MINNEAPOLIS — Van Jones, the Saturday keynote speaker at the Netroots Nation conference here, has a special relationship with Glenn Beck.
Asked to ponder the end of Beck’s Fox News show on June 30, Jones pointed to what regular Beck viewers might see as an unlikely ally: capitalism.
“It’s a vindication of the basic decency and dignity of the American people,” Jones told TPM in an interview. “And it’s a vindication of, in some ways, of the way that the free enterprise system can self-correct.”
Back in 2009, Jones was a little-known White House official, advising President Obama on how to create green jobs. But to Beck, Jones’ past as a left-wing organizer suggested he was part of a socialist vanguard in the Obama White House. Beck made Jones the focus of his extremely popular Fox News hour for weeks, turning him into one of the nascent tea party’s top targets.
Beck won that round, and Jones resigned.
“Good American businesses make a decision about who they want to associate their brands with,” he said. “And if you violate the principles of good discourse and fair play in America, good American businesses will not stay with you and you won’t stay in the public square very long.
“So it’s not just a triumph of American capitalism,” Jones said. “It’s a triumph of American values.”
Which is not to say Jones is done with Beck. In his fired-up keynote Saturday, Jones challenged Beck to debate him at a time and place of Beck’s choosing.
Jones is currently building the American Dream Movement, a sort of progressive answer to the tea party. A short-term goal is to join forces among what Jones said were the majority of people who don’t believe in balancing the federal budget without an increase in tax revenue (as mainline Republicans have proposed) to influence the budget and debt ceiling debates in Washington.
TPM asked Jones if he had the last laugh when it comes to Beck, who is retreating to a pay-walled Internet fortress to further his message after Fox made it clear it has no further use for him.
Jones wouldn’t bite.
“I don’t feel like I’m laughing at all,” he said. “I don’t think anybody gets to laugh in America until these kids come home from these wars and get a chance to get a job.”