A Politics of Compassion: An Interview With Van Jones

In Politics
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This story began with a pitch from my editor (writers love it when editors do the pitching), which was, simply, to have a conversation with Van Jones, the author and CNN commentator who went viral during the 2016 presidential campaign season. In the immediate wake of the election, Jones was among the few to register liberal/progressive angst in real time in mainstream media and to provide, in several notable appearances, lucid instant analysis (coining terms like “whitelash” on the spot) as well as consolation for those traumatized by . In one remarkable performance, delivered in the sleepless hours after the delivered Trump to the White House, he gently coaxed the left back from the ledge. “Take some time to grieve and heal,” he said, in an iPhone-jittery close-up posted on his Facebook page. He spoke extemporaneously—at once empathetic and coolheaded—straight to the left’s forlorn soul. Just when we needed it most, he played the role of comforting elder brother or uncle, the veteran organizer who’d had his own political dreams dashed on many occasions, only to rise up and fight again (by many accounts his lowest point was his forced resignation from a plum advisor position, dubbed “Green Jobs czar” by the media, in the Obama White House in 2009). Other viral moments include not one but several take-downs of conservative CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord (who becomes visibly nervous whenever Jones raises his voice—moments impossible not to read through the prism of race) and rhetorical fisticuffs with the likes of reactionary pundit Mary Matalin that make for arresting live television and modestly echo the golden era of , such as Gore Vidal versus William F. Buckley Jr. live from the 1968 Chicago Convention (though most of today’s commentariat lacks the erudition of those days and minds).



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