WASHINGTON – Author and liberal commentator Van Jones had "high expectations" for the seventh Democratic debate, but he said what he saw on the stage in Des Moines, Iowa, was "dispiriting" because none of the candidates appeared capable of defeating President Donald Trump.
"Democrats have to do better than what we saw tonight. There was nothing I saw tonight that would be able to take Donald Trump out. And I want to see a Democrat in the White House as soon as possible," Jones said in a post-debate analysis on CNN Tuesday.
The former adviser to President Barack Obama said that after watching the six candidates square off, he wondered whether "any of these people are prepared for what Donald Trump is going to do to us."
"I missed Andrew Yang tonight," Jones said. He added that he also missed Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California – as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro – on the debate stage, which was racially homogenous without them.
He described the debate as "drudgery" at a time when Democrats need to inspire voters.
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Jones' comments were widely shared by conservatives on social media, including the Republican National Committee, which posted a clip of the remarks on Twitter from its @RNCResearch account. And Trump retweeted a post from the conservative Daily Caller news site that included a clip of Jones' dire diagnosis for Democrats.
"Van Jones with the real truth," tweeted far-right provocateur Mike Cernovih.
Liberals on social media were more critical of Jones' take.
"Van Jones figured out awhile ago that he’s pretty bad at this whole TV political analyst thing, so he’s decided to keep himself employed by saying stupid controversial nonsense aimed at getting people to hate-watch him. Sad," tweeted Bill Palmer, founder of the anti-Trump Palmer Report.
Van Jones figured out awhile ago that he’s pretty bad at this whole TV political analyst thing, so he’s decided to keep himself employed by saying stupid controversial nonsense aimed at getting people to hate-watch him. Sad.— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) January 15, 2020
"To be clear, I’m referring to Van Jones’ laughable assertion that none of these Democrats can beat Trump, when they’re all polling ahead of him," Palmer added in another tweet.
"Van Jones with the perfectly executed gaslighting of voters," said writer and marketer Frederick Joseph. "Van has been praising Donald Trump and that family for years; nothing he says should matter."
Jones said he was also disheartened to see "further division" among Democrats after witnessing the apparent animosity between Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
A day before the debate, Warren said Sanders told her in 2018 that he didn't think a woman could win a presidential election. Sanders strongly denied ever saying that when asked about it during the debate, but Warren stood by her statement.
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.@ewarren had breakout moments tonight, but did anyone on that stage really seem ready to take on Trump in a debate? If we want a Democrat to win the White House (which I certainly do) we need our candidates to start showing up a lot stronger. #DemDebate @CNN pic.twitter.com/TO88Bn0ipv— Van Jones (@VanJones68) January 15, 2020
"As a progressive, to see those two have that level of vitriol was very dispiriting," he said.
Jones thought Warren benefited from the exchange, however. And, despite his bleak take on the night, he was enthusiastic about her performance.
"This was Elizabeth Warren's night," he said. "Here was a banana peel sitting out there for Bernie to step on when it came to his comments about women. I think Bernie stepped on it and slid around. She knocked that moment out of the park."
When asked about the quote she attributed to Sanders, Warren used the moment to point to female candidates' strengths and recent successes.
"She never stops being the educator in chief," Jones said. "She made the case that women have been winning in the Trump era and have been leading this movement."
But his enthusiasm for Warren didn't temper his overall disappointment.
"I came away feeling worried for the Democratic Party," Jones said. "I felt like tonight was the night they were going to all put the fireworks out there, you're going to see the best of the best, and it just felt like a big bowl of cold oatmeal."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Van Jones: Democratic debate 'dispiriting,' no one ready for Trump