A message to the tea party: Van Jones has been watching you. And he's impressed.
Jones, who spent a brief stint at the White House working on energy issues in 2009, said he has studied the tea party since his departure from the Obama administration and wants to build a nationwide network of liberal activists to match the limited-government movement.
Speaking at the "Take Back the American Dream" conference, a three-day event for liberal activists in Washington, D.C., Jones said the left has faltered because it rallied around one man--Barack Obama--instead of maintaining a grassroots network. The secret of the tea party's success, he said, rests in its decentralization.
"We've been wrong," Jones said. "We had the wrong theory of the presidency. . . . We thought that if by electing a single person, an individual who was inspiring. . . we could sit back and pop popcorn and just watch him."
"The thing I learned from the tea party," he added. "They're very, very adult about charisma and leadership. Who is the one leader of the tea party? . . . They built something bigger than any leader."
Jones outlined a plan at the conference for liberal coalition groups to unite under a single banner, and based it off the tea party model.
"You can have a crappy president," he said. "[But] if you have a strong movement we can get the job done."