I have decided to borrow the following article from a site called “Salon” despite the fact that Chomsky worries about the rise of an “honest” charismatic character and what we have is a dishonest charismatic character in Donald Trump (who, admittedly appears to be honest to the blind mice who follow him). But the prediction is remarkable and worth pondering. Can anyone still have doubts about this nation being a de facto oligarchy?
In an interview with Chris Hedges in 2010, Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned linguist and dissident intellectual, remarked that he has “never seen anything like this.”
By this, he meant the state of American society, relative to the time in which he was raised — the Depression years — and to the tumultuous state of Europe during that same period.
“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky said. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”
For decades, Chomsky has warned of the right turn of the Democratic Party, which has, in an effort to win elections, adopted large swaths of the Republican platform and abandoned the form of liberalism that gave us the New Deal and, later, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
“Trump has been viewed with bewilderment by politicians who have divorced themselves from the needs of the people and who have sold them false goods to get ahead. But Trump, as Chomsky’s prescient interview demonstrates, was inevitable.”
This new approach was canonized by Bill Clinton, who triumphantly declared that the “era of big government is over.”
With this declaration, Clinton ushered in a new era of the Democratic Party (the so-called New Democrats), which left behind the working class and cultivated amiable relationships with corporate executives and Wall Street financiers; many of them would eventually occupy key positions in Clinton’s government, and many of them emerged once more during the presidency of Barack Obama.
The philosophical bent of the New Democrats was best summarized by Charles Peters in “A Neoliberal Manifesto,” in which he defines neoliberalism as an ideology perfect for those who “no longer automatically favor unions and big government or oppose the military and big business.” Democrats, since Peters penned his manifesto, have far exceeded the bounds of this seemingly neutral stance.
Bill Clinton, for his part, destroyed welfare, deregulated Wall Street, worsened the growing mass incarceration crisis, and signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement, a sweeping deal that harmed millions of workers, in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere.
Today, President Obama, in partnership with congressional Republicans, is lobbying aggressively for the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been deemed by critics “NAFTA on steroids.” The agreement, if made the law of the land, will encompass 40% of global GDP and will grant massive companies unprecedented power.
Despite President Obama’s promises of transparency, the public has been forced to rely on leaked information to glean any specifics about the deal — and, based on the information we have, the agreement is a disaster for workers and the environment and, unsurprisingly, a boon for multinational corporations.
Democrats, in short, have left the working class in the dust, often using “the excuse,” as a recent New York Times editorial put it, “that they need big-money backers to succeed.”
Republicans, meanwhile, as Chomsky has observed, are “dedicated with utter servility” to the interests of the wealthy, and their party, with its longing for war and denial of climate science, “is a danger to the human species.”
So we are faced with a political system largely devoted to the needs of organized wealth, which leaves working people anxious, worried about the future, and, as we have seen, very angry. In essence, political elites — on both sides — have created a vacuum into which a charismatic and loudmouthed demagogue can emerge.
As Chomsky noted in his interview with Hedges, “The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.”
Interesting post. Plus, rhetoric has replaced facts. I don’t care if someone is conservative or liberal, but let’s at least govern off facts.
I have been sparring with a Trump fan where my use of non-partisan fact checkers is discounted as they are biased, taking the lead from their candidate. Also, the fact that Trump has three court cases on alleged misrepresentation against him is not relevant to him as those students should have been more aware of the promises made by Trump University.
You do realize, of course, that you are dealing with a tightly closed mind in the person of the “Trump fan”??
with little internet time, i am a bit discouraged with online reading, as each week it seems to be the same loop — this morning as i read (i missed the early bus to quito so had time to read!) i realized that viewing from afar and witnessing the ones trying to awaken those who are supporting the wrong candidates is a bit like trying to get an alcoholic or drug abuser to get help or even trying to persuade an aethiest to become religious. unfortunately they won’t see the larger picture until the sky starts falling, and then they’ll probably blame it on chicken little.
weather stories look alarming as well, and we veer to another subject, the deniers of climate change.
many in the world must think we’re all idiots.
Love Chomsky. Have you seen the documentary The Requiem for
Sorry! Requiem for the American Dream? I believe it is on Netflix. Chomsky addresses the how and the why we have arrived at this place in time in America. I’m truly hoping to integrate this film into my dual credit classes next year. Great post as always, Hugh!
I have not, though I have heard about it. I will keep an eye open! Thanks for visiting!
Being now part of another country for sometime, I am in a sort of dazed consciousness in regards to my home country and what is happening there. And to honest the U.K. Where I live now is also at a crucial crossroads in regards to the Euro question. The arguments I read for the pros and cons are sometimes to far fetched to believe. I am glad Hugh Curtler that you still exude an honest ethical approach to life , thanks for your input. Chuck
And thank you. Try to keep your bearings, as we all are over here, in the midst of the acrid smoke screen that is contemporary politics!
Noam Chomsky has been one of this country’s most thoughtful social critics since the 1970s. Dr. Curtler has posted one of Chomsky’s many incisive comments about the star of politics in the USA.
Chomsky does seem prescient at times.
I don’t understand Trumpy’s followers. I didn’t understand them when they followed George Wallace and I didn’t understand them when they followed Ronald Reagan. I don’t understand people who place their racism before food, housing and economic opportunity.
I suppose that makes me a traitor.
No. It makes you sane in an otherwise insane world!
Ah–yes..a traitor, just as I said. 🙂