NEW YORK - Over 1,000 people filled New York's Town Hall last week for the kickoff of an ambitious attempt to launch a progressive new social movement.
According to the event's organizer, Van Jones, the "Rebuild the Dream" movement fashions itself as a progressive alternative to the tea party. The goal is to address working-class concerns that Washington is not listening to says the former Obama administration official. "We are not fighting against our opponents, we're fighting for them, too," he said recently in a Rolling Stone interview.
"We see a huge disconnect between what the political elite is talking about in Washington, D.C. - now in both parties - and what ordinary Americans are talking about," Jones said. "There is much, much more concern about jobs, and much more openness to solving the budget crisis by more balanced means - including raising taxes on rich folks - than D.C. seems to understand."
The Rebuild the Dream launch featured performances by Shepard Fairey DJ and The Roots.
Jones, in a lively presentation, argued that the American people are being fed four lies: that the country is broke; that asking the rich to pay is bad for the country; that hating the U.S. government is patriotic; and that the battle against Wall Street is hopeless.
"We are not helpless," he told the crowd. "They just want us to shut up, sit down, and suffer."
Beginning July 5 the Rebuild the Dream movement seeks to hold 1,000 house meetings across the country.
The meetings will be organized with the help of Moveon.org, who is a major sponsor along with the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, True Majority and US Action.
The new movement hopes to have "no superhero, no single leader, no messiah," but rather focus on the economic concerns the "thousands of middle class workers who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their livelihoods in the past few years," writes Lucas Kavner.
It will help give a fresh start to the movement that arose to elect President Obama in 2008.
Too much emphasis has been placed on the ability of President Obama to get things done without help, Jones told Rolling Stone: "In 2008, we would never have had a movement called, 'Yes, he can.' It was 'Yes, we can.' But in the past two years, the 'we' was not present. You can blame anybody you want to for that, but I think we have to start taking personal responsibility for the shape of American politics."
"The peace and prosperity agenda that most of us voted for in 2008 doesn't have a center of gravity anymore" Jones told The Nation after the Netroots conference in Minneapolis earlier this month where he announced the launch. " He continued, "and that's why people feel so demoralized. But we're about to re-establish that center of gravity."
In 2010 similar efforts were undertaken with the One Nation movement organized by the NAACP and several unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Rebuild the Dream hopes to have a massive summit in Washington D.C. in October. The movement was inspired, its organizers say, by the fightback in Wisconsin against the GOP's attempt to end collective bargaining for public workers. Its goal is "to move beyond dependence on President Obama and the national Democratic Party by building and boosting independent sources of power," writes Ari Berman in The Nation.
Photo: People's World