On June 1, 2012, The Nation hosted a live chat with Rebuild the Dream co-founder and president Van Jones and reporter Ari Berman on grassroots activism and the 2012 election. During the hour-long chat, Jones and Berman answered reader questions on topics such as student loans, the mortgage crisis and the effect of Super PAC money on on-the-ground organizing. Below you’ll find an edited transcript of the chat. You can also read a CoveritLive replay here.
Sarah Arnold: Hi, everyone. This is Sarah, your moderator. Welcome to our chat with reporter Ari Berman and Rebuild the Dream president and co-founder Van Jones.
Van Jones: Hello!
Ari Berman: Hello! Thanks for having us. I’m Ari Berman, contributing writer for The Nation and author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics.
Sarah Arnold: Welcome both of you! Thanks for joining us. To start, you’ve both written a great deal on the subject of Obama and grassroots activists. Could you talk a bit about your most recent projects?
Van Jones: I am the author of the New York Times bestseller, Rebuild The Dream. I am the president and co-founder of RebuildTheDream.com. We are mainly fighting to ease the pain of homeowners whose mortgages are underwater and students set to graduate with tons of debt and little access to jobs.
Ari Berman: Van, congrats on your book being a bestseller!
Van Jones: Thanks, bro.
Ari Berman: My book recently came out in paperback, with a new afterword focused on the 2012 election. Right now I’m starting work on a story about the Obama campaign’s grassroots organizing efforts in 2012 and whether they’ll be successful against the Romney campaign & Super PAC onslaught from the GOP
Van Jones: It is a great book!
We both are trying to tell the hidden history of people’s movements and social movements in the Obama era, and in the time leading up to it.
Ari Berman: Thanks. Van, let’s get right to it—how can Obama get re-elected if the jobs situation remains dire? What should his message be?
Van Jones: That we may have hit our head on a ceiling at first, but things are beginning to get better. Romney would tear the floor out from under the American people. That the Ryan budget is a wrecking ball for everything that made America great in the last century. I don’t think even Democrats understand how extreme and crazy even the GOP "moderates" have become.
Ari Berman: Won’t it be difficult for Obama to argue that things are beginning to get better if the jobs numbers are underwhelming and unemployment is rising? Seems to me his best chance is to run against the GOP Congress, which is blocking any action on job creation, and to tie Romney to them.
Van Jones: Exactly! He has to point out how much worse things will be under the GOP. Romney is a job destroyer, not a job creator. That was his record in both the private sector AND the public sector.
Ari Berman: Do you think that message is getting across right now?
Van Jones: Not yet. But it is early. This will be a fear election, not a hope election, on both sides. They are afraid of a big government takeover of the entire economy—which is a false, hyped-up, ridiculous fear. We are afraid of a big corporate takeover of the economy—which is a valid fear. But it will be fear on both sides.