Donald Trump's path to the White House defied all political expectations. Days before the election, polls put Hillary Clinton squarely ahead of the race, and following a series of controversies, it seemed that his dreams of the presidency were quickly dissipating.
But against all odds, Trump was elected president, stunning pundits, journalists, D.C. insiders, and much of the American public. And for those who worked hard to get their communities to vote, who spoke up against the hateful, divisive rhetoric that was marker of the election cycle, who were confident of their fellow Americans' values of decency and character, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
As the results poured in early Wednesday morning and a Trump victory became clearer, CNN commentator Van Jones put into words the pain that many Americans felt.
"It's hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us," he said. "You tell your kids, 'Don't be a bully.' You tell your kids, 'Don't be a bigot.' You tell your kids, 'Do your homework and be prepared.' And then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight, and they're afraid of breakfast. They're afraid of, 'How do I explain this to my children?' I have Muslim friends who are texting tonight saying, 'Should I leave the country?' I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight."
Jones acknowledged that a Trump upset was a revolt against the ruling elite, one that upended politics itself. "But it was also something else," he said. "We've talked about race, and we've talked about everything but race tonight. We've talked about income, we've talked about class, we've talked about religion, we haven't talked about race. This was a whitelash. This was a whitelash against a changing country. It was a whitelash against a black president in part. And that's the part where the pain comes."
But Jones also reached out to Trump, urging him to become a president for everyone, not just the overwhelmingly white and male demographics from whom he sought his support.
"Donald Trump has a responsibility tonight to come out and reassure people that he is going to be the president of all the people who he insulted and offended and brushed aside," Jones said. "When you say you want to take your country back, you got a lot of people who feel that we're not represented well either. But we don't want to feel that someone has been elected by throwing away some of us to appeal more deeply to others. This is a deeply painful moment tonight. I know it's not just about race — there's more going on than that — but race is here too, and we got to talk about it."
Considering the deep divisions in the country that the election has exposed, Jones said that only by working together could the country reconcile its differences. "If I can't acknowledge the elitism in my party and you can't acknowledge the bigotry in your party," Jones said, "we're never going to get there."