One of the most promising talkfests I’ve ever been part of happened this spring when 7,000 folks got together in Austin, Texas, to exchange ideas and hopes. It was the opening act of the Rolling Thunder Downhome Democracy Tour, a lively mixture of county fair, political rally, and music festival that is headed for Tucson, Seattle, Atlanta, and Minneapolis through the summer and fall. (See www.rollingthundertour.org for details.)
The crowd in Austin was treated to an all-star roster of rousing speakers, including U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., Granny D, and Molly Ivins, who told the cheering crowd, "I want to urge all of you, when you’re out there organizing on the issues, to remember to have fun."
Ice cream impresario Ben Cohen chose the event to promote his True Majority campaign, which included a radical carnival sideshow (winners of the softball throw, for instance, knocked over a nuclear missile and saw a schoolhouse pop up). The campaign aims to reach beyond activist circles to speak with everyday people about trimming military spending so that we can improve education, promote children’s welfare, and fight global poverty. (For information, see www.TrueMajority.com.) "The true majority of Americans do not want to be identified as progressives," he told the crowd. "They don’t want to come to our meetings. They’re exhausted and overwhelmed. Yet they feel the same as we do about the issues."