- 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 new book comes out today, titled Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
Naomi Klein has called the Trump administration a “corporate coup.” The Washington Post reports, “86 percent of Trump counties make less in a year than 27 Trump staffers are worth.” For more, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky.
AMY GOODMAN: “Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution” by Foy Vance. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. And, yes, our guest for the hour is Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. His latest book is Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Noam Chomsky, I wanted to ask you—those on the left are accustomed to looking at the American government basically as in the service of the capitalist class, the politicians. Occasionally, you had a Rockefeller or an actual member of the capitalist class who went into government. But now, with this Trump administration, it’s an extraordinary number of extremely wealthy people have actually moved directly into government. And yet you’re seeing this narrative that they are attracting support from the white working class of the country. Could you talk about this, the capitalists directly taking over the running of government?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, as you say, they’ve run it all the time. The simple measures, like campaign funding alone, simple measure like that, is a very close predictor, not only of electoral victory, but even of policies. That’s been true for a century. And if you take a look at the analysis of public attitude—a major topic in academic political science is comparing popular attitudes with public policy. It’s pretty straightforward. Public policy, you can see. Popular attitudes, we know a lot about from extensive polling. And the results are pretty startling. Turns out that about 70 percent of voters, which is maybe half the electorate—about 70 percent of voters are literally disenfranchised, the lower 70 percent on the income scale, meaning that their own representatives pay no attention to their—to their attitudes and preferences. If you move up the income scale, you get a little more correlation, more—a little more influence. The very top, which is probably a fraction of 1 percent, if you could get the data, it’s where policy is set. Now, the Trump administration is kind of a caricature of this. It’s always pretty much true. But here they’re—it’s as if they’re kind of purposely trying to flaunt the fact that this country is run by Goldman Sachs and billionaires, and nobody else counts.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Wilbur Ross, Betsy DeVos.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Right, all of them. I mean, it’s almost like a shocking parody, as if they’re trying to show, “Yeah, what we all know is true is dramatically true, and we’re going to show it to you.”
The interesting—an interesting question, the one you raise, is: How are they maintaining support among the people they’re kicking in the face? That’s not uninteresting. And if you look into it, there’s a number of factors. One—first of all, many of the Trump voters, white working-class voters, quite a few of them voted for Obama in 2008. You go back to the Obama campaign, the exciting words were “hope” and “change.” I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin, but when she asked, “Where’s this hopey-changey stuff?” she wasn’t talking nonsense. It quickly became clear there’s no hope and there’s no change. And the working people were significantly disillusioned. You could see it right in Massachusetts, where—when Kennedy died, you know, the “liberal lion.” There was going to be a vote for—to replace him, 2010. Amazingly, a Republican won, in Democratic Massachusetts, Kennedy’s seat. And union voters didn’t vote for the Democrats. They were very upset by the fact that they had been cheated, they felt, rightly, by the Obama campaign of promises. And they turned to their bitter class enemy, who at least talks the words. The Republicans have mastered the technique of talking words as if you’re sort of an ordinary guy, you know, kind of guy you’d meet in a bar, that sort of thing. It goes back to Reagan and his jellybeans, and Bush, you know, mispronouncing words, and so on and so forth. It’s a game that’s played. And it’s a con game. But in the absence of any opposition, it works.
And what happens when there is an opposition? That’s very striking. The most astonishing fact about the last election, which is the Sanders achievements, that’s a break from a century of American political history. As I said, you can pretty well predict electoral outcomes simply by campaign funding alone. There’s other factors that intensify it. Here comes Sanders, somebody nobody ever heard of. No support from the wealthy, no support from corporations. The media ignored or disparaged him. He even used a scare word, “socialist.” Came from nowhere. He would have won the Democratic Party nomination if it hadn’t been for the shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers who kept him out. Might have been president. From nothing. That’s an incredible break. It shows what can happen when policies are proposed that do meet the general, just concerns of much of the population.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he could still win if he ran again?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there was a Fox News poll, couple of days ago—Fox News—asking who’s the—trying to ask who’s your favorite political figure. Sanders was way ahead, far ahead of anybody else, with no vocal, articulate support among the concentrations of power—media, corporations, elsewhere. In fact, if you look at policy preferences, you see something similar. We already mentioned the health issue. That’s—and on issue after issue, much of the public that is actually voting for their bitter class enemy, if you look at the policies, actually favor social democratic policies, even environmental policies.