term elections, which will provide an opportunity for the conservative
    right to come back, and this time with renewed vigor re-crafted to attract a
    new electrical and wider base.

    Should we be faced with another four years of gridlock, I wonder
    what is to become of us? With the rise of the net, the persistent bickering
    among politicians and party apparatchiks, an increasing social disconnect
    amidst us, and nation-wide disillusionment with politics there does seem to be
    a need for a paradigm shift.

    In days bygone it used to be “it is the economy, stupid.” We
    then gave change a chance. I wonder if today “it is culture, stupid.” If so,
    then the age of political ideology may well be over. We need to consider a
    constitutional convention to address issues exacerbating the present state of
    our disunion: electoral reform aimed at direct democracy, finance campaign
    reforms, reform of the judiciary as a value and culture neutral bench with term
    limit appointments, civil personal and reproductive rights, right to bear arms
    perhaps, and the place for religious narratives in American public life and
    public policy.

    The culture wars threaten the text of American secular
    pluralism. God as a narrative in public policy threatens to either determine
    the course of reproductive rights, or silence discourses on human origins, and
    on advances and applications of science and technology. The right to bear arms
    has already traversed its original intentions, from a right birthed in a trough
    of exigency and need to a right borne out by an influential trilogy of culture,
    testosterone, and ersatz justice. The present structure for financing elections
    allows the might of money to manipulate collectively the popular voice of the
    Republic. And as I said this before elsewhere and in greater depth, the list
    continues. (See Empirical Magazine, November Issue.)

    If these issues lead us to revisit and revise any or ALL aspects
    of the constitution, so be it. If these issues mean convening the largest
    meeting of people that the republic has ever seen in its history, so be it.
    Rather that than continue with gridlock.

    Not to recognize the perils we face ahead is to fall silent.
    Sentient citizenship urges us not to. I say this to echo Rev Martin Luther
    King, “A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for” me –
    and perhaps for some of you. Let us rise and march to demand a permanent shift
    in the paradigm – not just change but constitutionally induced transfusion in
    everyday political life in America.

  • Michael

    Globalization of labor has imported low cost exploited labor into every previously industrialized, wealthy nation on earth. Everywhere, people who work for a living, labor, has suffered a blow of epic impact. The solution will un-globalize, by restricting trade, or make the tax rates dramatically more progressive, and make government act as a wealth distributor. I would rather have seen trade restraint, particularly with China, but we appear to be heading down the tax road instead. One or the other, must happen. The industrialized nations are too well informed to continue to live with this wealth disparity. They won’t stand for it.

  • Alice

    Van, you mention two factors helping Obama win, but you didn’t mention the women vote. It was an important factor also. Percentage of women voting for him was higher than men. The Republican War on Women energized women to put a stop to it. They will be as important in 2016.

  • Eileen

    I could not agree more!

  • Mainerocks

    Its time we all give a day or a week to go to Washington and resent our lobby by the millions. MoveOn or Occupy let’s do NOW!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alma.morgan.3 Alma Morgan

    i agree with Van Jones. I am so grateful for everyone who voted for President Obama. The game has changed and I am glad. I think we should go over the fiscal cliff and start over. President Obama can put in his own tax cuts after that. I have really been disappointed in the Republicans.

  • Denny Wise

    I hope we have finally put to rest, the absurd notion that the current re-distribution of wealth from the bottom up toward the 1%, is noble and good, while the potential re-distribution of wealth from the 1% down toward the bottom, is utterly evil.

  • abayomi manrique

    I do not agree with van jones’ assessment. In fact he has fallen out of favour with a lot of community organizers with the way he was so passive after being sacked from the obama administration white house earlier. I do not think that the coalition he is speaking of exists. The vote for obama was not necessarily one for his administration but an attempt to get away from the ultra=conservative romney. Everyone knows that Obama is romney lite so I believe van jones should rescind his commentary.

  • Travis Porter de Leon

    I’d like to stay in touch on this.. I’m bay area based, and I’m feeling the call for such a movement, like so many are right now!!! the time is ripe for a really strong progressive movement.. I have some ideas and strategies, we can build together or be allies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664746728 Winter Green

    Van, please also get more creative. Here are a list of jobs we can create in the millions right now:locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

    1) Build millions of miles of bike and horse paths
    2) Replant diversified forests, grasslands and hedgerows
    3) Tear down derelict buildings and parking lots and plant urban farms
    4) Retrofit all buildings
    5) Build light rail and trollies
    6) Clean up every creek, stream, river, lake, beach
    7) Put solar hot water and micro wind on all buildings
    8) Develop clean energy
    9) Put water catchment on all buildings
    10) Modernize water, sewage systems
    11) Put all power lines under ground

    We also have to break up all the Global Giant Corporations. When Coca Cola owns 500 brands something is wrong. When every Mall and strip Mall has the same businesses, something is wrong. When multi-national franchises are considered ‘small businesses’ something is wrong. There is ‘no competition’. One role of ‘government’ is to make certain Business serves our society and environment not controls and destroys.

  • Z Wright

    In addition to strategy and the ground game, We have a real leader in the White House…President Obama is a good Prez.