Video: Van Jones raises the bar for progressives at Environmental Media Association conference

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      For several years, Van Jones has been one of the stars of the U.S. progressive movement.

      As the author of the Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, he's highlighted how renewable forms of energy can promote massive job creation.

      He sometimes pops up as the liberal voice on U.S. talk shows.

      For instance, when Donald Trump was elected U.S. president on November 8, Jones called his victory a "whitelash" on CNN, earning tremendous attention.

      Since then, Jones has spent a great deal of time trying to understand why people voted for Trump.

      Jones has visited several states and counties where Trump won and spoken to people who voted for him.

      "Trump is much worse than even the most hysterical NPR liberal could have possibly imagined on November 9th," Jones told people attending a recent Environmental Media Association conference.

      But Jones also cautioned the audience that many of Trump's supporters are actually "a lot better than we know".

      And he called their decision to support Trump a "rebellion in the country against Washington, D.C.". Then he added that this rebellion "is justified".

      To support this point, Jones cited how elites in both major U.S. parties were in favour of the North American Free Trade Agreement, deregulating Wall Street, expanding the prison system, and entering into long-lasting foreign wars, all of which took a toll on average people.

      "You don't get this outcome without both political parties having a lot to take responsibility for," Jones said.

      He noted that the lack of job retraining in the wake of NAFTA undermined "proud towns with proud families". It's reached the point where opioid addiction is ripping communities apart and driving down the average life expectancy of white males.

      According to Jones, "the car is moving in the wrong direction" as too many Americans are "eating themselves, drinking themselves, [and] drugging themselves to death".

      He characterized what's developed as "spiritual poverty". He explained that too many people feel that they no longer fit in and that nobody cares about them.

      "That's not just in the red states," Jones said. "That's in the blue states too. It's in this room. If that's really what's going on, then maybe what we're doing trying to fight polarization with polarization might not be the right strategy."

      It was a provocative message for those who've gotten comfortable with intense political polarization in America. You can see his entire speech below.

      Van Jones shakes up a room full of liberals with his message from the heart.