A Few Choice Words From Noam Chomsky

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As we (some of us, anyway) bask briefly in the glow of Hillary Clinton’s barrier breaking nomination tonight, and with altogether too many people predicting massive hordes of alleged progressives voting for Donald Trump or simply not voting because they feel personally offended by some aspect of Hillary Clinton’s persona, let us have a few words from actual leftist Noam Chomsky on the rules for what has become known as “lesser evil” voting. As Scott Lemieux notes at LGM, Chomsky may not be as well known or respected as some of the self-indulgent crayon scribblers at Slate, but he does have some credibility on the subject.

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning.
3) One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point. Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.” Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.
4) The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.
5) 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.
6) However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.
7) Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it. They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.
8) Conclusion: by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.

QED. Class dismissed. We’ll have a weekly test on this and related subjects until everyone gets it.

3 thoughts on “A Few Choice Words From Noam Chomsky

  1. Gabi Ramos

    Bernie Sanders beams with self-satisfied pride that he pulled Hillary Clinton to the left with regard to Citizens United (CU). Unfortunately, Sanders manipulated his supporters into believing that in order for their votes to go to her, she would have to promise to appoint supreme court justices who shall overturn CU. In this way, Senator Sanders has broadcast to the republicans and Koch libertarians that the status quo will be maintained. Why? Senator Sanders has forced the litmus test question, sure to be asked by republicans on the senate confirmation committee. Not one so-called liberal or progressive candidate will be confirmed. Thanks Bernie for the gift you gave.

    Hillary Clinton also conceded to a constitutional amendment, if needed, to overturn CU. Hillary Clinton has been accused of dishonesty when answering questions in her singularly wonkishly nuanced way. No amount of getting into the details matters to Sanders’ supporters. Again, the gift Sanders gve to the republicans was the CU status quo. Why? A constitional amendment can only be ratified by 2/3 of the states or 38 governors. Good luck with that…Bernie Sanders’ campaign was based on rhetoric without pragmatic solutions, and his supporters stuck their fingers in their ears whenever Hillary Clinton went into ‘let me explain mode’.

    Noam Chomsky is summarizing what insurgents should do when they lose, http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/change/science_egalitarians.html.

    On the otherhand, these seemingly straight-forward pronouncements may have been taught to be acted out in revearse. In other words, you and I read,
    “by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve” is acted out by not dismissing a “lesser evil” in order to increase the potential for Clinton’s defeat, to effect the Trump presidency which will rally the Susan Sarandon electoral logic, that next time, all democrats will will vote for their candidate.

    It is not over until we hear Madam President-Elect.

    Reply
  2. Ed F.

    So, that’s a silly argument. We were going to stealthily sneak in justices who would overturn CItizens United without being questioned on it? There’s already a litmus test that Clinton embraced full-throatedly, on choice. You think there are GOP senators who are prepared to allow a pro-choice justice but would block one who expresses disagreement with Citizens United?

    Having just come through Philadelphia as Sanders delegate, I was impressed with a number of our elected leaders and their commitment to progressive ideas — but, it’s also fair to say that I noticed a remarkable dip in enthusiasm from the lusty self-congratulatory cheers on marriage equality and ringing support for other social movements like Black Lives Matter (good on you, Democrats) to the much more tepid response to remarks on climate change policy and campaign finance. There were a lot of people who want to be identified as progressives, but seem to me to be more progressive on social issues than economic and pocketbook ones. That was especially noticeable when big donors were in the room.

    We’ve got work to do, but I am very happy that Hillary Clinton is on board, at least in broad rhetorical terms.

    Reply
    1. Djed Rising Blog

      May 2015 – http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=114446

      “If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice. That nominee will say that we are going to overturn this disastrous decision in Citizens United because that decision is undermining American democracy,” Sanders said during an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” Added Sanders, “I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians.”

      What you fail to understand is that Senator Sanders was making democrats having PACs and SuperPAC’s a litmus test for her. She relied on big money and by proxy was advantaged by the CU decision. Rather than recognizing Hillary Clinton’s PACs were logically necessary to fight republican fire with democratic fire, Sanders turned it to his advantage by making viewers believe she was not progressive enough for him.

      Had Senator Sanders not made public justicial nominees passing his litmus test, Hillary Clinton would not have been branded as a Wall Street puppet, and most of America would understand that democratic PACs fight for the democrat to counter the republican PACs maligning democrats.

      Reply

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