A former White House aide told liberal activists the Tea Party's agenda is "the worst" but said their accomplishments are worth copying. Tea Party members, meanwhile, say the left will never be able to copy the group’s success as long their ideology embraces redistribution of wealth.
Van Jones, President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser, noted at the “Take Back the American Dream” conference Monday that the Tea Party has built a network that achieves results without a formal leadership model or even headquarters.
"They use their charismatic leaders to build something bigger than any leader," Jones told the crowd. "They talk rugged individualism, but they act collectively."
By contrast, he said, liberals talk collectively but act as individuals. Jones chided progressives for being too reliant on Obama and urged them to galvanize and take to the streets in the name of the middle class.
Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips said the terms "the worst" and "silly" could also be used to describe Jones and his ideology.
Jones resigned from the Obama administration after controversy arose over his crude remarks to Republicans and his political affiliations.
Jones affiliated himself with conspiracy group 9/11Truth.com by supporting its petition suggesting that President George W. Bush deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen. Jones was also affiliated with the group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement. Glenn Beck uncovered the group as having Marxist roots. STORM's handbook, which Beck also revealed, stated the group began a rectification process that would rebuild "political and personal unity" and make a "definite collective shift towards communist politics.”
Phillips said of Jones, "When you embrace an ideology like that, you are the worst of the worst."
Still, Jones mocked the Tea Party, stating that the left is starting to beat the Tea Party at its own game.
"In August we beat the Tea Party 10 to one. There were 10 times more protests by progressives in August than the Tea Party," he said.
Speaking at a separate event, Freedom Works President Matt Kibbe said Monday that the Tea Party playbook that Jones is urging progressives to steal from dates back to Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty and is not influenced by the left.
"He (Jones) thinks because we are a community – because we organize from the bottom up, because we respect each other and respect the power of people working together on a volunteer basis, because we march on Washington – he thinks we stole the left's playbook," Kibbe said.
Kibbe called Jones a "failed czar of the Obama administration" and praised the Tea Party for angering Jones.
The Tea Party Movement emerged in 2009 when Tea Party protests began forming to denounce the stimulus and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts. There are several local and national Tea Party groups, including Phillips' Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Express. Republican leaders such as Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Florida Congressman Rep. Allen West have spoken for the party on a national stage, but the group does not have a national president or a central committee.
Jones is trying to co-opt that style with his group, the American Dream Movement. The movement is partnered with MoveOn.org. MoveOn is one of the nation's largest political action committees, according to its website.
The PAC is currently raising money for liberals to challenge U.S. House and Senate Republicans. The MoveOn PAC raised $300,000 on Friday alone to support former Obama administration official Elizabeth Warren's bid for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat currently held by freshman Republican Scott Brown. The group also raised $250,000 for former MoveOn.org organizer Ilya Sheyman to challenge freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.).
So far, the America Dream movement is urging website visitors to sign up to an email list. Members will receive "new tools" to help them organize in their communities.
Kibbe said in response to Jones' efforts, "Good luck." Jones, he said, does not "get" the "freedom" of the movement.
That freedom does not come from the Tea Party's individualistic members, but the group's ideology, Kibbe said.
"Here's the thing that he does not get: the Tea Party movement is a very positive movement. The motivation of the Tea Party movement is love of country and love of neighbor," Phillips explained.
The American Dream Movement also seems to have a positive view of America. Its website says the movement is committed to rebuilding the dream of "a country where, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can live with dignity, provide for your family and give your kids a better life."
However, Phillips said Tea Party members believe that "America is the best country in the world." The left, he said, assumes that America needs to be fixed or revolutionized in order to be great.
"What Van Jones ultimately wants ... [is] a socialist revolution," he said. "Socialism is not a positive or a productive ideology. Socialism always involves tearing people down. Socialism involves, not raising people who are at the bottom up, but taking people who are at the top down. And that is why the left is never going to succeed with a Tea Party."