“The United States is a very fundamentalist, religious country – one of the most extreme in the world,” says MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, in a new interview in The Wire. “There are not too many countries in the world where two-thirds of the population awaits The Second Coming. And maybe a third of the population believes the world was created 10,000 years ago, exactly the way it is now. Things like that are pretty weird, but that is true in the United States and has been for a long time.”
Talking about the current political drama he explains: “It is also something you see in Europe. The impact of the neoliberal programs of the past generation almost everywhere has been to undermine democratic participation, to impose stagnation or sometimes decline on the majority of the population and to concentrate wealth very narrowly, which of course then in turn affects the political system and how it works.”
Referencing a recent study in the United States that points to increasing mortality rates of less educated, white men in the age range of 45-55 years, he says: “It is a reflection of depression, hopelessness, concern that everything is lost – nothing is in our lives, nothing is in our futures, then at least show your anger.”
“The propaganda system in the US, in England, in continental Europe is designed to focus that anger on people who are even more deprived and miserable – such as “immigrants, ‘welfare cheats’, trade unions and all kinds of people who somehow you think are getting what you are not getting”.
Trump appeals to the nativists he says. They employ the rhetoric of “They are taking our country away from us.” ‘They’ being, minorities, immigrants and others. “It used to be a nice white Anglo-Saxon country but it’s gone.” That sentiment, he says, makes the US an increasingly terrified population, probably the most frightened country in the world. “The fear of ISIS is higher in the United States probably than it is in Turkey.” This sense of deep insecurity also explains the “crazy gun culture”.
The Republican establishment can’t control Trump. “This is the first election they can’t do it. They are amazed, they are upset, and the Republican establishment is going berserk.”
He sees Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, as appealing to a huge part of the population which is basically traditionally progressive. “Though he happens to use the word socialist, it just means New Dealer.”
“Today’s Democrats, Clinton-style Democrats, are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans,” he says. “Republicans just went way off the spectrum. They are so dedicated to service to wealth and the corporate sector that they simply cannot get votes on their own programs.”
Chomsky calls the US healthcare system “an international scandal”, and an outcome of what he terms the neoliberal assault. “This is happening in England too. The National Health Service in England is probably the best health system in the world. They are now trying to dismantle it and turn it into something like the American system which is one of the worst in the world.”
On Obama – “Recent polls show that about a quarter of Republicans think that he maybe the Antichrist. That is tied up with the fundamentalist, religious tales about Armageddon, Antichrist and Jesus having a battle, and the saved souls rise to heaven maybe in our lifetimes. These are big things in the United States. That’s where the Republican base is now.”