Last night on CNN Van Jones spoke on behalf of anti-Trump protesters, at one point telling Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany to “Back off!” Jones says he wants unity but he is legitimizing the progressive panic that is spreading across the country.
McEnany was arguing that Trump’s record on some of the issues protesters say they care about is better than he has gotten credit for. “A lot of voters out there that are scared because of a misportrayal of Donald Trump,” McEnany said. “Let me tell you who the real Donald Trump is,” she continued. “The real Donald Trump is the only Republican on the stage who said that confederate flag in South Carolina has to come down. The real Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate who said what happened to Sandra Bland was bad I’m going to look into that.”
McEnany went on to say that she believed Trump would make efforts toward criminal justice reform but added, “to get there we have to stop stoking fears in individuals and we have to talk about unity here. We can’t stoke fears Van Jones, it’s irresponsible…”
Jones replied, “Muslim parents that are afraid right now aren’t afraid because of these kids with these signs. They’re afraid because he said over and over again that he wanted to ban people of their faith. That lands like a bomb in the lap…”
At this point Trump supporter Jeff Lord interjected and Van Jones said, “You want to explain to me why people who are scared shouldn’t be afraid…”
McEnany jumped in saying, “But for you to say interment camps…”
“Hey, I didn’t say interment camps,” Jones replied adding, “people are afraid of that.”
“But you should correct that fear. That’s not true. Donald Trump has never proposed internment camps,” McEnany said.
“You don’t get to lecture me on this stage,” Jones snapped. “Hold on a second okay. You guys won and you need to back off! You need to have a little bit of empathy and understanding for people who are afraid because your candidate has been one of the most explosively provocative candidates in the history of our country and there’s a price to be paid for that.
“I am not finished, I am not going to be talked over tonight, I’m not. You have people who are terrified and you have to take some responsibility for it. I am not spreading the terror, I am trying to damp it down. Let me finish my point! Listen, you have people — Latino families– who say this guy is going to deport millions of people. They don’t know if they should sell their homes. They are terrified. That is a real fear…If you want unity and I want unity–and I’m working harder for unity than anybody on this stage, I guarantee you– If you want unity, we have to hear the pain first before you tell people they’re wrong to hurt.”
There are certainly Latino families who are anxious about what a Trump presidency will mean for them, but that doesn’t explain the people spray painting “Full Communism” on windows in the Bay Area. It doesn’t explain people burning flags and Trump puppets or trying to talk themselves into some kind of violent reaction to a national election.
You don’t calm people by giving them more space for panic. You tell them to sober up and stop behaving as if the world had ended when it really hasn’t. You point out that some of the things they are worried about (interment camps?!) are not reasonable concerns. To take another recent example, you don’t stand by and watch people march around chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” when you know that Michael Brown was not shot while surrendering with his hands up.
What former communist protester Van Jones is doing is legitimizing the grievances and the reaction in the streets. That’s not going to calm the panic it’s going to insure it spreads. Kayleigh McEnany got it right at the end of this exchange:
“What President Obama did is the exact opposite of what you’re saying. President Obama and all due respect to him and all credit to him, he took to that Rose Garden and he stood up there and said ‘You know what, we need to unify. We need to come together…We are coming together and we are all Americans and let’s give this man a chance.’…We need to unify this country and we don’t do it by stoking the fears of those people on the street.
It’s the protesters angry over a legitimate election who really need to back off.