If you know Van Jones, it’s probably from his participation in CNN’s roughly 24-person political panels. That’s how I knew him this election season, and even though everything he said on air made way more sense than the partisan blather and breathless horse-race gossip coming from his left and right—and was shockingly progressive—I still vaguely mistrusted him because…well, because he was on that stupid panel to begin with.
But Van Jones, good as he is at making cogent points and emotional appeals on television, is much more than a CNN commentator. He’s a legitimate activist and political organizer, president of Dream Corps and co-founder of Color for Change, and basically a dude who has done quite a lot. Barack Obama thought enough of him to bring him on board as a Special Advisor for Green Jobs, and the Republicans were scared enough of him that they engaged in a long smear campaign, led by Glenn Beck, designed to ratfuck him—which was successful, as Jones decided to resign in order to spare his colleagues from having to defend him.
Yesterday, a long and comprehensive interview with Jones last week’s election and the state of American politics—went up on Mother Jones. Forgive me for using SJW language, but the interview was so good, so honest, and so insightful, that I feel the need to amplify his voice.
Please go read the entire thing—really, I beg you. Here are just a few excerpts that prove that I was wrong about Jones, and that he’s far more than another superficial cable news talking head. He’s a person we need to listen to, and who should have an enormous platform as the progressive movement rises within the Democratic party.
On Trump and racism:
Now, the Trump phenomenon has a lot of really good stuff in it, the anti-elitism, the concern for America’s economy in the Rust Belt, the desire to see better days for the country. That’s all great stuff. Some of that stuff is Bernie Sanders stuff. The problem is that it’s marbled through with xenophobia and misogyny and bigotry. The problem that we have in the country now is, some people only see the positive stuff and wave off the toxic stuff, and some people only see the toxic stuff and wave off the positive stuff. You can’t have an honest conversation.
For the past 30 years, elites in both political parties signed off on trade, deregulating the banks, building all these prisons, getting into these dumb wars, et cetera. Both parties. When somebody comes along and says, “I think Washington, DC, sucks,” that’s not wrong. The problem is that in Trump’s case, he also demagogued around racial issues. Now I think liberals have gone from underreacting to Trump and saying that Trump is just a clown and a buffoon, and that Hillary Clinton’s going to kick his ass, to now overreacting, and saying, “Oh my God, 60 million people consciously endorsed a white supremacist for president.”
Neither of those are true, okay?
On Trump’s inevitable trajectory:
When he fails to deliver and the economic pain is the same as it is right now, he’ll have two choices. He’s going to have to spend a bunch of money on infrastructure jobs, which, frankly, I’m not mad at. Especially if they’re not only in the red states. That will have, against the overall economy, some multiplier effects, but relatively limited impact. He’s not going to want to pay for it, so he’s going to have to do that depth of finance, which will have some economic consequences, maybe mild. Then he’s going to start blaming people. He’s going to start a war, he’s going to start attacking immigrants or Muslims or Black Lives Matter or whatever. Because he’s going to have to distract them from the no jobs. I think we have every reason to hope for the best but to expect and prepare for the worst.
On Clinton’s failure to excite the progressive base:
The problem wasn’t the DNC. The problem was the arrogance of the Clinton camp, which showed up in a thousand different ways. The whole email server thing was just a debacle. She shouldn’t have done it. Then the way they stopped the Sanders’ rebellion, which was 80 percent fine and 20 percent bad.
Listen, Sanders lost because he didn’t get enough black support. Period! End of story, we’re done. Black women in the South stuck with Hillary Clinton and stopped his rebellion. You don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to do all kinds of hijinks and stuff like that. In fact, do the opposite, and tell your people to do the opposite.
And lastly, on the media’s failure:
The catnip of the ratings, it’s just hard to shake off. He’s a hell of a performer, he’s a hell of an entertainer. If you put him on and let him say his crazy stuff, you’re going to get a lot of viewers. If you take him off and have some sober discussion about what’s going on in Syria, you’re going to lose 80 percent of your audience. When you get $1 billion of free advertising, it’s hard not to have anybody buy the product.
You have a new media system and he emerged as a new master of it….We thought he was leaving that world of entertainment and climbing over the wall into politics. In fact, what he did was he pulled the world of politics into the world of reality television. Basically, we all just had to live in the Trump reality television show, and now we’re kind of stuck there for at least four years. Maybe eight.
Again, go read the whole thing, and maybe do some amplifying yourself if you agree that we need more voices like Jones in the new Democratic leadership vacuum.