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Van Jones Calls On Progressives To Be More Like The Tea Party

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WASHINGTON -- Former White House environmental adviser Van Jones is calling on progressive activists to be more like the Tea Party in order to take back the momentum conservatives have built over the past two years.

In a speech at the Take Back The American Dream Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jones said that after studying everything he could about the Tea Party, he determined that progressives should move away from relying on a single leader to accomplish their goals.

"We have been on a one-sided offensive in this country where the worst people in America with the worst ideas have dominated the discussion," Jones said in a high-energy speech. "And I'm not mad at them. I'm not mad at the Tea Party. I'm not mad at them for being so loud. I'm mad at us for being so quiet."

Jones told the receptive crowd that the reason President Obama's campaign was so successful in 2008 was that it had progressive groups join together under a "meta-brand." After Obama's election, however, Jones said progressive groups became lazy and sat back.

In order to get their political power back, Jones proposed using his "Rebuild the Dream" movement as a new "meta-brand" to bring together progressive activists the same way Tea Party groups unite their members.

"We have to remember, [Lyndon Johnson] did not lead the civil rights movement," Jones said. "He signed a bunch of laws we liked, but he did not get out there and lead that movement. That was people like us right here in this room."

Citing the "Occupy Wall Street" protests spreading around the country and progressives who protested at congressional town halls in August, Jones said they were already recapturing momentum.

Earlier in the morning, a live feed from the Wall Street protests garnered a large showing of support at the conference. When Jones announced that marines would be voluntarily stepping in to defend the protesters from questionable police force, the audience erupted into a standing ovation.

Jones referred to Obama's more combative stance toward Republicans -- which conservatives have criticized as "class warfare" -- as something activists can push him to do more of as president.

"The White House is talking different because we are walking different," Jones said.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) also told the audience they need to move beyond complaining and become more active.

"[Obama] got a lot of flack for 'take off your slippers,'" Edwards said. "But you know what? I say 'take off your high heels.' ... I also know where our battle lines are drawn, and I know that we can get there faster with our crowd than we can get there with their crowd."

Jones said his "Rebuild the Dream" movement would act as support for various local and national progressive activist groups. He introduced more than two dozen leaders of labor, issue-oriented groups, progressive media and other activists as "American Dream" movement leaders.

"It's our turn now. We let the warmongers have a turn for eight years, and they ruined this country," Jones said. "We're still spending $3 billion a week overseas on these wars. What if we had $3 billion just for Detroit? No, just for Appalachia. Just one week's worth, imagine what we could do."

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