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To Make the US a Democracy, the Constitution Itself Must Change


Why do so many people in the U.S. today find Trump’s racist rants and authoritarian mindset appealing? What are the political checks and balances — or lack thereof — that can ward off the impact of the Republican leadership’s disastrous policies? Is a constitutional crisis on its way? And how do we face the consequences of an administration that is essentially competing for the title of most dangerous organization in human history? In this exclusive Truthout interview, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona Noam Chomsky, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of all time (ranking among the top 10 cited sources of all time, along with Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Hegel and Freud), dissects Trump’s racist attacks, Trumpism and the current condition of the country in the second decade of the 21st century.

C.J. Polychroniou: According to popular conception, the United States is a “nation of immigrants,” although this formulation significantly excludes Native people — who were already here, and were subjected to colonization, displacement and genocide at the hands of European immigrants — and also excludes African Americans, whose ancestors were kidnapped and enslaved. When it is described as a “nation of immigrants,” the U.S. is often portrayed as a varied nation where people have the freedom to pursue their dreams of a better life while maintaining their own cultural, ethnic and religious distinctiveness or uniqueness. Yet, the truth of the matter is that inequality and oppression of the “Other” have been ongoing political and social realities since the origins of the republic. In fact, today we have a president in the White House who makes no bones about wishing to see non-white people, even elected representatives of the U.S. Congress, leave the country because they challenge the status quo and seek a United States with a more humane and democratic polity. Meanwhile, the very rich are enjoying political privileges like never before. Noam, what are some of the tangible and intangible factors that seem to be pushing the country — socially, politically and economically — backward rather than forward?

Noam Chomsky: Trump’s diatribes successfully inflame his audience, many of whom apparently feel deeply threatened by diversity, cultural change, or simply the recognition that the White Christian nation of their collective imagination is changing before their eyes. White supremacy is nothing new in the U.S. The late George Frederickson’s comparative studies of white supremacy found the U.S. to be almost off the chart, more extreme even than Apartheid South Africa. As late as the 1960s the U.S. had anti-miscegenation laws so extreme that the Nazis refused to adopt them as a model for their racist Nuremberg laws. And the power of Southern Democrats was so great that until ‘60s activism shattered the framework of legal racism — if not its practice by other means — even New Deal federal housing programs enforced segregation, barring Black people from new housing programs.

2 Comments

  1. avatar
    fernando_santamaria July 27, 2019 10:31 pm 

    I suppose that things are similar all over the world and it will be difficult to find an electoral process that reflects without distortion the will of the citizens, but, the words of Noam Chomsky about Professor Erwin Chemerinsky’s article (“He reviews some of the familiar problems. One has to do with the Electoral College, which was designed by the Framers because of their distrust of popular government. By now states with 23 percent of the population have enough electoral votes to choose the president. ”) make me doubt about the sanity of continuing to support the electoral farce of 2020. In the current circumstances, in which everything suggests we are heading towards a catastrophe, that authorized social agents rejected to participate in the elections could, perhaps, serve as a catalyst for change.

  2. avatar
    Michael July 25, 2019 11:45 am 

    Chomsky, Zinn, and Galeano have been my mentors for many years. Through books and even youtube.com each continues along with many other notable women and men that are too many to list. I once traveled from southern Latin America to Boston (stopping on the way in three other countries to do research) to see Noam and Howard. It was the most valuable trip I ever took and both Noam and Howard made time to meet with me. What people like these give to the world is immense.

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