In an interview with labor educator and activist Partha Banerjee, Noam Chomsky argued that radicalization of the Republican base has "frightening" implications for the future of American politics.
"The last vote," he said, referring to the November elections, "was the lowest turnout since 1940, in the middle of [World War II], when people couldn't vote."
"Why? Because people understand what is shown in academic political science -- that their voices just don't matter. The opinions of the lowest 70 percent of the population -- the lowest on the income scale -- are simply disregarded."
"As you move up the scale," Chomsky continued, "you get a little bit more influence. When you get to the very top -- the fraction of one percent of the population -- they basically make policy."
"What's happened over the past 40 years is that both parties have shifted to the right. The Democrats are what used to be called 'moderate Republicans,' and the Republicans are just off the spectrum -- they're not even a parliamentary party anymore."
"That's even recognized by leading conservative analysts," he said, citing the American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein and his description of the party as a "radical insurgency."
"You can see it ever since the Obama election. [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and others made it explicit that they have only one policy -- ruin the country as much as possible, hope that people will blame it on the Democrats, and then we can get power back and follow our program of dedicating ourselves with utter servility to the needs of the very rich and the corporate sector."
"Of course," Chomsky said, "they can't say that, so what they've is mobilize sectors of the population that have always been there...like evangelical Christians and nativists who are afraid that [immigrants] are taking our country away from us. White racists and gun people, who are so terrified they have to carry their guns into church because someone might come after them."
"It was very striking to watch the electoral primaries [in 2010], as one after another of them came out of the base, each one crazier than the last. [Michele] Bachmann, [Herman] Cain, [Rick] Santorum -- all raving lunatics. The Republican establishment was frightened and they poured money in to try and destroy them -- and they just managed to get their own guy in, Romney, but only by undermining the base."
"They're facing this again," Chomsky concluded, as "the base that they've had to organize -- because their commitments are so far to the right -- is one they're having a hard time controlling. I don't want to draw comparisons, but it has some similarities to what happened in Germany in the 1930s. I'm not the only one to point this out -- leading German historians have pointed this out, and it's frightening."
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