- Noam Chomskyworld-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His latest book is titled Who Rules the World?
We speak with world-renowned political dissident Noam Chomsky about the Republican party, the rightward shift in U.S. politics and the 2016 election. “If we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects,” Chomsky says, “but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally.”
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to move back to the United States, to the issue of the Republican Party and what you see happening there, the Republican establishment fiercely opposed to the presumptive nominee. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like this, although that could be changing. Can you talk about the significance—I mean, you have Sheldon Adelson, who is now saying he will pour, what, tens of millions of dollars into Donald Trump. You have the Koch brothers—I think it was Charles Koch saying he could possibly see supporting Hillary Clinton, if that were the choice, with Donald Trump. What is happening?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, the phenomenon that we’ve just seen is an extreme version of something that’s been going on just for years in the Republican primaries. Take a look back at the preceding ones. Every time a candidate came up from the base—Bachmann, McCain, Santorum, Huckabee, one crazier than the other—every time one rose from the base, the Republican establishment sought to beat them down and get their own—get their own man—you know, Romney. And they succeeded, until this year. This year the same thing happened, and they didn’t succeed. The pressure from the base was too great for them to beat it back. Now, that’s the disaster that the Republican establishment sees. But the phenomenon goes way back. And it has roots. It’s kind of like jihadis: You have to ask about the roots.
What are the roots? The Republican—both political parties have shifted to the right during the neoliberal period—the period, you know, since Reagan, goes back to late Carter, escalated under Reagan—during this period, which has been a period of stagnation and decline for much of the population in many ways—wages, benefits, security and so on—along with enormous wealth concentrated in a tiny fraction of the population, mostly financial institutions, which are—have a dubious, if not harmful, role on the economy. This has been going on for a generation. And while this has been happening, there’s a kind of a vicious cycle. You have more concentration of wealth, concentration of political power, legislation to increase concentration of wealth and power, and so on, that while that’s been going on, much of the population has simply been cast aside. The white working class is bitter and angry, for lots of reasons, including these. The minority populations were hit very hard by the Clinton destruction of the welfare system and the incarceration rules. They still tend to support the Democrats, but tepidly, because the alternative is worse, and they’re taking a kind of pragmatic stand.
But while the parties have shifted to—but the parties have shifted so far to the right that the—today’s mainstream Democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. Now, the Republicans are just off the spectrum. They have been correctly described by leading conservative commentators, like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, as just what they call a radical insurgency, which has abandoned parliamentary politics. And they don’t even try to conceal it. Like as soon as Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said, pretty much straight out, “We have only one policy: make the country ungovernable, and then maybe we can somehow get power again.” That’s just off the spectrum.
Now, the actual policies of the Republicans, whether it’s Paul Ryan or Donald Trump, to the extent that he’s coherent, Ted Cruz, you pick him, or the establishment, is basically enrich and empower the very rich and the very powerful and the corporate sector. You cannot get votes that way. So therefore the Republicans have been compelled to turn to sectors of the population that can be mobilized and organized on other grounds, kind of trying to put to the side the actual policies, hoping, the establishment hopes, that the white working class will be mobilized to vote for their bitter class enemies, who want to shaft them in every way, by appealing to something else, like so-called social conservatism—you know, abortion rights, racism, nationalism and so on. And to some extent, that’s happened. That’s the kind of thing that Fritz Stern was referring to in the article that I mentioned about Germany’s collapse, this descent into barbarism. So what you have is a voting base consisting of evangelical Christians, ultranationalists, racists, disaffected, angry, white working-class sectors that have been hit very hard, that are—you know, not by Third World standards, but by First World standards, we even have the remarkable phenomenon of an increase in mortality among these sectors, that just doesn’t happen in developed societies. All of that is a voting base. It does produce candidates who terrify the corporate, wealthy, elite establishment. In the past, they’ve been able to beat them down. This time they aren’t doing it. And that’s what’s happening to the so-called Republican Party.
We should recognize—if we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects, but the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally. Just take their position on the two major issues that face us: climate change, nuclear war. On climate change, it’s not even debatable. They’re saying, “Let’s race to the precipice. Let’s make sure that our grandchildren have the worst possible life.” On nuclear war, they’re calling for increased militarization. It’s already way too high, more than half the discretionary budget. “Let’s shoot it up.” They cut back other resources by cutting back taxes on the rich, so there’s nothing left. There’s been nothing this—literally, this dangerous, if you think about it, to the species, really, ever. We should face that.