Byko: CNN's Van Jones stumbles into uncomfortable racial and political truths

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When Ohio mom Derinda Scott told Van Jones that Hillary frightened her, he nearly fell apart. Like many Democrats, he is so deeply inside the belly of the beast of his beliefs he is blind to outside views. The same is true of Republican partisans.

"But you are a woman! And you are a Democratic woman! And Hillary Clinton as best I can tell is a woman! I just don't get it!"

When CNN's Van Jones blurted that to an Ohio mother and Democrat who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton (she didn't vote for anyone for president) he exposed his inner Van - a man so immersed in identity politics he is flummoxed by anyone who doesn't see things his way. In Van Land, the woman has a vagina, she is supposed to vote for Hillary. Does he believe everyone with a penis should vote for Donald Trump?

Of course not.

This exchange took place on his Wednesday one-hour special, "The Messy Truth with Van Jones."

To his credit, early on he admitted the undeniable - he has been guilty of demonizing the "other side." He has walked right up to the line of suggesting (almost) all Trump supporters are racist. Many Democrats did say it, flat out.

While Jones now says, "both parties kinda suck," his statement suggests an illusion of impartiality, but his words reveal him to be a die-hard Democratic partisan.

I don't exactly know why I tuned into his special. Maybe I was driven by curiosity, or by a desire to learn what was "messy," or by a desire for flagellation, because when the black Yale-educated lawyer is on TV, white people often take a shot to the chops. Am I expressing "white fragility"? (Don't worry if you haven't heard of it yet, you will. It will create a troika with "white privilege" and "white supremacy.")

In an earlier on-air analysis of the presidential election, Jones termed Trump's historic victory a "whitelash," at least in part. As often happens, the qualifying "in part" was quickly lost, leaving a statement that was racially charged and dismissive of Trump voters. One of the things that makes Jones so powerful is his ability to turn a quotable phrase, even if it is wrong-headed.

A best-selling author, an advisor to presidents, a friend to Prince, the bald African-American fits almost any definition of success. He has achieved that success not because he is black, but because he is very good at what he does. That he is black is added value.

In his younger days he was a communist, an allegiance he disavowed later in life once it was discovered. He also talks about having been "radicalized" in his youth, whatever that really means. I suspect he is further left than he admits.

In his interview with the Scott Seitz family, white Ohio Democrats, Jones asked a question that reflected his skewed world view: "How does a billionaire break through to the blue collar worker?"

Let's not quibble over billionaire and millionaire. Jones is smart enough to know that millionaires like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy captured the working class, while millionaires such as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton (and Mitt Romney) did not.

It is not the money. It is personality and an ability to communicate a clear, guiding principle. With Trump, it was "Make America Great Again." The Left scorned its cheesy nationalism - and lost the election.

Scott Seitz and his three sons had been Obama voters who went for Trump because they felt Democrats had ignored them. They were voting for change, they told Jones, as they had when they voted for Obama.

"It was a stereotype shatterer," Jones said after Seitz's comments. Jones was referring to his own stereotype and that of most of the media, which leaned on well-worn beliefs and biases instead of really listening to the Trumpsters.

I remember similar things were said in 2009 when the Tea Party arose. The media often portrayed them as a bunch of red neck, racist yokels who were paid to protest and would vanish after the election. Instead, it became a major voice in the Republican Party.

Jones granted there is an unhealthy elitist strain in the Democratic Party that hurts it, and there is a white supremacist element in the Republican Party it has not effectively dealt with.

He's right on both points.

Going back to the beginning, when Ohio mom Derinda Scott told Jones that Hillary frightened her, he nearly fell apart. Like many Democrats, he is so deeply inside the belly of the beast of his beliefs he is blind to outside views. The same is true of Republican partisans.

Speaking as a Democrat, Jones said his party has to learn, or relearn, how to reach the working class it supposedly champions.

The quandary is how - by tacking further left, into Bernie Sanders' democratic socialism, or by swinging back toward the center with a pro-worker, pro-American policy. Globalism is not a winning ticket, not now.

The Democratic Party is at a historic low nationally. It will have to choose its direction carefully. It might mean taking a route that Van Jones does not like. stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

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