Throughout the election, CNN commentator Van Jones has been a leading voice for progressivism, a smart critic of failings within the Democratic Party, and an unflinching tribune against the bigotry exhibited by the Donald Trump campaign. On election night, Jones—co-founder of Color for Change and president of the social justice incubator Dream Corps—spoke for many when he said that parents who’d told their kids not to be bullies or bigots were dreading how to explain the outcome to them in the morning.
On Friday, I spoke with Van Jones about where we go from here.
Clara Jeffery: On election night, you said it was pretty clear that this was a “whitelash” against not only Barack Obama, but also due to the unease that whites have of losing their demographic choke hold.
Van Jones: That part got the most attention because I was the only person on national TV willing to call out the elephant in the room. The vast majority of white people voted for Trump, and the vast majority of people of color didn’t. That’s been true in presidential elections for a while, but in a race where even Paul Ryan said there were textbook examples of racism coming out of the mouth of the Republican nominee, we have to accept that some very toxic stuff was marbled into the Trump phenomenon.
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.
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