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The return of Van Jones

November 26, 2011

Via Politico

Van Jones speaks at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 Aug. 10, 2009. | AP Photo

As an unabashed and high-profile liberal on President Barack Obama’s White House staff, former “green energy” czar Van Jones was to Republicans what a red cape is to a snorting bull: an irresistible target.

So when he resigned in 2009 under withering fire from the right — triggered by a video of him disparaging the GOP, followed by revelations of a tenuous connection to Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists — few doubted Jones was finished in Washington. He acknowledged as much a year later, writing in The New York Times that politics has become “a combination of speed chess and Mortal Kombat: one wrong move can mean political death.”

What a difference two years can make.

While still a high-value target for conservatives, the charismatic Jones has rebounded from his messy departure to become a superstar of the resurgent left, founding — with — the American Dream Movement, a grass-roots political force modeled after the tea party. His issue is no longer just green jobs, but to push back against the right’s domination of economic policy and social issues that he dates to the 2010 election.

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About Van Jones



  • Became a Communist in the aftermath of the 1992 “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles
  • Founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 1996
  • Was active in the anti-Iraq War demonstrations organized by International ANSWER
  • Served as a board member of the Rainforest Action Network and Free Press
  • In March 2009, President Barack Obama named Jones to be his so-called “Green Jobs Czar.”
  • Resigned in early September 2009

Born in 1968 in rural West Tennessee, Van Jones (whose birth name was Anthony Jones) attended the University of Tennessee at Martin. As an undergraduate aspiring to a career in journalism, hefounded an underground campus newspaper as well as a statewide African American newspaper. After earning his BA degree, Jones abandoned his plan to become a journalist and instead enrolled at Yale Law School, where, as an angry black separatist, he first arrived wearing combat boots and carrying a Black Panther bookbag. “If I’d been in another country, I probably would have joined some underground guerrilla sect,” he reflects. “But as it was, I went on to an Ivy League law school…. I wasn’t ready for Yale, and they weren’t ready for me.”

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