Las Vegas — Former White House green jobs “czar” Van Jones told progressive activists and bloggers today that, rather than bash President Obama for not changing the country as fast as they’d thought, they should maintain hope and help him with his agenda.
“I can’t stand it. President Obama volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg,” Jones said at Netroots Nation while being interviewed by journalist Ari Melber of The Nation. (Follow our live coverage here.)Jones, who resigned last year after conservatives targeted him as an extreme leftist, refrained from any Obama-slamming of his own. Speaking to a large second-day crowd, Jones reminded the group that he quit and wasn’t pushed out. “I resigned. I did not want to be the banana peel that the president of the United States slipped on trying to win on health care,” Jones said.
He cautioned bloggers from despairing and going after Obama. “This is harder than it looks. Having spent six months in the White House, it’s a totally different experience when you’re sitting there and the missiles are coming over the horizon at you,” he said.
While some expected Jones, now with the Center for American Progress, to go after the administration for failing to get climate change done this year, he said he thinks it still can be done.
Jones said he agrees with Sen. John Kerry, who said today that his bill has a chance in the lame-duck session after the midterm election. “He is right that thing this is not over.
… There are many things that can change the math,” Jones said. He said that “red state America is struggling because of our stupid energy policy” and that if the government doesn’t act, the U.S. will go from an oil economy from Middle East to a clean energy economy imported from Asia, “skipping the jobs” in between.
Jones said that while, “most of us feel lost and lonely,” the netroots should soldier on.
“If you keep the hope alive, change is still possible,” Jones said in his opening speech. Jones said the group can’t allow themselves to “blow your own candle out. We have to keep hope alive.”
He said progressives “did not lay down” during the 8 years of the Bush administration and shouldn’t “expect other people to lay down for you” just because Obama’s election was celebrated as a breakthrough.
“We really believed we’d gotten to some sort of finish line. In fact all we’d done was gotten to a starting line,” he said.
Jones said the netroots need to realize they are up against an “epic” force with the conservative media movement, which is trying to “bury everything you fought for everything you believe in,” and comparing it to the Lord of the Rings. “These are orcs, they are here, and they are coming for you,” he said.
Watch Jones’ full opening speech here.