It was both refreshing and sobering to take part in the anti-war rally Saturday in Fayetteville–refreshing because it was valuable to be around so many people angry about the war, sobering because I know there are so many more people just as outraged who weren’t there.

It’s fortunate that the war hasn’t yet directly touched the lives of most North Carolinians, but the sad truth is that until it does, most of those who oppose the war won’t make ending it a priority. There are those who say it’s going to take many more lives and injuries before enough people are affected to make a difference in the anti-war movement, and that’s got to be one of the biggest factors ensuring that the Bush administration doesn’t institute a draft. The current administration has learned at least one lesson from Vietnam. But let’s not let it come to that.

We’ve got to find a way to connect with the 45 percent of people in the state who told the Elon University poll they don’t approve of the way President Bush is conducting the war. And we’ve got to go beyond that to explain why the Bush administration’s policies on health care, taxation, debt, jobs and unemployment are not working in their interest.

This week’s issue of In These Times has the most cogent explanation of what we need to do that I’ve read since the election. Writer Christopher Hayes says the answer is creating a newly progressive populace the same way the right wing systematically went to work creating a conservative one starting in the 1960s. It means not compromising our beliefs, as the centrist Democratic Leadership Council would have us do, but emphasizing the issues on which most Americans hold progressive beliefs–taxation, health care, education spending, Social Security, environmental protection and corporate regulation. It means creating a newly evangelical movement that goes door to door explaining to Americans how this administration is working against them. The issue Hayes suggests as a rallying cry: debt, and the creation of debt clubs across the country that decry the usurious fees now charged by credit card companies, banks and pay-day lenders.

“Success would build on success,” Hayes writes. “As local groups discovered that credit reform is possible, the agenda might expand toward healthcare reform, since so many bankruptcies are caused by healthcare crises, or debt forgiveness for developing countries suffering from similar fates as American debtors.”

In Hayes’ world, protests like the one in Fayetteville are just part of the equation. If broadly based organizing is put behind them, the result could indeed be protests that aren’t just refreshing, but powerful.

To read Hayes’ article, go to