Long before Election Day, CNN commentator Van Jones was saying he was far more worried about what would happen on November 9th than he was about what would happen on November 8th, regardless of who won the presidency. With that in mind, he is set to host a special on CNN this week called The Messy Truth, for which he spoke to Donald Trump supporters in Ohio in an attempt to reach some sort of common ground.
Jones has been on a roll since the election, first speaking out passionately that night against the “whitelash” that he said had just occurred in America. Since then, he has found ways to speak less emotionally about Trump, telling The View last week that while the president-elect may deserve a “chance,” he should never “get a pass.”
But that didn’t stop him from opening his interview with Trevor Noah on Monday’s Daily Show by saying, “Welcome to hell.” When Noah pushed back, saying this felt more like “the beginning of a ride” than hell, Jones said, “Well, for you it is a ratings bonanza, but for the rest of us, we’re going to be suffering.”
Noah noted that Jones was one of the first to point out that the media needed to take the neo-Nazis and white supremacists supporting Trump more seriously and asked if he now wants to say “I told you so.” His guest replied, “You know, some people were raised well and would never do that. And I’m not one of them. I tried to tell y’all! I tried to tell y’all and ain’t nobody listened!”
“You have a core of people who were actually delighted by some of those inflammatory comments,” Jones said of Trump supporters. “Those people, I would call bigots.” But then there were the people who found Trump’s words “distasteful, but not disqualifying, because they had so much other economic pain and problems that were not being talked to, and those were the people that cost us the election.”
On those who “felt that the elite had sold them down the river in both parties,” Jones admitted, “They weren’t wrong. We did not give them an opportunity to come to our side the way we should have.”
“Everybody that voted for Trump was not voting for every crazy thing he said,” Jones added, saying that many voters were “holding their noses” when they cast their ballots on both sides of the aisle. Because of that, he said he has faith that they will stand up to Trump if and when he tries to enact some of his more outrageous policies.
“Listen, Trump is much worse than anybody in this country is willing to accept,” he said, “but a lot of his voters are much better and I don’t want to give them away.”
Finally, Noah presented the question that “many black Americans” are asking right now: “How many times do I have to be doing the right thing?” he asked. “So I’ve got to be the one voting for Hillary and then I see white people be like, ‘I’ll take a chance on Trump.’ I’ve got to be the one who is now extending a hand, listening and talking to people who I feel like would not do the same for me.”
To Jones, Noah asked, “Why do you feel the need for yourself to be reaching out? Because you could just say no, this country is racist, I don’t care, I’m out. But how do you justify it to yourself? Why engage?”
Jones said all he needs to do is look at people like Nelson Mandela, who had it “much worse” than him but didn’t give up. “They shot King in the face the year I was born because he was trying to fight for these ideals,” he said. “I have one bad election and some bad tweets and quit? I can’t do that. And I will tell you: You cannot, especially this younger generation. They can’t quit either.”
“I am a ninth generation American,” Jones continued. “I’m the first one in my family born with all my rights. My relatives didn’t quit and I’m not going either and neither should these young people. We’re just getting started.”