CNN commentator and author Van Jones said that for Democrats and Progressives to win elections, they cannot just sit and wait for the people to follow them because the masses agree with them on the issues or because most agree that President Trump is unfit to serve. Instead, they need to speak out and make their views known and remain continually persistent and vigilant for the causes they believe in.
He spoke at the Fifth Annual Lecture Series on Delivering Democracy at the Fourteenth Street Pilgrim Rest Baptist church in Phoenix.
Jones said that Democrats and Progressives also can not take any group for granted. The poor white person in Appalachia wants the same life for their kids like the poor black person in the projects. People who believe in God also believe in helping the needy and oppressed. Democrats and Progressives would be wise to reconnect with these groups they have forgotten. If Democrats and Progressives can do all of these things (and it should not be a heavy lift), Progressives and Democrats will have a lot to celebrate after the next few election cycles as long as they remember that they can never stop being proactive and fight to move the country forward.
The lecture was sponsored by the Arizona State University Center for Race and Democracy and hosted by the congregation of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Ministries. Jones is a community and environmental activist, and former White House Aide to President Obama, and he offered his views on bringing different races, classes, and the religious and secular worlds in our country together.
At a packed Church hall, the congregants gathered for the fifth year to hear Van Jones’ views on Race and Democracy. Many still remembered the contributions of their late Pastor, Bishop Alexis Thomas, and progressive (both secular and religious) activists from organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, East Valley NACCP, The Pat Tillman’s Veterans Center, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Red for Ed, and Outlawing Dirty Money (an irony because one of the sponsors of the event is APS)
After an excellent performance by the church choir and music group, the event started with the pivotal question, broadcast on a video “What is Democracy?” Following several varying answers from respondents on the video, the key message is that Democracy is the “responsibility of the people” to maintain.
Dr. Stanlie James, the Vice Provost for Inclusion and Community Engagement, echoed this sentiment by relaying the current issues our countries citizens’ face such as the incident with two African American patrons at a Philadelphia Starbucks (Mr. Jones would later ask in his presentation why the police did not arrest the person that made the erroneous/false complaint) or the rising mortality rate of African American Mothers in a “First World Country.” Calling the Center on Race and Democracy “an oasis in the desert” where these issues can be discussed, she cited support from the Obamas as proof that this center is doing good works.
After being introduced to the welcoming attendees, Mr. Jones immediately captured the audiences’ attention after first remarking “I have a microphone but there is no Trump supporter to my left and right.” He later brought the audience to laughter by saying “I am a follower of Obama and her husband.”
After praising the life of the late Pastor Thomas, Jones recounted his experiences with its moments of highs and lows, commenting how the late musician Prince helped him recover after being forced out of his position in the Obama White House in 2009. Jones would later comment that “progress is not linear” and that there are numerous times when progress moves two steps forward, one step back before moving forward again.
Jones then described the double standards of class discrimination and perception still inherent in our society telling the audience that while a law student at Yale, he saw how the college students were kindly treated with on-campus detox facilities for their illegal drug abuse while police officers routinely arrested people in the housing projects off campus for the same behavior.
After describing his life’s work as a Community and Environmental organizer (including his 18-month meteoric journey from working on prison reform to getting a job in the White House under President Obama), Jones turned to two themes: bringing people together and working harder to win.
Through his work around the country as an organizer and as a commentator on CNN, Jones said that Democrats and Progressives have, unintentionally, left hard-pressed white people out of the great social fabric the Progressive Movement has woven with the new rights and opportunities bestowed to minorities and the L.G.B.T. community.
Saying that redemption should be offered to everyone, Jones added that along with leaving out the white working class, the secular wing of the Progressive Movement snubbing the religious wing of the movement (a wing that has historically proven its credentials in the labor and civil rights movements), created opportunities for President Trump to gain support from some of the people that voted twice for President Obama. According to Jones, Democrats and Progressives need to work hard to reassure these groups that they are not forgotten and they are always welcome.
The other theme that Jones touched on was the need for Democrats and Progressives to work hard to win. Jones noted that Democrats and Progressives took for granted that the issues were on their side and that the voters would naturally gravitate to them in all elections.
Jones also faulted the Democrats for surmising that Donald Trump was such a “fool” that they did not have to work hard in areas that Democrats have won in the Electoral College over the last 20 years. Unfortunately for the Democrats, that attitude is what caused them to lose in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections and in 2016 even though Hillary Clinton was the popular vote winner. Jones maintained that Progressives and Democrats will not win if they do not work hard at winning.