In a new interview with Latin American media outlet teleSUR's Abby Martin, renowned MIT linguist and longtime political activist Noam Chomsky explains how political debate in Washington, D.C. has become so detached from public opinion, and how America has devolved into what he calls "a plutocracy with democratic forms."
According to Chomsky, the "lowest 70 percent" of Americans on the income scale are wholly disenfranchised from the political process. "Their attitudes have no detectable influence on the policies of their own representatives," Chomsky argued, pointing to the widespread popularity of a national health care program that is laughed off in the national media as politically unviable because of the power of the pharmaceutical lobby as one example.
The 25 minute long interview has quite a few other interesting takeaways:
Chomsky described the current political spectrum in the United States as "from center to extreme right — extreme right."
“The [American political] spectrum is broad but in an odd sense,” Chomsky said in response to a question about why an anti-war presidential candidate had failed to emerge this cycle despite obvious war fatigue among the electorate.
“The spectrum is basically from center to extreme right — extreme right. Way off the spectrum. So the Republican party about 20 years ago basically abandoned any pretense of being a normal political party,” he explained.
“The Republicans just went off the spectrum,” he went on. “They became so dedicated to the interests of the extreme wealthy and powerful that they couldn’t get votes.”
Noting Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann's observation that the Republicans' hard-right turn is the central problem preventing effective governance in Washington, D.C., Chomsky described the current GOP as a “radical insurgency which has abandoned parliamentary politics.”
"Their only policies are don't do anything or bomb. That's not a political party," Chomsky added.
"[Republicans] became so dedicated to the interests of the extreme wealthy and powerful that they couldn't get votes. So they had to turn to other constituencies, which were always there but were never politically mobilized. So they turned to Christian evangelicals, the nativists who are afraid they're taking our country away from us. People who are so terrified they have to carry a gun in a coffee shop."
The extremeness of the Republican party has completly shifted the American political dialogue, according to Chomsky. "Today's mainstream Democrats are pretty much what used to be called Republicans. Somebody like Eisenhower would be considered way out on the left."
On U.S. foreign policy
Calling the Iraq war "the worst crime of this century," Chomsky questioned why the U.S. has a right to invade another country. “What right do we have to kill somebody in some other country who we don't like,” he asked, noting that the Iranian soldiers have yet to invade Cambridge.
"The idea that we have the right to use force and violence at will is accepted pretty much across the spectrum,” Chomsky added, highlighting the rightward creep of American foreign policy. “The very idea of invading is criminal, but try to find someone who describes it as a crime," he said of the 2003 invasion.
"Obama is praised because he describes it as a mistake,” Chomsky said of the recent U.S. bombing of a Doctors without Borders medical facility in Afghanistan. "But what makes it right to kill the person we were targeting," Chomsky asked.
“Obama is considered an anti-war candidate (but) Obama is running a global terror program of a kind that has never been seen before, the drone program,” he added.
Chomsky described what is often referred to as “libertarian” principles as “an ultra-right, anarcho-capitalism,” suggesting that Republicans and business leaders don't actually want to prevent all state intervention in the market because they understand that such extreme anti-regulation measures would lead to tyranny.
"The business world would never tolerate that, they rely heavily on government," Chomsky explained. "If that was allowed to function, the whole society would collapse and we'd turn to total tyranny."
On Bernie Sanders
Chomsky also added that he was impressed by the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, which he said is doing "good and courageous things" but he regretfully predicted that "when the election’s over, the movement is going to die. And that’s a serious error.”
Calling the presidential election an "extravaganza that happens every four years," Chomsky explained that only thing that is going to "ever, ever bring about meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated popular movements which don't pay attention to the election cycle."
Watch Chomsky's full interview on Telesur's "The Empire Files":