Van Jones' new book Rebuild the Dream is, I believe, the great text of the US Obama political era. The book outlines a vision for the rebuilding the American Dream for the 99% in the wake of economic catastrophe.
Jones outlines a four quadrant (yes a four quadrant!) understanding of political change. His X axis consists of concepts (left side) and action (right side). He then adds a Y axis of rational (upper) and emotional (lower). So Upper Left is Head Space, the realm of concepts and policy papers. Lower Left is the heart space, the realm of political narrative and vision. Lower Right is the Outside Game (action + emotion), the realm of political movements, protests, and outside pressure (like The Occupy or The Tea Party). The Upper Right is the Inside Game, the game of political parties, elections, and enacting legislation.
This four quadrant scheme opens a window into why there was such a feeling of palpable change as Obama ran his 2008 campaign and what happened in the year since he has been president.
"Too many of us treated Obama's inauguration as some kind of finish line, when we should have seen it as just the starting line. Too many of us sat down at the very moment when we should have stood up... I say Obama relied on the people too little, and we tried to rely on him too much."
"The Obama administration had the wrong theory of the movement, and the movement had the wrong theory of the presidency. In America, changes comes when we have two kinds of leaders, not just one. We need a president who is willing to be pushed into doing the right thing, and we need independent leaders and movements that are willing to do the pushing."
Through the four quadrant view Jones is able to articulate a defense of working both inside and outside the major US political parties (especially the Democratic party). When I hear (particularly from the Occupy movement) that there's no difference between a Romney or Obama, between Republicans and Democrats, I find that a profoundly ignorant statement. That kind of mentality led to the Republican landslide victory in the 2010 midterm elections.
Here is a video of Jones making that case: support Obama and the Democrats and do not rely on them either.
Jones' four quadrant grid allows us to see the value of each group playing its role. Jones looks at changes within all four quadrants for the 99% movement. Succinctly, Jones reminds the reader that during the great moments of US liberal reform, they occurred when movements put pressure on the Democratic Party. This occurred during the tenure of FDR and the New Deal as well as Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights reform. And what failed in the Obama years was partly Obama and his administration and (at least equally) the failure of a movement to push him from the left.
In the video above Jones makes a clear distinction between Occupy and the larger Movement for the 99%, comparing Occupy to the Student Noviolent Coordinating Committee and the 99% movement to the Civil Rights movement. I think one of the main failures of Occupy has not been to align itself with a larger agenda in the mainstream democratic process (while remaining outside it and putting pressure on it) and I hope Jones' book helps rectify that situation for the good of all.