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Shift The Power: The American Dream Movement Is No “Left-Wing Tea Party”
Ronald Radosh’s Pajamas Media piece “Can Van Jones Create A “Left-Wing Tea Party”? Don’t Bet On It” is only one of several recent articles about the American Dream Movement, but it’s arguably the most comically irrational. Radosh has made something of a cottage industry out of hissing rather ineffectively at film director Oliver Stone, and occasionally frets about Russian spies and other bogeymen, but Van Jones and the American Dream Movement are the latest targets of his rapier illogical and willful ignorance.
In the article, Radosh indiscriminately sprays factual errors and logical fallacies like Machine Gun Kelly, predictably labeling Jones a communist (even though he isn’t) despite the fact that such an accusation constitutes an ad hominem fallacy anyway. He derides the New York “Restore the Dream” rally last July as a mere “re-release” of a February announcement, a mere stunt designed to breathe life into a stillborn movement. But the truth is that Jones’ earlier announcement marked the beginning of laying the groundwork to permit a lengthy democratic process to “crowd-source” a charter. A June rally was held to publicize the project and invite public input, and the July rally was organized in part to celebrate the completion and upcoming release of the 10-point charter, the Contract for the American Dream.
Blissfully—no, proudly—ignorant of the laborious bottom-up process that created the movement’s Contract, Radosh then blindly attacks it as an East Coast radical wish list rammed down the throats of gullible hangers-on. Incredibly, he draws parallels between his own completely fictitious account of the movement’s genesis and the Communist Party’s Popular Front of the 1930s, even vilifying the patriotic themes as (I kid you not) “taken directly from the old communist movement playbook.”
His point? The New Deal is dead, and Americans are too smart to fall for it again. No “left-wing Tea Party” can thrive because “now, there is no viable real left-wing movement, except it lives in the dream world of people like Van Jones.” What Radosh fails to consider is that the American Dream Movement is not left-wing—it’s mainstream.
Jones himself has compared the American Dream movement with the Tea Party, but while Jones is unquestionably left-wing, and the expression “left-wing Tea Party” may serve as convenient shorthand, the movement is better thought of as an internet age “town hall” movement that is not ideological so much as results-oriented. As such, it bears little resemblance to the Tea Party.
The Tea Party was little more than an angry mob armed with torches and pitchforks, searching for an ogre to harass, when a few immensely wealthy individuals witnessed their blind rage and decided to channel it to further their own ends. The staggering ignorance that produced such slogans as “keep your government hands off my Medicare” also provided fertile ground to be tilled and planted by billionaires. Now emboldened and duly deputized by radical, retrograde corporate sponsors, the Tea Party posse has maps, flashlights, and walkie-talkies with which to conduct their ogre hunts. Nevertheless, their chief guiding principle and the source of their political might still arise from a single underlying force: blind rage. And their ideology, such as it is, is so radical and outside the mainstream of American thought and tradition it is doomed to collapse on itself eventually as the truth gradually sinks in.
It’s true that the American Dream movement was formed in part as a response to the Tea Party movement and in part as a response to the same kind of frustration that prompted early Tea Partiers to vent their spleens in the first place. However, the justifiable anger exhibited in, for instance, the Wisconsin protests is suffused in the American Dream movement—not with fear—but with a healthy dose of “hope and change.” That’s right. Hope and change.
In his February 2011 Huffington Post piece kicking off the movement, Van Jones cites the “spirit of Madison,” and makes the case that such “idealism and fighting spirit” have “reinvigorated” a movement to defend the American Dream. The protests served to focus a scattered movement to “renew itself and become again a national force with which to be reckoned.” Jones also cites the Tea Party’s movement to “pull America to the ideological right,” but counters with a call to “renew the American Dream and return us to the moral center (emphasis mine).”
“And while our re-born movement needs to be as clear and bold as the Tea Party’s, we must base our efforts on a deeper set of American values. The Tea Party attached itself to only a single American principle. And it identifies itself with only one moment in our distant past: the Boston Tea Party, symbolizing “no taxation without representation.” That is an important moment and concept. But the notion of “negative liberty” (“don’t tread on me!”) is only one principle among many that make our country great. Other equally vital American values and ideals (like justice, opportunity, fairness and democracy) have gone largely undefended and unheralded, in this recent crisis. That ends — now. Our rising movement should stand for the full suite of American values and principles. And the American ideal most in need of defense is our most essential one: the American Dream.”
To prove his point that Van Jones is a Marxist-Leninist radical in disguise, Radosh quotes him from a 2005 newspaper interview in which he said “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” Radosh doesn’t say why he thinks Jones blew his own cover in a newspaper interview, nor apparently does he notice the unflattering contrast he inadvertently draws between Jones and Tea Party adherents. Michele Bachmann is not willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose. Rick Perry is not willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose. Ron Paul is not willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose. In fact, the radical pose is the hallmark of the Tea Party, and nothing the left has ever proposed is more radical than the slash-and-burn platform of the radical right Tea Party Republicans.
Republican Presidential candidates have advocated the dismantling of FEMA, and shutting down EPA and DOE among many other agencies. Current favorite Rick Perry has stated that Social Security is unconstitutional. Compare this incendiary rhetoric with this excerpt from the preamble to the Contract for the American Dream:
“We, the American people, promise to defend and advance a simple ideal: liberty and justice . . . for all. Americans who are willing to work hard and play by the rules should be able to find a decent job, get a good home in a strong community, retire with dignity, and give their kids a better life. Every one of us – rich, poor, or in-between, regardless of skin color or birthplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender – has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is our covenant, our compact, our contract with one another. It is a promise we can fulfill – but only by working together.”
If this doesn’t make you think “East Coast radical” or “communist movement playbook,” Ronald Radosh will tell you that it’s because the communists in the American Dream Movement are too clever to be so obvious. Observations such as “Americans need jobs” are actually subliminally subversive slogans, mere trickery to lull us into submission for a coming authoritarian takeover. In short, the American Dream Movement is advocating traditional American values in order to institute radical change, whereas the Tea Party is advocating radical change in order to institute traditional American values.
It remains to be seen whether the American Dream Movement will catch fire and grow organically, but the near-total media blackout doesn’t bode well. Van Jones is an articulate spokesman, but he is not the leader of the American Dream Movement. He is only a catalyst, a social entrepreneur providing the structure necessary to mount a successful defense against genuine radicals instead of merely “babbling on street corners.” However, the very reasonableness of the American Dream movement and the appealing traditionalism of their “deeper set of American values” is anathema not only to right wingers, but to the corporate news media. The “left-wing Tea Party” moniker may be completely inaccurate, but with luck, it just might catch the attention of CNN.
In the meantime, it’s up to us to spread the word.
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