Exclusive - Van Jones Extended Interview

December 5, 2016 - Van Jones 12/05/2016 Views: 97,385

CNN's Van Jones explains why he wanted to profile Donald Trump voters for his special "The Messy Truth" and weighs in on the importance of listening to political opponents. (8:50)

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Please welcome Van Jones.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

(cheering continues)

Thank you.

-Uh...-No, no, no.

-(laughs)-After you, after you.

Welcome to the show, sir.

Welcome to Hell, sir.

-(laughter) -Well,I don't know if I'm in Hell.

I feel like, uh, this isthe beginning of the ride.

Yeah, well, for you,it's a ratings bonanza.

For the rest of us,we're just gonna be suffering.

I feel like it's the same thing,

-but let's take a step back,though. -Yes, sir.

When you last came on the show,

I will never forgethow you sounded the warning.

You were oneof the first people--

not just on CNNbut in general-- saying,

we need to takethese people seriously.

And when you were referringto "these people,"

you were talkingabout angry white voters

and, more importantly,

people who were neo-Nazisand white supremacists

within that movement.

It's a weird place to be in now,

but are you walking aroundgoing, like, "I told you so"?

Um, you know, um,some people were raised well,

and would never do that,and I'm not one of them.

-I tried to tell y'all.-(Trevor laughing)

-I tried to tell y'all.-(laughter and applause)

There ain't nobody listened.

Here, here's a question, here'sa legit question I have, though.

-Like, you...-(laughing)

Here-- No, no.Here-here's a thing I have.

You-you were sitting on panels,I watch your show all the time.

-I see you there talkingto people. -Yeah.

People would say to you,"Van, I don't know.

"I think you're wrong.Let's look at the numbers.

"Let's look at the the polls.This can't happen.

"This won't happen.White liberal voters,

white voters in these stateswon't vote for this."

Why were you so certain

that they could switchand vote for Trump?

(clears throat)I've been black a long time.

-Uh, that's been, that'san advantage -(laughter)

(laughing):on being able to see,

like, possibly bad thingscoming.

And, um, uh, listen,

you can't underestimate, um...

First of all, all the peoplewho voted for Trump

-were not voting for raciallynegative reasons. -Yeah.

I want to be very clearabout that.

You have a-a core of people

who were actually delighted

by some of thoseinflammatory comments.

Those peopleI would call bigots, okay?

But you had anothergroup of people

who found those commentsdistasteful,

but not disqualifying,

because they had so much othereconomic pain and problems

that were not being talked to.

And those were the peoplethat cost us the election.

And what I was aware ofin the country,

was that yes, you did havea bunch of fired up bigots,

but you also had a much, much,much, much, much larger number

of people who feltthat the elites

had sold them down the riverin both parties.

And you know what?They weren't wrong.

We did not give theman opportunity

to come to our sidethe way we should have.

Here's a question I have.

You... you're actually here

because you have a special

coming out on CNN where, uh...

-it's called The Messy Truth. -Yes.

And you've gone out...

You said,"I'm going to go out

to talk to these people.I'm going to go out there..."

Hey, y-you know when you say"these people," you sound like

a white guytalking about black people?

Well, maybe I am, Van.Maybe I am.

The, um... You saidyou're gonna go up,

talk to these peopleand say, um...

Well, it's because I don't wantto label them as... I don't

want to say "Trump voters." It'speople, at the end of the day.

-That's a good point. -It'speople who have made a choice.

And so the reason I say"these people" is because

-it's these people who we arefocusing on. -Right.

You're going out... Youwent out there to speak to...

to speak to them, and I...I think what-what's interesting

to me is-is the why.A lot of people are going,

"Write them off.Rebuild the Democratic party

and then we'll figure outa-a way forward from here."

I see a lot of peoplemaking the arguments saying,

"Why should I engage with peoplewho made a decision

"that they knew to be racistor knew to be misogynistic

or decided to turn a blind eyeto that?"

Why would you then go and engagewith those same people

and what do you hopeto gain from that?

Well, look, first of all,I think we have to have

a more nuanced view of people.

Um, I don't wantto write anybody off.

First of all, everybodythat voted for Trump

was not voting for everycrazy thing he said.

A lot of peoplevoted for Hillary Clinton

holding their nose, too, okay?

So people voted for Trumpholding their nose.

