"You're not America." That was the message Van Jones had for the hard-right and Glenn Beck during his keynote at Netroots Nation. Jones will formally launch his "Rebuild the American Dream" project on Thursday, but he fired up his audience here with a powerful combination: affirming progressive values while avoiding the hatred and denigration of the opposing side that characterizes Beck and his ilk. Jones drew a clear distinction between "deep patriots" and "cheap patriots." But he kept the door open to other points of view. Note his careful phrasing: "You're not America" rather than what you might expect from a Fox commentator, "You're not American." Jones showed the same aversion to sloppy polemic in a conversation with Talking Points Memo where he described the cancellation of Glenn Back's program on Fox as a victory for the best side of capitalism.
Jones's speech is getting, deservedly, a lot of attention. But I think one critical piece has been overlooked. Jones quite explicitly described his project as being the same thing that carried Barack Obama to the White House -- unifying the various strands of the progressive movement behind a single purpose. His presentation showed how Obama united his constituents -- and how the Tea Party then did the same thing on the right. But Jones made clear that we need unity around principles, not unity around a leader -- however charismatic. "Individuals disappoint. Individuals let you down. Principles stand by you."
Stay tuned. This could be exciting.
Follow Carl Pope on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CarlPope