This was one of the best segments I’ve seen Chomsky do since the election. Remember, although he supported Bernie over Clinton—even after the Ides of March when our dear owner said that Bernie had no chance, despite any real or perceived bias inherent in openly supporting Clinton over Sanders from the beginning—Chomsky was always very deliberate and clear in underlying that he would vote for Clinton. As were most of us. I have prepared a partial transcript, because these words should really be read, not listened to, and heeded, soon, by many here, even most, before 2018 and, particularly, 2020.
Transcript (my own, none exists on Newsnight’s website; errors and creative liberties also mine):
Newsnight: There’s a lot of anger in the world today; I’m just… are you sympathetic to that anger? Or are you feeling that anger is the wrong kind of anger?
America’s most important living intellectual: I’m sympathetic to the roots of the anger; I think anger is not a constructive response to problems that are quite real, and they are quite real. So take, say, the United States, which has suffered less from the policies of the policies of the last generation than other western countries, but nevertheless, in the United States median income, for example, is lower in real terms than it was 30 years ago. Right at the moment before the great crash, at the peak of euphoria about the wonderful economy, real wages for American workers were lower than they had been in 1979, before the neoliberal period began. And this is duplicated over much of the world. This has been a massive assault on large parts of the population. There’s been an assault on democracy, on the sense of participating. The result is not just anger but contempt for institutions, the decline of centrist institutions, which a large part of the population feels are just not responsive to them. Correctly.
Newsnight: And Trump has been the result of that, [inaudible]…
The one man we should have been able to listen to about who to nominate: Trump is one result of that, Brexit has been a result of that, La Pen has been a result…
Newsnight: And why do you think that the response to the problem you’ve talked about—of low incomes—why do people then jump to a LaPen or a Trump, rather than to Bernie Sanders, or what sorts of solution you would have them take?
Noam Chomsky: Actually, they jumped to Bernie Sanders [edit: well, some of us did]. The most remarkable thing about the last election was actually Bernie Sanders, not Trump. Bernie Sanders broke with a century of American political history. In American elections, for… back to the late 19th Century, elections are basically bought, literally. You can predict, with remarkable accuracy, electability, simply on the basis of campaign funding. Also policies. There’s very substantial political science research on this. Bernie Sanders came along, no support from the corporate sector, no support from the wealthy, the media simply dismissed him as ridiculous, he was basically unknown, he even used a scare word: “socialist”; and he would have won the Democratic nomination if it hadn’t been for the shenanigans of the ides of march party managers. If you take a look at popularity today, he is far and away the most popular figure in the American political system.
Newsnight: right but the truth is, Trump won the election, fair or not fair; what was the appeal of Trump? Why do so many people—particularly blue collar, rust belt populations—why do they like him?
Noam “Berniesplaining” leading public intellectual who once debated Foucault to a draw Mother. Fucking. Chomsky: I’ve just given you the answer. Take a look at what’s happened to them during the…
Newsnight: But why Trump?
Chomsky: What is the alternative? The Democrats gave up on the working class 40 years ago. They just… the working class is not their constituency. No one is their… no one in the political system is. The Republicans claim to be, but they’re basically their class enemy. However they can appeal to people on the basis of non-economic… claims about, “we’re gonna help you non-economically, even when we kick you in the face”, but, claims about religion, white supremecy, a range of kind of a , what’s called sometimes identity politics. Which does, a lot of.. if you take look at some of the Trump voters, some of them are working class, and incidentally many of them voted for Obama in 2008. They believed his rhetoric about “hope and change.” They were quickly disillusioned. There was no hope, and no change, and, in response, they’ve turned—this group has turned—to basically their class enemy. Because no one else is there to offer them anything.
Then there’s another sector, which is—white supremecy is deeply rooted in the United States; if you look at comparative studies—there are comparative studies of white supremecy around the world—the United States ranks higher than even South Africa.
Newsnight: So you think there was quite a racist motivation…
Chomsky: Oh, there’s no doubt about that.
Newsnight: What percent are we talking? Are we talking 3%, or..
Chomsky: Well, you can argue the percent; it’s a substantial streak. Fundamentalist religion is a substantial streak. Trump took an enormous quanitity of the Christian fundamentalists who are a big segment of the US population. Remember, in the United States, maybe about 40% of the population think the second coming is gonna be in their lifetimes. 2/3 think it’s coming sooner or later. The United States is off the spectrum in this respect. So here’s a big segment of voters that Trump was able to appeal to, not on the basis of his positions, but because he’s gonna serve their interests. And they know it.
And among white males, he was way ahead of Clinton. So there’s many factors, but one interesting factor is the white working class vote, much of which went to Obama.
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