Essential analysis of the recent election

I just found some analysis of the election by Noam Chomsky, a political commentator whose ideas I value. Here are the best parts of it (from an interview on by C.J. Polychroniou entitled “Trump in the White House: An Interview with Noam Chomsky”):

Chomsky: “It appears that Clinton received a slight majority of the vote. The apparent decisive victory has to do with curious features of American politics: among other factors, the Electoral College residue of the founding of the country as an alliance of separate states; the winner-take-all system in each state; the arrangement of congressional districts (sometimes by gerrymandering) to provide greater weight to rural votes (in past elections, and probably this one too, Democrats have had a comfortable margin of victory in the popular vote for the House, but hold a minority of seats); and the very high rate of abstention (usually close to half in presidential elections, this one included)…

Through the periods of high and egalitarian growth in the ’50s and ’60s, the minimum wage – which sets a floor for other wages – tracked productivity. That ended with the onset of neoliberal doctrine. Since then, the minimum wage has stagnated (in real value). Had it continued as before, it would probably be close to $20 per hour. Today, it’s considered a political revolution to raise it to $15…Trump supporters are led to believe that Trump will do something to remedy their plight, though the merest look at his fiscal and other proposals demonstrates the opposite. This poses a task for activists who hope to fend off the worst and advance desperately needed changes…The change that Trump is likely to bring will be harmful or worse, but it’s understandable that this isn’t clear to isolated people in an atomized society lacking the kinds of associations (like unions) that can educate and organize…

With all its flaws, the government is, to some extent, under popular influence and control, unlike the corporate sector. It’s highly advantageous for the business world to foster hatred for pointy-headed government bureaucrats and to drive out of people’s minds the subversive idea that the government might become an instrument of popular will, a government of, by and for the people…

Both political parties have moved to the right during the neoliberal period. Today’s New Democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. The political revolution that Bernie Sanders called for, rightly, would not have greatly surprised Dwight Eisenhower. The Republicans have moved so far toward a dedication to the wealthy and the corporate sector that they can’t hope to get votes on their actual programs, and have turned to mobilizing sectors of the population that have always been there, but not as an organized coalitional political force: evangelicals, nativists, racists, and the victims of the forms of globalization designed to set working people around the world in competition with one another while protecting the privileged and undermining the legal and other measures that provided working people with some protection, and with ways to influence decision-making in the closely linked public and private sectors, notably with effective labor unions…

There are definite similarities to Brexit, and also to the rise of ultranationalist far-right parties in Europe – whose leaders were quick to congratulate Trump on his victory, perceiving him as one of their own: [Nigel] Farage, [Marine] Le Pen, [Viktor] Orban, and others like them. These developments are quite frightening. A look at the polls in Austria and Germany can’t fail to evoke unpleasant memories for those familiar with the 1930s, even more so for those who watched directly, as I did as a child. I still recall listening to Hitler’s speeches, not understanding the words, though the tone and audience reaction were chilling enough.

As to how Trump will handle what he has brought forth – not created, but brought forth – we can’t say. Perhaps his most striking characteristic is unpredictability. A lot will depend on the reactions of those appalled by his performance and the visions he’s projected, such as they are.”

Interviewer: “Trump has no identifiable political ideology guiding his stance on economic, social and political issues, yet there are clear authoritarian tendencies in his behavior. Do you find any validity behind the claims that he may represent the emergence of ‘fascism with a friendly face?’ in the United States?”

Chomsky: “For many years, I have been writing and speaking about the danger of the rise of an honest and charismatic ideologue in the United States, someone who could exploit the fear and anger that’s long been boiling in much of the society, and who could direct it away from the actual agents of malaise to vulnerable targets. That could indeed lead to what sociologist Bertram Gross called ‘friendly fascism’ in a perceptive study 35 years ago. But that requires an honest ideologue, a Hitler type, not someone whose only detectable ideology is Me. The dangers, however, have been real for many years, perhaps even more so in the light of the forces Trump has unleashed.”

Interviewer: “With the Republicans in the White House, but also controlling both houses and the future shape of the Supreme Court, what will the US look like for at least the next four years?”

Chomsky: “A good deal depends on his appointments and circle of advisers. Early indications are unattractive, to put it mildly. The Supreme Court will be in the hands of reactionaries for many years, with predictable consequences. If Trump follows through on his Paul Ryan-style fiscal programs, there will be huge benefits for the very rich – estimated by the Tax Policy Center as a tax cut of over 14% for the top 1% and a substantial cut more generally at the upper end of the income scale, but with virtually no tax relief for others, who will also face major new burdens. The respected economics correspondent of the Financial Times, Martin Wolf, writes that, ‘The tax proposals would shower huge benefits on already rich Americans such as Mr. Trump,’ while leaving others in the lurch, including, of course, his constituency. The immediate reaction of the business world reveals that Big Pharma, Wall Street, the military industry, energy industries and other such wonderful institutions expect a very bright future. [Stocks of private prison companies soared following Trump’s election.]

One positive development might be the infrastructure program that Trump has promised while (along with much reporting and commentary) concealing the fact that it’s essentially the Obama stimulus program that would have been of great benefit to the economy and to the society generally, but was killed by the Republican Congress on the pretext that it would explode the deficit. While that charge was spurious at the time, given the very low interest rates, it holds in spades for Trump’s program, now accompanied by radical tax cuts for the rich and corporate sector and increased Pentagon spending. There is, however, an escape, provided by Dick Cheney when he explained to Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that ‘Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter,’ meaning deficits that Republicans create in order to gain popular support, leaving it to someone else, preferably Democrats, to somehow clean up the mess. The technique might work, for a while at least.

There are also many questions about foreign policy consequences, mostly unanswered.”

Interviewer: “There is mutual admiration between Trump and Putin. How likely is it that we may see a new era in US-Russia relations?”

Chomsky: “…One hopeful prospect is that Europe might distance itself from Trump’s America, as already suggested by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders – and from the British voice of American power, after Brexit. That could lead to European efforts to defuse tensions with Russia, perhaps even efforts to move towards something like Mikhail Gorbachev’s vision of an integrated Eurasian security system without military alliances, rejected by the US in favor of NATO expansion, a vision revived recently by Putin, whether seriously or not, we don’t know, since the gesture was dismissed.”

Interviewer: “Is US foreign policy under a Trump administration likely to be more or less militaristic than what we’ve seen under the Obama administration, or even the George W. Bush administration?”

Chomsky: “I don’t think one can answer with any confidence. Trump is too unpredictable, and there are too many open questions. What we can say is that popular mobilization and activism, properly organized and conducted, can make a large difference. The stakes are very large.”


About (They Got the Guns, but) We Got the Numbers

I'm an artist and student of history, living in Eugene, OR. On the upside of 70 and retired from a jack-of-all-trades "career," I walk, do yoga, and hang out with my teenage grandkids. I believe we can make this world better for them and the young and innocent everywhere, if we connect with each other and create peaceful, cooperative communities as independent of big corporations and corporate-dominated governments as possible.

Posted on November 16, 2016, in Capitalism, Economics, Politics, Voting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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