In an interview with The Intercept published on Thursday, Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned linguist, historian, and social critic, discussed the ongoing Democratic Party presidential primaries.
Chomsky noted that reports suggest members of the Democratic establishment — donors, centrist politicians, media figures — remain adamantly opposed to Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for president on the Democratic ticket.
They have a “very good reason” to be opposed to Sanders, according to Chomsky.
“He has absolutely infuriated the liberal establishment by committing a major crime,” Chomsky said, explaining that the Democratic elite is not opposed to Sanders just because they don’t like his policies, but because he has managed to build a powerful movement of activists willing to participate in the political process.
“His crime was to organize an ongoing political movement that doesn’t just show up at the polls every four years and push a button, but keeps working. That’s no good. The rabble is supposed to stay home.”
This, according to Chomsky, is the main reason Democratic establishment is more comfortable with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Although a progressive, Warren is not a movement politician, the historian explained, and she does not want to “institute radical institutional changes.”
What Sanders has done, according to Chomsky, irks the elite because his movement helped individuals such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get into Congress.
“That’s scary. Nobody in the political mainstream wants that,” Chomsky said, noting that Warren has “perfectly reasonable” policy proposals.
Some have suggested that Sanders’ embrace of the label “socialist” — the senator is a self-described democratic socialist — could spook voters, which suggests that Warren is a more “electable” candidate in the general election.
But, according to Chomsky, the term has been rendered meaningless. In the United States, he said, it is understood as New Deal liberalism promoted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Sanders is neither a socialist nor a democratic socialist, Chomsky argued, but a progressive, New Deal Democrat, whose policies would not be considered out of the ordinary in the 1950s, not even by Republicans such as Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“To be quite frank, his major policies would not have surprised President Eisenhower very much,” the political commentator noted, explaining that Sanders’ proposals are considered radical by the political mainstream because both parties have “shifted so far to the right.”
“Most terms of political discourse have almost totally lost their meaning,” Chomsky opined.
On the campaign trail, Sanders has repeatedly argued that there is nothing radical about his ideas, and that his policy proposals are, in fact, already in place in many European social democracies, and across the world.
As The Guardian reported, in a speech earlier this year, Sanders deliberately connected what he defines as democratic socialism to the New Deal vision, vowing to finish what FDR had started.
The Vermont senator has released a number of ambitious policy proposals, including a plan that would give workers an ownership stake in their companies, and democratize corporate boards.