‘Ridicule is not enough’: Noam Chomsky explains how to battle ‘Trump’s misdeeds and absurdities’
Noam Chomsky has described the Republican Party as “the most dangerous organization in world history” — and he outlined some ways to push back against President Donald Trump and the “savage wing” of the GOP establishment.
The linguist and political scientist praised a recent Stephen Colbert bit, where the talk show host mocked North Carolina Republicans for essentially banning climate science, during a wide-ranging discussion with philosopher George Yancy published by the New York Times.
“Of course, ridicule is not enough,” Chomsky told Yancy. “It’s necessary to address the concerns and beliefs of those who are taken in by the fraud, or who don’t recognize the nature and significance of the issues for other reasons.
He said the existential threat posed by Republican policies on climate change and nuclear weapons called for “urgent and dedicated” action.
“There are in fact many ways to combat the Trump project of creating a tiny America, isolated from the world, cowering in fear behind walls while pursuing the Paul Ryan-style domestic policies that represent the most savage wing of the Republican establishment,” he said.
Chomsky pointed out that Trump’s base supporters were “typical Republicans” who tend to be wealthy, white and older — “hence from historically more privileged sectors” — but their economic privilege had been threatened by the 2008 economic collapse and their cultural privilege wane in a multicultural society.
“A segment of the Trump base comes from the industrial sector that has been cast aside for decades by both parties, often from rural areas where industry and stable jobs have collapsed,” he said. “Many voted for Obama, believing his message of hope and change, but were quickly disillusioned and have turned in desperation to their bitter class enemy, clinging to the hope that somehow its formal leader will come to their rescue.”
He said those anxieties were stoked by conservative media, which unites Trump and his base against a common enemy.
“For much of the base, the sources of information are Fox News, talk radio and other practitioners of alternative facts,” Chomsky said. “Exposures of Trump’s misdeeds and absurdities that arouse liberal opinion are easily interpreted as attacks by the corrupt elite on the defender of the little man, in fact his cynical enemy.”
Chomsky was encouraged by the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign, which he said “broke dramatically with over a century of U.S. political history.”
“The Sanders campaign showed that a candidate with mildly progressive (basically New Deal) programs could win the nomination, maybe the election, even without the backing of the major funders or any media support,” Chomsky said. “There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers. He is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.”
He urged Democrats to rebuild their party at the state and local level — where it atrophied under President Barack Obama — as a progressive organization that reached out to the type of disaffected voters Trump reached.
“That would mean reviving the New Deal legacy and moving well beyond, instead of abandoning, the working class and turning into Clintonite New Democrats,” Chomsky said, “which more or less resemble what used to be called moderate Republicans, a category that has largely disappeared with the shift of both parties to the right during the neoliberal period.”