The new partisan parlor game in Washington is a devilish one, all about sucking the life out of the Obama administration one aide at a time. Unfortunately by targeting Van Jones, a man with an unfailing belief and passion for the environment and the creation of a green agenda for America, the right has only succeeded in forcing out a bright, competent person of color who could have done a lot of good for this country.
When I first met Jones in the late ‘90s, I was naturally impressed. On New California Media, a television program I hosted and produced on PBS and cable outlets in the state, Jones was a frequent guest. He was a Yale law grad and the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, and when I needed someone to comment on community issues, Jones knew his stuff and his rhetoric. His was passionate,intelligent and smooth. I figured politics would be a natural progression. But when his focus turned to green and the environment, while I was surprised, I saw it as a good move for him politically. And more his style.
Green is everybody. Green is the world. Green is the future.
For any person of color, race is always an issue. In environmental issues, race is often a key dividing line between who gets to go green and who stays toxic. People of color are all too often shut out and dumped on when the talk turns to green. So Van going green made a lot of sense. But I also felt that going green gave him a sense of liberation from tired old race politics. Van was no child of ’60s. He was now. Going green gave him some real stuff to chew on in the coming years.
So isn’t it ironic that what comes back to haunt him are statements and positions from his activist past. None of it is relevant. Anti-war stuff?Crude references to Republicans? But all of it can be made to be a distraction as Jones pointed out in his resignation statement. And once the right finds a small hole to exploit, it bores in and makes it seem like the Grand Canyon. What would have come next? Van Jones with Paris Hilton? Breaking pita bread with Muslims? In the absurd political world of the right, it’s all fair game in the effort to find things that will destroy an administration one person at a time.
If good people like Van Jones can’t fight these kind of tactics, then public life in the age of the politics of personal destruction is simply not worth it.
Van Jones’ resignation is a loss because he represented the hope that a lot of young people saw in the Obama campaign. Maybe that’s the right’s grand plan. Kill the hope.