Reflecting on President Barack Obama’s first term, former Obama administration advisor Van Jones said the president “let his opponents,” specifically the tea party, “set him up” by being “so bipartisan.”
“There’s a lot of economic pain out there, and progressives don’t have organizations and campaigns that speak to that economic pain,” said Jones, adding that the tea party “figured” this out before any other group.
“They [tea party] understood that people were sitting on a white hot stove out there, and if Democrats weren’t going to point at the financial elites, they were going to point at the government elites,” said Jones during a discussion at the Center For American Progress about his book, Rebuild The Dream, on April 20. “Somebody got to get blamed, and part of the problem with the president was by being so bipartisan and trying to not, you know, try to be one country about everything, he let his opponents set him up.”
“So, there he is, standing there with a whole bunch of problems next to him, now he’s either a UN rescue worker or the unabomber, right? I mean, what is he? Is he the person that caused it, or is he the person who’s fixing it? Well, if you can’t, in that same frame, point to the person who’s causing it, it’s easy for you to get set up and that’s what happened to him.”
Jones said progressives could “learn” a lesson from Obama allowing the tea party to blame “government elites” for the struggling economy.
“He [Obama] wasn’t willing to point out again and again to the American people, because he was trying to bring us all together, who really caused it and he let the tea party say, ‘well, he caused it. It’s the government that caused it, it’s these government elites that caused it.’ And that is, I think, a lesson that we have to learn,” Jones said.
“We’ve got to be able to tell a complete story,” he added. “We don’t want to name a villain as progressives. We don’t want to point a finger as progressives, even if it’s telling the truth, and that means the finger gets pointed at the wrong place.”