Van Jones delivered a profoundly heart-wrenching speech amidst the chaos during election night and his words on Monday’s “Daily Show with Trevor Noah” were just as poignant.
Jones greeted Noah by saying, “Welcome to hell,” imploring viewers to recognize that Donald Trump’s presidency is not just a “ratings bonanza” for talk show hosts, but it means suffering “for the rest of us.”
The discourse that follows breaks down who exactly the Trump supporters were and how we haven’t understood them properly, with Jones indicating that not all those who voted Trump did so for “racially negative reasons.”
Jones doesn’t defend or vilify these voters’ decisions, but notes that they “felt that the elite had sold them down the river in both parties” and goes on to say that “they weren’t wrong. We did not give them an opportunity to come to our side the way we should have.”
He adds that every Trump voter didn’t vote “for every crazy thing he said,” that many were “holding their noses” when they cast their ballots for both candidates.
“We have to have a more nuanced view of people,” he says before giving an example of the viewpoint of veterans who voted for Trump. “There are veterans who voted for Trump, but if Trump goes after American Muslims, those veterans will march with us.”
He goes on to say, “Listen, Trump is much worse than anybody in this country is willing to accept, but a lot of his voters are much better and I don’t want to give them away.”
The last part of the discussion had Noah asking Jones a question that “many black Americans” are asking: “How many times do I have to be doing the right thing?”
Further, Noah presses: “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 says he’s inspired by Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ella Jo Baker who’ve been through “much worse” than him but never give up.
“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. A ninth generation American,” Jones says, emphatically. “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.”
In conjunction with these statements, Jones said ― a recent interview with Esquire ― that we need to have “more authentic conversation.”
“Disagreement is fine. Conflict is fine. But let it be authentic. Let it be true, which starts off with: nobody is perfect. None of these candidates are perfect. None of these political parties are perfect,” he says. “It’s this whole mess that we’re in. You know, what can we honestly discover together? That’s a constructive conversation. That’s the conversation I want to have.”
Jones’ special “The Messy Truth” airs on CNN on Dec. 6th at 9 p.m. EST.