Van Jones' Exit from Eden
This morning, I woke up to several friends’ Facebook statuses or posted links telling me that Van Jones, Obama’s Green Jobs “czar” (I need to make an aside here, to say how thoroughly I detest that ridiculous job title… what the fuck are we doing, borrowing that from the Romonovs, the Kaisers, and Roman Emperors from Augustus onwards?), has resigned under fire from right wing bozos.
Okay. To tell the truth, I lead a sheltered life vis-à-vis the American media. I am not a TV snob, per se, but I pretty much stopped watching TV around about the beginning of the second war in Iraq… I was at home, those nights, watching the US bombing of Baghdad, and it sickened me to such an extent that I had to stop watching the news, and then TV in general.
I never really got back to it, and Netflix and the internet are so ubiquitous now that I mostly get my news from a) The Guardian.UK online; b) Livejournal; c) Facebook links; d) Wikipedia. These sources only glancingly reveal refracted views of stuff like FoxNews and the various talking head shows. I don’t know from right wing pundits, honestly. In fact, I absolutely shocked my ex this summer by not knowing who Glenn Beck was. So, now I know what an asshole Glenn Beck is. Fine. But how do such idiotic wingnuts manage to shape loud (if not majoritarian) public opinion via their cretinous radio shows etc?
I have seen clips of the Town Hall meetings and lunatics denouncing socialistic single payer health care. And Obama retreats from his extremely watered down position in the face of their frothing at the mouth, though likely more from the unrelenting pressure of Big Pharma lobby cartels. I mean, Obama does seem to actually know what socialist economic theory and leftist debate IS (cf. pp. 100-101, and elsewhere, in Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father, which yes, I have read), though I imagine Bill Clinton didn’t remain ignorant of them in college either.
But Obama’s politics are no closer to socialism of any stripe than Clinton’s were. I’m not saying that anyone on the Left is laboring under that delusion, by the way, just marveling at the depth of complete ignorance on the crazy Right.
(It’s interesting to me that Clinton allowed two black women to be forced off the gangplank of his administration – Lani Guinear and Joycelyn Elders [see note at bottom] – while Obama is taking fire for, and refusing to return fire on behalf of, men – Van Jones, Bill Ayers, and Reverend Wright.)
Neither Clinton nor Obama could claim their ground enough to ignore these attacks. I don’t believe that FDR would have allowed his administrative picks to be witch-hunted in the same way. It’s a measure of how weak and centrist the Democrats have become that they cannot weather the tiny storm in a teacup that calling Republicans “assholes” is.
The LA Times piously pointed to Van Jones’ remarks in Berkeley in which he used “… a reference to a lower anatomical orifice to describe Republicans”. Shocking, I declare. I watched the clip. Jones also deliberately protected Obama from the taint of assholishness, while admitting that he, himself, could be an asshole, and saying that that attitude has its uses. You know, I can easily imagine Andrew Jackson using exactly this political rhetoric on the stump.
Anyway, that, plus a description of Bush as a petroleum (crack) addict, plus some kind of odd position on 9/11 from a hastily signed letter five years ago… those are the basis on which a howling pack of wingnut media curs called for Jones’ dismissal. The more staid media are not very far behind – the LA Times describes Jones as a “onetime Marxist” and the New York Times damningly quoted the STORM post-mortem’s self description as “an anti-capitalist, antiwar organization committed to achieving “solidarity among all oppressed peoples” with “direct militant action.” Oh, horrors!
Kasama’s Mike Ely has already made the main point for us as socialists, which is the clear lessons we can continue to draw on the severe limitations progressives have if they choose to participate in Democratic Party structures or administrations. Read his piece on their blog for a great analysis.
The question that is related is one I am thinking about – and which has gotten some play here in the webzine recently – how do we start engaging with activists who were energized by the “Yes We Can” campaign for change last Fall, who are beginning to feel defensive and embattled as Obama fulfills his promises of extending the war in Afghanistan, and of further dismantling PUBLIC education in favor of charter schools, breaking teachers’ unions, dividing and conquering states by linking acceptance of merit pay for teachers to some federal funds, and enthroning standardized tests and standardized curricula? Not to mention abandoning his lukewarm overtures to healthcare reform.
We don’t want to be shrill, told-you-so, sectarian assholes (we can use these terms without being fired for it... thank Darwin, or whomever). We want to continue to recognize the historic importance of the moment of electing Barack Obama as president. Yet we want to firmly point out the inherent logic in his positions. We want to build a visionary, creative, empowered movement of independent activists who can see that electoral politics in either of the two main parties is a dead end.
For myself, I live in the bubble that is the Bay Area, and far from the Florida mother who was told last year that if her daughter stayed home to watch the Inauguration it would be considered an “unexcused absence”, MY County Superintendent of Education, Sheila Jordan (speaking of former radicals and socialists) sent out an edict that all teachers should try to show Obama’s Address on Education to every single student in Alameda County on Tuesday morning. I’m glad to do that. What Obama represents as a symbol to my students – let alone an excellent model of rhetoric and public speaking – is extremely important.
NOTE: Lani Guinear was Clinton’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, whose nomination was withdrawn because she was associated in the media with affirmative action and quotas; Joycelyn Elders was Clinton’s Surgeon General, who was canned because she spoke publicly in favor of masturbation and was in favor of contraception being available in schools.