The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has included Van Jones among the recipients of its 2010 Image Awards. For some, the award offers Jones, the best-selling “author of “The Green Collar Economy” and former advisor for the Obama administration, a partial vindication; his last share of the public spotlight was a 2009 political fiasco that resulted in his resignation. Such a view is nonsense - those who’ve followed his career know he needs no vindication.
Rising to prominence on the back of Oakland’s Green Jobs Corps—a job program targeting low-income individuals and training them for work in the green and solar industries—Jones represents the vanguard of the green jobs movement. Instrumental in passing the 2007 Green Jobs Act, Time Magazine named him one of the “100 Greatest Minds.”
But shortly after assuming his new position as a White House advisor, Jones was cut down; Republicans manufactured outrage over revelations that his name had once been on a 9/11 conspiracy petition, and that he’d once referred to Republicans as “assholes.”
Let’s disregard for the moment that Jones has renounced the petition. And let’s ignore that far-worse offenders (see: South Carolina’s Republican Governor and international playboy Mark Sanford) are still in office. Let’s even overlook the fact that “assholes” is a quaint compared to the recent Obama-Hitler nonsense. Such double standards are par for the course in D.C. Instead, let’s focus on the real tragedy here: that national progress has once again fallen on the sword of partisan gain.
In explaining the controversial pick, President of the NAACP Ben Jealous told CNN “Van Jones is one of the few voices out there with new ideas for new jobs. He’s done more in the past several years to change the way we think about job creation than anyone that we could find.”
So while unemployment hovered in the double digits, and Congress bickered over what an effective and forward-thinking jobs program should look like, the GOP was showing the “man with a plan” the door.
As a result, the United States has once more shot itself in the foot in its race to lead the world in alternative energy technologies—an industry Al Gore calls “the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century,” and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls “the next great global industry.”
So will this NAACP award help to vindicate Mr. Jones in the public eye? Probably not. The NAACP most likely lacks the power to sway GOP hearts and minds. But it should serve as yet another reminder that competent, qualified individuals have a rough go of it in Washington, D.C.