During a panel discussion on CNN’s State of the Union this morning, Van Jones suggested that it was time for the Democratic Party to push in a more progressive direction.
He mentioned Kamala Harris and Keith Ellison as new stars in the party, and then said the Clinton influence on the party is drawing to a close:
The Clinton days are over, This idea that we’re going to be this moderate party that’s going to move in this direction, that’s going to throw blacks under the bus for criminal justice reform and — or for — for prison expansion, that’s going to throw workers under the bus for NAFTA, those days are over.
He then stressed the need for authenticity, saying, “You can’t run and hide. You’ve got to be an authentic person from the beginning. You’re going to be judged based on your authentic commitment to the actual base of this party. And if you don’t do that, you can’t win.”
It’s refreshing to hear this said by a prominent liberal commentator like Jones, who served as Special Advisor for Green Jobs in the Obama administration. What remains to be seen is what kind of follow through we’ll see in the party—whether it truly represents a paradigm shift or just rhetoric to appease the progressive base.
The first test involves who will win the race for DNC chair. Keith Ellison—co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—emerged as a bold, progressive front runner. But then Tom Perez—Obama’s secretary of labor—entered the race. Though also considered progressive in some quarters, Perez—with positions such as support for TPP—is closer to Obama-Clinton third way politics.
The DNC race is complicated by trumped-up controversies around Ellison, as well as being seen as a proxy war between Hillary and Bernie supporters (Ellison bucked the party-line to endorse Sanders during the primary).
But such contentions pass with time. The Democratic Party needs to look at the bigger picture and decide which direction to take—cling to the triangulating politics of the 90’s, or embrace a new vision for the party—one that combines the inclusiveness of the Obama coalition with the economic populism of the Sanders campaign.
Time will tell which path the Democrats will take—but at least Van Jones’s words prove that someone in the party is finally getting it.