The Van Jones affair, and the boycott of Glenn Beck's putrid Fox program that let to it, has sent my estimation of America and American progressives to a new low.
That a publicity whore like Beck has enough standing in the court of public opinion to drive out Jones, a man who has accomplished more in his lifetime than the Becks of the world can even dream about, is bad enough. That he is able to motivate and mobilize the idiocracy over which he and Fox presides to drive Jones to resign is far worse, in so many ways. And this is true without even taking into account Beck's sheer hypocrisy in attacking Jones for his past views of the Bush Administration and Republicans, coming from a "man" (I use the term advisedly) who accused a black President with a white mother and white grandparents of hating white people.
First, it's clear that whatever advantage progressives once had with new media and social networking is gone. The bad guys have learned, and caught up.
Second, it's equally clear that the Obama Administration, and its nominal "leader," have something less than a complete set of backbones when it comes to dealing with moral lepers like Beck. They should have trotted out Jones, have him issue one of those if-I-offended-anyone-I'm-sorry apologies that wingnuts routinely get away with issuing, and let him get on with his job. What chance is there that anyone with cutting-edge views is going to serve in the White House, knowing that loyalty to the President will only make it easier to be thrown to the wolves on the right every time they wake up and snarl "More"? For that matter, what chance is there for change anyone can believe in if this President defines bringing America together as a process in which the truth is systematically negotiated away to liars?
Third, I am sorry to say that a large measure of the fault lies with progressives themselves. We let Obama equivocate, negotiate, and frequently repudiate during last fall's campaign. We allowed him to become a bland, fuzzy symbol that voters could interpret any number of ways, by not holding his feet to the proverbial fire and insisting that he strongly campaign for progressive goals and progressive values. Like the rest of the country, we were so sick of Bush that we were willing to take anything. We forgot that in politics, as in the rest of life, if you're prepared to take anything, you'll more often than not get nothing.
And, as it is beginning to look more and more like President Obama does not understand the difference between compromise and appeasement, we have no choice but to take the battle back to the streets, in order to win not votes but the hearts and minds of the American people. Frankly, this doesn't bother me; if history teaches us anything, it is that true progress occurs outside of the corridors of power, and then slowly works its way in. What we have to remember is a lesson that conservatives never forget for a minute: winning anything in America is a matter of devotion, not numbers. An electoral majority is a luxury; an organized, focused, driven minority can do far more than any majority ever can. Margaret Mead was right.
We can start by doing two things: (a) expanding the Beck boycott to a boycott of Fox, making any advertiser who wants to do business with the network ashamed to do so; and (b) insisting that this pitiful excuse of a Democratic Congress investigate 9/11 top to bottom, once and for all. It's time to bring George W. Bush and the aptly-named "Dick" Cheney before the people's representatives and ask them the Watergate question: What did you know, and when did you know it?
If you're reading this, take any of this to heart, and start mobilizing on behalf of the real "truth, justice, and the American way," do not doubt that even the smallest gesture has value. It will echo throughout the corridors of history long after Glenn Beck has ceased to be a pimple on the hindquarters of humanity.