Excerpt: Interview with Van Jones

An excerpt from the Start Making Sense section Understanding the Election.

April 20, 2005  |  MCNALLY: In your post-election essay, you claim you can see a vital pro-democracy movement. Can you clarify what that means to you?

JONES: This was a very different election than 2000, where you had Democrats versus Republicans while many of the progressives supported [Ralph] Nader, either in their hearts or actively. In 2004 you had the Kerry campaign doing what it was doing, you had the Democratic Party doing what it was doing, and then you had this magnificent outpouring of decentralized disaggregated efforts — America Coming Together, National Voice, Count Every Vote, the League of Independent Voters, the Hip Hop Political Convention. You had this huge flowering from the grass roots of opposition to the Bush regime that was not a part of the Kerry campaign, not coordinated by the Democratic Party. It was alongside, under, and over all of that.

Its present form and expression is unprecedented. We may have seen elements of it before with the Rainbow Coalition, the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, et cetera, but this present multiracial, multigenerational, cross-class unity against what the Bush administration is doing and its willingness to engage in electoral politics is a new development. It’s a very special character because it’s not a black-led thing, it’s not a woman-led thing. There’s no particular identity group that you could point to as driving the process. That means that we have the opportunity to do things in the United States that have not been done before.

The vast majority of the people who took part in the effort to oust Bush in November were neophytes and newcomers to this whole process. Many of these people either had not been involved in politics at all or their involvement in public life had been neighborhood based or issue based, but not primarily electoral. We had to learn what a 527 was, what 501c3s could do and what they couldn’t do. We had to start from scratch, and still we came within 150,000 votes in Ohio of ousting Bush and delivering a devastating setback to his entire agenda. It would have been much better had we won. We didn’t win, but still, this was not a Walter Mondale wipeout —

MCNALLY: — or a Goldwater wipeout…

JONES: Right, or a Goldwater wipeout. . . . That lets you know that what we should be talking about now is the fact that we have 48 percent of the country who are opposed enough to George Bush’s agenda to support a less than stellar candidate and to work hard and to put millions of small donations on the table. For the first time in memory the Democrats were competitive financially with Republicans, and by some measures [they] had more money than the GOP –0 not because of big donors or corporations, but because of ordinary people donating mostly online.

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