Van Jones emerged as a star last November when he said that Donald Trump’s election was a result of a “whitelash.” Now the CNN political commentator is hosting a series of town hall meetings across the nation that he describes as “Anthony Bourdain meets Phil Donahue.”
Jones spoke with Variety about what to expect from the next four years, why Hillary Clinton lost, and what the Democrats need to do differently.
How has your life changed since the election?
For a lot of people, especially liberals and progressives, election night was a traumatic shock, like when JFK was shot or the Twin Towers fell. It was a huge media moment. And for a lot of them, I was their guy on CNN that night. For several days, I didn’t have to pay for anything. I would walk into a store or sit down at a restaurant or get in a cab, and the workers wouldn’t charge me, to say “thank you.”
|JAKE CHESSUM for Variety|
Why are people so traumatized?
You’re taught your whole life not to be a bully, and this time a bully won. It upsets your whole view when someone like that wins.
What are your biggest concerns for the next four years?
Those of us who know and love our Muslim-American communities are very concerned about them being targeted and singled out. Women’s rights are now in jeopardy. I think black voters and black protesters have reason to be concerned. And the list goes on. In terms of the overseas situation, this guy, for reasons that are hard to understand, has taken it upon himself to destroy NATO, which our grandparents and great-grandparents had built up to protect the Western democracies from a Russian dictatorship.
Why did Hillary Clinton’s campaign fail?
Hillary’s campaign failed to connect. But her campaign didn’t come out of nowhere. There’s a level of coastal snobbery toward the red states and the red counties of blue states that allowed the phrase “basket of deplorables” to survive vetting and come out of the mouth of a presidential candidate.
You recently said on television that the Clinton era is over, a statement that upset some Democrats.
The sky is blue. Water is wet. And the Clinton era is over. These are not controversial statements. That style of politics that is so transactional and cynical is not going to work with the millennial generation. Do you think in four years that the Democratic Party that is more dominated by millennials and people of color would want to support a Clinton-style candidate as opposed to a Sanders-style candidate? I don’t think it’s worth arguing about.
|“This thing should not have been close.”|
Are you saying that Sanders would have beaten Trump?
Not necessarily. Some business moderates who voted for Clinton would have been very nervous about Sanders. Plus, if you had Trump vs. Sanders, you probably would have had Bloomberg jump in. You would have had a different scenario.
What do Democrats need to do?
The Democrats are not going to get any better until we deal with our own problems. This thing should not have been close. We can’t just talk about fake news and the Russians. I talked face to face with voters who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump. I talked to voters in Detroit who got no help from the Clinton campaign trying to turn out black voters. Everybody knows that Clinton should have blown this guy out of the water, and she didn’t, because the campaign was run by a bunch of elite data-dummy snobs who thought they knew better than the grassroots people who were screaming the whole time.
Do you think Trump should be tweeting so much?
I think he’s jeopardizing the majesty of the office by the way he’s conducting himself. Every time a new form of media rises, you should have advantage of it: FDR with radio, JFK with television, Obama with the internet and viral videos, and now you have Trump with social media. We’ll see if America can survive a president who is a pathological liar with a Twitter addiction.
Did you see his response to Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes?
If you’re the president of the United States and you’re more angry with Meryl Streep than with a Russian dictator trying to subvert American democracy, there’s something definitely wrong with you.