There are veteranswho voted for Trump.

But if Trumpcomes at American Muslims,

those veteranswill march with us.

There are businesspeoplewho voted for Trump.

But if he goes and startsdragging Dreamers

off of college campuses andthrowing them out the country,

those business leaderswill be outraged.

So I don't want to buildhis coalition for him.

I don't want to take good peoplewho made a choice

that I don't likeand just give them to Trump.

I want...Listen, Trump is much worse

than anybody in this countryis willing to accept,

but a lot of his votersare much better,

and I don't want to give 'emaway. I don't want

-to give 'em away.-Wow, that's powerful.

(cheering and applause)


I guess, in and around that,

you know, in The Messy Truth, you're talking to voters,

you're talking to peoplewho voted for Obama twice,

you're talking to peoplewho live in swing states.

Uh, your day jobis very different,

because you-you're oftentimeson a panel on CNN

and you have to talkto people who seem

like they're professionalTrump supporters, in essence,

you know?People like Jeffrey Lord,

who has become, basically,your sparring partner in life.

Here-Here's what some peopledon't understand--

maybe even-even myselfsometimes--

is it always necessary to havea person like that on the news?

Is it necessaryto have someone on

who is goingto say inflammatory things,

things that areblatantly untrue,

things that they know will pokeat the heart of America?

Is it... is it necessaryto have them on the news?

Look, I thinkthat it's important...

Listen, people say, "Well,how can you have Jeffrey Lord

on there? How can..."How can you not?

Jeffrey Lord actually speaksfor millions of people.

We may not like what he hasto say, but the...

Here's the problemwe have in America.

We've gotten to the point nowwe talk about people

that we don't talk to.

My big frustrationwith the Republicans,

they talk about Chicago,Chicago, Chicago.

They never go thereand talk to those mothers.

They never go there, next to...you know,

where-where those vigils are,and stand with those kids.

They talk about the peoplein Chicago.

They don't talk to 'em.So I like the fact

that I get to talk to the peoplewho I don't agree with.

And the problem we have also is

disagreementis not the-the problem.

It's the way we've been doingthe disagreement,

so that now,rather than having c...

-Look, disagreement's goodbecause that's democracy. -Yeah.

In a dictatorship,you have to agree.

Democracy, you get to disagree.It's called freedom.

I don't mind that.

The problem we have now, though,

is that we havedestructive disagreement,

and we don't know howto do constructive disagreement.

And I'm trying--when you see me on CNN--

to find a wayto constructive disagreement.

I need Jeffrey there to do that.

-Let's, um...-(applause and cheering)

Let's chat real quickbefore I let you go

about what you seeour future as,

because...for many black Americans,

it's tough because...

many black Americans will say,

-"How many times do I have to bedoing the right thing?" -Mm.

"So I've got to be the onethat's voting for Hillary,

"and then, I see white peoplebe like,

"'I'll take a chance on Trump.'

"You know, I've gotto be the one

"who is now extending a hand,

"listening and talkingto people

who I feel like would notdo the same thing for me."

You're in that position.

You are an African-American man.

You have children that youtalked about on the show,

where you go, "I don't know howto explain this to them."

How do you then findthat strength,

or why do you feel the needfor yourself to be reaching out?

Because you could just say"No. This country's racist.

I don't care. I'm out."

But how do you justifyto yourself then?

Why engage?

How can you lookat a Nelson Mandela,

who went through much worse thanI'm ever gonna go through,

dealing with much worse people?

And he didn't give up.How can I look

at an Ella Jo Baker,a Fannie Lou Hamer,

a Martin Luther King?

They shot King in the facethe year I was born

because he was tryingto fight for these ideals.

I have one bad electionand some bad tweets, and quit?

I can't do that.And I'm gonna tell you,

you cannot-- especiallythis younger generation...

They can't quit, either.

I'm a ninth generation American.

A ninth generation American.

I'm the first one in my familyborn with all my rights.

My relatives didn't quit,and I'm not going to, either,

and neither shouldthese young people.

-We're just getting started.-(applause and cheering)

-I could have you on hereforever. -Yeah, man.

I love chatting to you.

-I appreciate everything you do.-Yeah, man.

The Messy Truth airs on CNNtomorrow, December 6,

at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

You want to watch it.Van Jones, everybody.