Science & the Political Dimension
U.S. Republicans: the most dangerous organization in human history
by Noam Chomsky
They're saying, "Let’s race to the precipice & make sure our grandchildren have the worst possible life." There’s never been anything this dangerous to the species. We should face that.
The phenomenon that we’ve just witnessed is an extreme version of something that’s been going on just for years in the Republican primaries. Take a look back at the preceding ones. Every time a candidate came up from the base— one crazier than the other—the Republican establishment sought to beat them down and get their own—get their own man—like Romney. And they succeeded, until this year. This year the same thing happened, and they didn’t succeed. The pressure from the base was too great for them to beat it back. Now, that’s the disaster that the Republican establishment sees. But the phenomenon goes way back. And it has roots. It’s kind of like jihadis: You have to ask about the roots.
What are the roots? Both U.S. political parties have shifted to the right during the neo-liberal period—the period that goes back to late Carter that escalated under Reagan—which has been a period of stagnation and decline for much of the population in many ways—wages, benefits, security and so on—along with enormous wealth concentrated in a tiny fraction of the population, mostly financial institutions, which have a dubious, if not harmful, role in the economy. This has been going on for a generation. And while this has been happening, there’s a kind of a vicious cycle. You have more concentration of wealth, concentration of political power, legislation to increase concentration of wealth and power, and so on, that while that’s been going on, much of the population has simply been cast aside. The white working class is bitter and angry, for lots of reasons, including these. The minority populations were hit very hard by the Clinton destruction of the welfare system and the incarceration rules. They still tend to support the Democrats, but tepidly, because the alternative is worse, and they’re taking a kind of pragmatic stand.
The parties have shifted so far to the right that today’s mainstream Democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. And the Republicans are now just off the spectrum. They have been correctly described by leading conservative commentators, like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, as a radical insurgency which has abandoned parliamentary politics. And they don’t even try to conceal it. As soon as Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said, pretty much straight out, "We have only one policy: make the country ungovernable, and then maybe we can somehow get power again." That’s just off the spectrum.
Now, the actual policies of the Republicans, whether it’s Donald Trump, to the extent that he’s coherent, or Ted Cruz, or the establishment, is basically to enrich and empower the very rich and the very powerful and the corporate sector. You cannot get votes that way. So therefore the Republicans have been compelled to turn to sectors of the population that can be mobilized and organized on other grounds, trying to put the actual policies to the side, hoping the white working class will be mobilized to vote for their bitter class enemies, who want to shaft them in every way, by appealing to something else, like so-called social conservatism—abortion rights, racism, nationalism and so on. And to some extent, that’s happened. That’s the kind of thing that happened with Germany’s collapse, a descent into barbarism. So what you have is a voting base consisting of evangelical Christians, ultra-nationalists, racists, disaffected, angry, white working-class sectors that have been hit very hard, that are—you know, not by Third World standards, but by First World standards. We even have the remarkable phenomenon of an increase in mortality among these sectors, that just doesn’t happen in developed societies. All of that is a voting base. It does produce candidates who terrify the corporate, wealthy, elite establishment. In the past, they’ve been able to beat them down. This time they aren’t doing it. And that’s what’s happening to the so-called Republican Party.
We should recognize—if we were honest, we would say something that sounds utterly shocking and no doubt will be taken out of context and lead to hysteria on the part of the usual suspects. But the fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history. Literally. Just take their position on the two major issues that face us: climate change, nuclear war. On climate change, it’s not even debatable. They’re saying, "Let’s race to the precipice. Let’s make sure that our grandchildren have the worst possible life." On nuclear war, they’re calling for increased militarization. It’s already way too high, more than half the discretionary budget. "Let’s shoot it up." They cut back other resources by cutting back taxes on the rich, so there’s nothing left. There’s been nothing this—literally, this dangerous, if you think about it, to the species, really, ever. We should face that.
◊ The above is an extract from the interview with Professor Chomsky on
Democracy Now. Publ. here 22.5.2016.