- Van Jonesco-founder of #cut50, a national bipartisan initiative to reduce the U.S.'s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009 and founded Green for All. He is also a CNN political commentator.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is facing new criticism over his possibly illegal proposal to attempt to force Mexico to pay for a border wall by blocking Mexicans living in the United States from sending money back to their families. It’s the latest in a series of controversial racist or xenophobic statements by Donald Trump, who has called Mexicans rapists, proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and refused to disavow former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. For more on the campaign, we speak with CNN political commentator Van Jones, who calls Trump’s campaign “the most dangerous development I have seen in my lifetime.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Trump phenomenon and your sense of this enormous effort by the Republican Party to try to stop Trump before the election. How do you see this strategy developing, and do they have any—any hope of doing so?
VAN JONES: I would have said two weeks ago that Trump was unstoppable. He was Trumpzilla. He was just crunching through the village, you know, stepping on former governors and senators. He has managed to hurt himself so badly by that abortion gaffe, where you had both the anti-choice people and the pro-choice people all dog-piling him, because he finally said in public what many of them say in private, that women should go to jail.
AMY GOODMAN: Who have abortions.
VAN JONES: Who have abortion, should go to jail. That hurt him. And so now there’s an opportunity to stop him. But look at the so-called victory of the anti-Trump forces. They were able to dig in for weeks in one state. They threw everything at him. They had the governor. They had the talk radio people. And guess what. He still was able to get a third of the vote. And the people who voted against him, you look at that vote: 70 percent of all the voters, the Republicans, still say ban all the Muslims; a third say deport every undocumented person. So you still have, in this so-called anti-Trump moment, some of—the endorsement of some of his worst policies by the people who voted against him. So this is a very, very dangerous, authoritarian, right-wing party, and we need a much stronger, more coordinated progressive movement to stop it.
AMY GOODMAN: Van, I wanted to go to that night on Super Tuesday when you were on CNN as a CNN analyst debating Jeffrey Lord, a Trump supporter, clashing over Donald Trump’s hedging around the Klan leader David Duke’s endorsement.
VAN JONES: He is whipping up and tapping into and pushing buttons that are very, very frightening to me and frightening to a lot of people. Number one, when he is playing funny with the Klan, that is not cool.
JEFFREY LORD: He didn’t play funny with the Klan.
VAN JONES: Hold on, hold on a second. I know this man when he gets passionate about terrorism. I know how he talks about terrorism. The Klan is a terrorist organization that has killed—
JEFFREY LORD: A leftist terrorist organization.
VAN JONES: You could put whatever label you want to on it. That’s your game to play.
JEFFREY LORD: No, it’s an important—it’s important history.
VAN JONES: But—no, that’s your game to play.
JEFFREY LORD: It’s history.
VAN JONES: No, they’re not labeled—we’re not going to play that game. Not going to play that game.
JEFFREY LORD: We are going to understand history.
VAN JONES: No, no, no, no. You need to take a serious look at the fact that this man has—is playing fast and loose and footsie. When you talk about terrorism, he gets passionate. He says, “No, this is wrong.” But when you talk about the Klan, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know.” That’s wrong. And then you came on the air, and you said, “Well, this is just like when Reverend Wright was speaking.”
JEFFREY LORD: Yeah, yeah.
VAN JONES: Reverend Wright never lynched anybody, Reverend Wright never killed anybody.
JEFFREY LORD: Reverend Wright is—Reverend Wright is an anti-Semite.
VAN JONES: Reverend Wright—no, hold on a second. Reverend Wright never put anybody on a post. And you guys play these word games, and it’s wrong to do in America.
JEFFREY LORD: It is wrong to—
VAN JONES: It is wrong to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Van Jones, there you are. You’re debating Jeffrey Lord, the Trump supporter who’s on CNN all the time. What are you thinking about Trump right now?
VAN JONES: This is the most dangerous development that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Too many people now say, “Oh, it’s crazy. It’s crazy.” Quit saying it’s crazy. That makes it seem like it’s funny. This is dangerous to have a right-wing authoritarian movement. Notice, no amount of racial violence that he whipped up at his rallies slowed him down. None. No amount of racist, xenophobic hatred that he’s spewed slowed him down. In fact, it lifted him up. The reason that he’s having trouble now is because the field finally whittled down a little bit, some of his foreign policy positions with NATO are a little bit erratic, and he made the social conservatives mad with his abortion gaffe. That’s what’s slowing him down. That lets you know that we have—we are sitting on a volcano of white rage.
And what we’ve got to be able to do, first of all, is say, “Listen, why—how come all these white guys could be mad? I got 40 million black people; we could be mad. There’s 50 million Latinos; they could be mad. Six million Muslims. We could all be mad. Then what you got? You have no country.” So, let’s have—you know, civility is something important, because that gives you civilization. So, if you’re going to start saying, “You guys could be angry, say whatever you want,” just because it’s authentic doesn’t mean it’s all right. You’ve got to have some boundaries here. Those boundaries have been blown through. We are now adapting to absurdity. The idea of complete racial hostility—no dog whistles; megaphones—has now been normalized. That is dangerous. Now, we cannot rely, as progressives, on stupidity and strife in the Republican Party to stop this. The next guy will be smarter. The next woman will be smarter. And then what are we going to do?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about Ted Cruz?
VAN JONES: Well, for instance. And so, my plea, and the reason I’m here today, is I’m begging progressives to come off the sidelines. Often, we say, “Oh, well, you know, both the parties are horrible.” That can often be true. But there’s a moment now where the character of the country is on the table, on the world stage, and too many progressives have been silent. We need to speak out against the hatred.