Noam Chomsky, a well-known MIT philosophy professor, political commentator, social justice activist, and public intellectual – has told Truthout.org that the left should support Bernie Sanders’ presidential aspirations even as he caucuses with the Democratic Party: “His campaign has had a salutary effect. It’s raised important issues that are otherwise sidestepped and has moved the Democrats slightly in a progressive direction.” Unfortunately, argues Chomsky:
“Chances that he could be elected in our system of bought elections are not high, and if he were, it would be extremely difficult for him to effect any significant change of policies. The Republicans won’t disappear, and thanks to gerrymandering and other tactics they are likely at least to control the House as they have done with a minority of votes for some years, and they are likely to have a strong voice in the Senate. The Republicans can be counted on to block even small steps in a progressive – or for that matter even rational – direction. It’s important to recognize that they [the Republican Party] are no longer a normal political party.”
In fact, even Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Orenstein, resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, wrote a couple of years ago:
“The Republican Party has become a radical insurgency—ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. Securing the common good in the face of these developments will require structural changes but also an informed and strategically focused citizenry.”
Chomsky notes that the Republican Party began to radicalize with Ronald Reagan, as it became the party of the very rich the one-percenters aligned with extremist, evangelical Christians.
“Since Ronald Reagan, the leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilising sectors of the population that have not previously been an organised political force, among them extremist evangelical Christians, now probably the majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding States; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; and others who turn the Republican primaries into spectacles remote from the mainstream of modern society — though not the mainstream of the most powerful country in world history.”
However, a Sanders presidency will also face opposition from some Democrats, since they have also become inflexible and “their policy shifts would not make them more like moderate Republicans.” So, the best chance for effecting change, argues Chomsky, “would come from the rise of popular movements which could push him [Sanders] further in his own policies.”
Sanders has been strongly questioned about his ability to get anything done, should he be elected president, given the polarized political environment. He has been very straightforward about the prospects, saying “…no president, not Hillary, not Bernie Sanders, not anybody, will succeed unless there is a mass mobilization of millions of people who stand up and say, enough is enough. Koch brothers and billionaires can’t have it all.” Sanders has drawn large crowds and inspired people at his rallies, but as Chomsky notes: “the most important part of the Sanders candidacy…It has mobilized a huge number of people. If those forces can be sustained beyond the election, instead of fading away once the extravaganza is over, they could become the kind of popular force that the country badly needs if it is to deal in a constructive way with the enormous challenges that lie ahead”- perhaps akin to the social uprising and social movements of American citizens, such as the anti Vietnam War movement of the late 1960’s and early 70’s – so our politicians hear “We the people…”
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.