by Michael K. Smith / April 8th, 2020
Capitalism’s “invisible hand” gives us the middle finger with ever more contempt these days.
With the national unemployment rate soaring to Depression-era levels and beyond, the self-proclaimed “job creators” of our glorious free-market paradise are now drowning in gluttonous excess from sucking the tit of the “Nanny State” they allegedly abhor. While workers are prohibited from working by shelter-in-place orders, the private owners of what should be public assets get trillions of taxpayer dollars through the Federal Reserve, which they will use to buy up everything they don’t already own at depressed, pandemic era prices. Then when foreclosures begin to soar they’ll buy up the distressed properties for a song. In other words, we’re paying them with our own money to kick us out of our homes.
Meanwhile, the great dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky and friends (Mike Albert, Norman Solomon, Barbara Ehrenreich etc.) urge us not to vote for the Green Party this November, except in places where the vote won’t have any effect on the outcome (the states where either Trump or Biden are sure to win). These keyboard revolutionaries regard themselves as the vanguard of popular rebellion, but a key fact seems to have escaped their attention: Trump is a threat to elites; Biden isn’t. Which is why so many Rust Belt workers took a chance on Trump in 2016. In other words, American workers are much more fed up with the system than Chomsky and his political friends are. Change will come from them, not keyboard revolutionaries.
Though Chomsky regularly reminds his audiences that trying to predict the future is hopeless, that we can’t even predict tomorrow’s weather, let alone complex political trends, he nevertheless regards his judgment as infallible in determining how we should vote! But as John Dewey used to say, individuals know better than experts “where the shoe pinches, the troubles they suffer from,” a quote Chomsky is well aware of, as he cites it himself. Who the hell are we to tell people how they should vote? Or run their political campaigns?
Of course, Chomsky counters that the Greens have themselves stated that they want to see Trump defeated “as much as anyone,” and on that basis he counsels a “safe states” strategy; i.e., voting Green in the 40 states where the outcome is a foregone conclusion, but not in the 10 states that are “in play,” that is, where it can’t be safely predicted whether Trump or Biden will win. Here Chomsky is correct that the Greens are not as eager as he is to see Trump defeated, but there is no reason they should be. Again, Biden poses no threat to the establishment, and is so out of it mentally that he frequently lapses into outright gibberish. It took him six days to come out with a video in response to the corona virus crisis, one in which he appeared in a darkened basement with a confused look in his eyes mumbling incoherently to the effect that the government should do something about medical shortages. Duh.
On other occasions he has said that poor kids are just as capable as white kids of high achievement, and that parents should turn on the record player at night so that they can learn new words. His record is so appalling and his gaffes so prolific that his handlers carefully shield him from all but the most limited public contact, and even then can’t prevent him from snapping at voters or mangling his syntax to the point of random babbling. Even Barack Obama was reluctant to support him.
In short, it is not at all obvious that Trump is the greater evil. On the issues, Trump is slightly worse than Biden, but also more prone to sparking massive popular resistance, while Biden is clearly suffering cognitive disintegration whereas Trump is not. Furthermore, the Democrats in opposition are a fake resistance, while the Republicans (during a Democratic presidency) are an actual resistance. So the choice between Biden and Trump is all too much like “Sophie’s Choice” in the movie starring Meryl Streep, in which Nazi guards force a terrified Polish mother to choose which of her two children shall live and which shall die. She makes the choice – perhaps “rationally” – and ends up committing suicide. We as a nation will, too, if we continue to take such choices seriously.
In 2016, the Republican base recognized Trump was a threat to the establishment and voted him into office, in spite of a tsunami of articulate opinion saying it couldn’t be done. In 2020, elite fear-mongering divided the Democratic base, insuring that it failed to nominate Bernie Sanders, a different and better kind of threat to the establishment. Polls show that Sanders’ signature issue – Medicare For All – captures a substantial majority even among Biden voters, and in fact his New Deal politics are very popular across the American population. A successful elite campaign to falsely convince everyone that “other people don’t think like me” is the only reason he won’t be the party nominee.
To an electorate already drowning in manipulative fear, Chomsky and friends recommend we adopt a “rational” fear – terror actually – of Trump, on the pretext that he is destroying the world with his indifference to climate change. Though this is a possible outcome, it is far from a certain one, and it cannot plausibly be blamed on a single person in any case. Simply put, the claim that a vote for Trump invites “global catastrophe” is alarmism, not analysis.
We are in the midst of a global catastrophe right now with COVID 19, but Chomsky himself properly credits four decades of bi-partisan profiteering, not just Donald Trump. And if the profit system is the problem, it is difficult to see how voting Democrat helps, as not one of them voted against the recent multi-trillion dollar give-away to Wall Street – not AOC, not Bernie Sanders, not Rashida Tlaib, not Ilhan Omar, not Tulsi Gabbard. And those are the best Democrats, far superior to Joe Biden. The lone opponent of the greatest financial heist in history was Republican Thomas Massie, who called for a quorom and a formal vote on the package that passed by voice vote.
Clearly there are no “safe states”: all the states are always “in play,” and are currently bleeding badly from the anus.
Chomsky’s fear-mongering contrasts sharply with what he advised vis-a-vis nuclear weapons in the 1980s, another issue that portends massive and possibly terminal self-destruction. Back then he correctly pointed out that the Nuclear Freeze’s obsession with giving detailed descriptions of the massively destructive consequences of dropping nuclear bombs on human cities was intellectually insulting and politically paralyzing, preventing the change it hoped to foster. The correctness of this view has been confirmed by events, as the Nuclear Freeze was ultimately absorbed into official arms control efforts, and forty years later the world is closer to nuclear war than ever.
So why should we repeat the mistake today, spreading apocalyptic visions of total destruction via climate change? No reason that a sensible person should embrace. After all, the only prediction we can safely make about climate change is that electing either Biden or Trump will make our current bad situation considerably worse. The only electoral result that could make it better would be one that put the Green Party platform in power, an outcome that will never be achieved if Green voters feel compelled to vote for candidates bought by the fossil fuel industry.
We need to stop the incantations of “existential threat” and “special danger” about Trump. He isn’t Hitler. He doesn’t believe in the genetic superiority of white people. And he at least hasn’t started any new wars during his 38 months in office, which is unlikely to have been the case with Hillary Clinton. What’s different about him is his eagerness to insult rather than utter focus-group tested banalities, but this carries no policy implications. So where is the argument that Trump has dramatically deviated from the plutocratic policies embraced by both establishment parties?
“Real solutions require Trump out of office,” chorus Chomsky and friends, just as they did about Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, John McCain and Ronald Reagan. No. Real solutions require a society committed to real solutions. As long as profiteers run the government, this is impossible.
Apparently, Chomsky and friends are for radical change every day except election day.