Van Jones Is Way Too Kind to That Demagogue and Those Deplorables

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images
Leigh Vogel/Getty Images

For some time now, Van Jones has offered a bevy of political musings that might prompt more sensible, less forgiving souls to barf in a bag or bang their head against a wall, but it seems only now that are some catching on.


Recently, the CNN political commentator managed to piss off quite a few people by arguing that when he addressed the widow of a slain Navy SEAL during a speech made to a joint session of Congress, Parmesan Putin “became president of the United States in that moment, period.” Jones, who takes a can’t-stop, won’t-stop approach to hyperbole, followed with yet another declaration: “That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.”

Jones was not alone in paying a man who likes to talk but doesn’t often have much to say in terms of coherency, insight or complete sentences far too great a compliment for reading from a teleprompter and being seemingly decent, but that gross display of overzealous punditry earned him the headlines he so clearly sought. Meanwhile, others noted how “crassly manipulative” the purported tribute truly was or, at the very least, knew that for whatever goodwill 45 earned that night, he would quickly overshadow it as par for the course in his relatively young political career.

That’s what made this other little nugget from Jones all the more laughable: “If he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years.”

Fact is, 45 did not win the presidency because he honored widows; he won because he played to the pervasiveness of racism, sexism and xenophobia that continues to plague this country. Jones has likely skirted by criticism for so long thanks to how he infamously described the 2016 presidential election results as a “white-lash.” Even so, for all that favorable coverage and adulation Jones’ election night commentary earned him, he has spent much of the time coddling the people responsible for said “white-lash.”

Not long after making those statements on CNN, Jones appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, and when pressed about the percentage of outright white supremacist supporters of 45, Jones asked for clarification. “Like, outright ‘We hate black people?’” Jones asked. When told yes, he answered, “Probably less than 1 percent.”

Jones can reach for the stars in describing 45 reading from a teleprompter without drooling or going off into a tangent, but suddenly he wants to be shy about describing racism within the Grand Old Party? This is the person worth championing? This is what we should believe about America under a president who surrounds himself with racists and openly praises Andrew Jackson, one of the most racist presidents—if not the most racist—in American history?


In any event, to qualify racism solely by its most extreme forms is a disingenuous and utterly useless exercise. The party of the Southern strategy would not exploit the prejudices of the electorate if it were not found to be widespread and, by extension, of good use. There is data to confirm how in tune Republican voters are with their biases, though there is no greater sign of this than a man with no political experience managing to become president of the United States while hollering about Mexicans being rapists, Muslims being terrorists and blacks living in hell as he surrounds himself with executives of white-supremacist-centered news outlets.

Still, Jones has purposely downplayed the role racism plays for dubious reasons that largely seem careerist in nature. That’s frustrating in and of itself, but what makes it all the more appalling is that Jones actively uses his platform to absolve white people of guilt over being active participants in bigotry or, at the very least, complicit in it. Not to be outdone, he also laments those who will suffer most from their choices.


Last December, Van Jones made the following argument to Rolling Stone:

I think sometimes progressives think that that all 60 million people who voted for [Trump] have signed on to an Alt-Right, white nationalist agenda. They think that we now live in a country with 60 million neo-Nazis. That’s just not true! Yes, the white nationalists were a noxious part of his coalition, and the fact that they weren’t thrown out is disturbing. But a lot of people held their nose and voted for Donald Trump—despite his bigotry, not because of it. And that should be reason for some more confidence than people have been showing recently.


Why should anyone be confident about the fact that people were willing to vote for a demagogue no matter how great the stench of his bigotry? It is not at all difficult to make the case that support of 45 meant you are either an active participant in racism or complicit, which in and of itself is a racist act. Well, it’s not difficult if you genuinely care about the problem at hand.

As for the lovey-dovey nonsense:

We have got to bet on the good in people, including people who voted for Trump, and build up a big Love Army.

How do you do that? We’re going to do national teach-ins starting very soon—once a week, every week, standing up for the most vulnerable people: Muslims, the DREAMers, Jewish people, women, trans people, black protestors. And once a week, give the whole country a chance to show a whole lotta love—both to demonstrate and deepen a solidarity with those groups, all under one hashtag. #LoveArmy is an opportunity to reassert at a values level.


While it is rational to argue that you can’t completely ignore every single one of 45’s supporters, it is a fool’s errand to try to beat hatred with love.

But this is exactly what Van Jones continues to tell people. While speaking at the Women’s March in January, Jones said, “We love conservatives enough to tell them they have to be better conservatives than this.” And this: “Get off Tinder and get off Grindr and get some real love.”


I don’t love people who don’t love me. Nor do I love folks who support bigotry. I certainly do not love those who dehumanize me and anyone else considered an outlier of their lily-white lives.

As for getting off Tinder and Grindr, fuck off and quit fucking conflating people’s right to have sex however they see fit with your little after-school-special line of thinking that’s ultimately nothing more than a shtick to keep you on the air.


If we are truly to move forward as a nation, people have to own the consequences of their choices. Moreover, you can’t love away oppression. Being kind to someone who sees you as less than goes only so far as a political strategy. Jones scores lovely promo for his CNN show with the regurgitation of these talking points, but it comes at the expense of the marginalized, who deserve more than someone shouting that we ought to foolishly love those who show no regard for our well-being.

Pat Buchanan can fall dick first into a pool of fire, but with regards to his “Culture War Speech” delivered at the 1992 Republican National Convention, he and those like him understand that when you know you cannot convince the other side, you don’t bother with reaching out; you just beat them.

Oprah Winfrey is not the get-out-of-losing-the-election card that some like Jones may think. So much of postelection coverage has been spent trying to show flickers of light in those who supported the darkest person to run for office in quite some time. Meanwhile, the 70,000 people—many of whom were black and kept out of the booths through voter suppression—who could have made a difference, and the millions of us frightened by what’s happening and what’s to come, continue to see our interests and our humanities not championed in the same way.


I knew this to be true of Van Jones long before he spoke of the marvels of a mediocre racist white man a few weeks ago. It’s important to know the difference between those who will speak truth to power and those who will just speak to preserve a platform. So if you finally find yourself annoyed by things that Van Jones says on TV, welcome to the party. Better late than never.

Now, for those who want to join Gen. Van Jones and presumably Kanye West and the seven or so Smurfs in that Love Army, good luck with that. You will need it.

Michael Arceneaux is the author of "I Can't Date Jesus," which will be released July 24, 2018 by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, but go ahead and pre-order it now.




I was waiting for the Root’s inevitable coverage of Van Jones, who in recent weeks has shown his true self, and last night held his Town Hall on CNN. Last night, he had Rep. Chris Collins on. Jones is too fucking quick to applaud Republicans (or Rethuglicans as Ms. Roo calls them), literally. Jones asked Collins last night what he thought about cutting Meals on Wheels, Collins floundered and offered some bullshit-ass deflecting before saying that he didn’t agree with cutting off Meals on Wheels. Jones then asked the audience to applaud for Collins taking a stand.

Excuse me, what? What, exactly, is the spineless, feckless Collins standing up for other than furthering the agenda of the White Nationalists?

Jones is a fraud. He is frequently paired with Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh Mackadoodle as some kind of voice of reason but I know better.