Van Jones wants us to work out our differences.
The activist and CNN commentator has become a champion for progressives with his impassioned speeches and critical takes. On the night of the presidential election, Jones likened the outcome to a “nightmare” and “a whitelash against a changing country.” Like many, Jones is heartbroken by the division and political mudslinging. But he is fighting back with his Love Army movement, and he’s bringing it directly to the people. The We Rise Tour, which lands at the House of Blues on August 19, brings celebrities, artists, athletes and community leaders together to focus on our commonalities and take on a range of topics, from prison reform to green jobs.
While he’s tight-lipped about the Las Vegas lineup—the kickoff in Los Angeles saw the likes of Russell Simmons and Nick Cannon—Jones took some time to talk to Vegas Seven about his mission, finding common ground and those 2020 campaign rumors.
What was the motivation behind the tour?
The main motivation is that everybody is so doggone sad and miserable and depressed in my world. I said, “Enough is enough.” Are we supposed to sit here for four years and be mad at each other and call each other names and hope America gets better? It doesn’t make sense. So I decided we’re going to go to 14 cities and we’re going to get as many artists and leaders and problem-solvers together for 90 minutes of pure inspiration, talking about how the country got off track—both parties need to take responsibility for that—but also talking about the areas of common ground.
How are you going to get people on both sides to listen? And will they listen?
Because I’m a liberal, I probably will get more attention from progressives, but the reality is I have tough love for both political parties. The Republicans need to look in the mirror in terms of some of the bigotry and the bias that they have allowed to exist in their party. How can the party of Lincoln also be the party of Steve Bannon? That doesn’t make any sense.
At the same time, Democrats need to look in the mirror. We have sometimes drawn our circle too small. We’ve been so interested in trying to protect those groups that have been traditionally left out—whether you talk about Muslims, LGBT, people of color, etc.—that we have forgotten that there’s a bunch of people who are being left out, especially some of these working class and rural white folks. We haven’t done a good job of being as inclusive, even as a party of inclusion.
In this digital age, why is it important to still get in front of people and get face time with them?
I don’t care how many electrodes they shove in your brain and how many pixels they stimulate your retina with: High tech will never replace high touch. When people are in the same room, they smell each other’s pheromones, they’re getting each other’s vibe and energy. There are so many things that get stimulated in real time. … Part of our movement has to be virtual, but a lot of it has to be actual.
What is the Love Army and how can people get involved?
Love Army is a movement that’s trying to fight cynicism with solutions. We’re trying to fight divisiveness with solidarity. The bottom line is, the question we have to ask ourselves is: “OK, we don’t have to agree on a bunch of stuff. Now, are we going to turn on each other or are we going to turn to each other? Are we going to talk about each other or are we going to talk with each other?” Because if you go down the route that we’re on right now, you don’t have a country. It can get very scary very fast. I’ve seen other countries where things have gotten out of hand.
This all sounds like a great platform for a run in 2020…
Oh, my God—no! I was in the White House for six months. I saw that job up close. I don’t know why anybody would ever want that job. What I’m trying to do is figure out how the people who do want to run can get anything done. All my friends are running. They haven’t told me, but I believe that Cory Booker is going to run, Kamala Harris is going to run, Elizabeth Warren might run. My problem is: Can they get anything done if they win, given how polarized everything is? I feel my job is to try to figure out a way to de-inflame the situation, number one, and then number two, create a situation so that people are voting for better Republicans and better Democrats.
We Rise Tour powered by #LoveArmy
7 p.m., Aug. 19, $18–$64, House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay, houseofblues.com/lasvegas. Ticket proceeds will benefit the Dream Corps’ various initiatives and local organizations.