Chomsky has been commenting extensively on the 2016 US presidential elections. On the one hand, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – who has brought income inequality on to the table – is drawing considerable support. He has managed to raise about $33 million for his campaign, shattering individual donor records. On the other, someone like Trump on the Republican side is leading in the polls.
In Chomsky’s view the apparently contradictory trends are reflections of the same phenomenon.The impact of the neoliberal programmes 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.”
And this is seen in different ways, in different places, but some phenomena are common. In Europe, the mainstream more or less traditional parties – Social Democratic, Christian democratic – are declining. “At the edges you are getting increased activism and participation, both Left and Right. Something similar is happening here [in the US].”
An ever-growing anger among wide sections of the population and a hatred of institutions is visible. “There is plenty of anger and good reasons for it, if you look at what is happening to people.” Citing 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: “that just does not happen in developed societies.”
“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”.
The anger then is not focused on those who are really responsible – the power-hungry private sector or the huge financial institutions which are basically supported by tax payers. “But don’t look at them, look at the people who are even below you – like a mother with dependent children who lives on food stamps, she is the one who is a problem. Some of the immigrants fleeing from the destruction that the US caused in Central America and are trying to survive, so look at them – and that’s the Trump phenomenon,” says the political theorist, presenting his analysis of Trump’s ever-growing hate speeches that seem to resonate with some sections of the US’s population.
The other group that leaders like Trump seek to please are the nativists, according to. Chomsky. Therefore, 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.