What does it take to make left-wing CNN contributor Van Jones sound moderate and reasonable? Have him interviewed by Ana Marie Cox of the New York Times for the paper’s Sunday Magazine: “Van Jones Can Empathize With Trump Voters.” Journalist Cox has a regular slot on the Talk page at the back of the Sunday magazine, where she talks to personalities from various fields, but often the focus is political.
This Sunday, Van Jones sounded more sensible than Cox when it came to respecting those with different political beliefs, jabbing at his own side to be more tolerant of Trump voters and conservatives in general. (Cox’s questions are in bold – Jones’ answers follow.)
It seems as if what you’re best known for, at least in pop culture, is being the guy Glenn Beck hounded out of the White House, and also for owning Jeffrey Lord on CNN. What would you like to be known for? I’m a serial, successful social entrepreneur. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about being known for something. I spend a lot of time trying to solve problems.
After Jones argued that “most people, on all sides, are fundamentally good,” Cox challenged that broad premise.
I also believe that people are fundamentally good, but this election cycle has tried that hypothesis for me. I have a great deal of empathy for the Donald Trump voters. When you listen to them talk about feeling hurt, scared and left behind, they sound like the Black Lives Matter activists.
How so? The elites have failed the people so thoroughly that tens of millions of people, on any side of any issue, can legitimately say they don’t think the system is working for them anymore, if it ever did. Now, I don’t like bigotry. We have to beat Trump. But hurt people holler. I will fight Trump, but I don’t want to fall into this cheap reverse --Trumpism, where liberals are just as rude toward the Trump voters as Trump is toward them.
(Jones later argued: “Liberals need to take responsibility for our role in the polarization from the left. We’re so invested in being correct, but we’re not right about everything.”)
A lot of people are mocking the idea that you can explain the bigotry at a Trump rally by writing it off as simply a response to economic anxiety. There are elements of racism, xenophobia and misogyny in the Trump movement, and there’s also all kinds of legitimate of anxieties. The rise of Trump is a judgment on the progressive movement that has adopted a style that doesn’t leave much room for a 55-year-old heterosexual white Republican living in a red state to feel that he has any place of honor or dignity in the world progressives are trying to create. We see the disrespect coming from them, but there’s a subtle disrespect coming from us, the NPR crowd, that is intolerant of intolerance. Nobody wants to feel as though they don’t count.
Cox’s liberal NYT interviews with political celebrities like Samantha Bee and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are almost entirely friendly, even fawning, while the conservatives ones are often hostile. But not even CNN Tonight anchor Don Lemon was down-the-line leftist enough to satisfy Cox, as shown by her hostile questioning in a November 2015 interview:
You have a track record of upsetting people on the left. What would you say was the worst episode? I don’t know. No one asks Jake Tapper or Wolf Blitzer to be the spokesperson for any particular group. I’m not an advocate or an activist. I’m a journalist.
The latest controversy was over your comments on the police-brutality video from Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. You said you wanted to see more context. Did you see the whole segment?