On Saturday, Noam Chomsky gave a speech entitled “On Power and Ideology” before nearly 1,000 people at The New School in New York City. The main focus of his talk was the prevalence of American exceptionalism – the theory that America is somehow “inherently different from other nations”. The theory says that “Americanism”, defined as an ideology based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy, and laissez-faire, is an ideology unique to the United States.
After the talk, Chomsky took a number of audience questions, including one about ill-mannered Republican candidate Donald Trump. The audience member asked Chomsky what his thoughts were on Trump’s “antics” and their relation to the idea of American exceptionalism. He took the opportunity to speak on the topic of the political landscape as a whole, saying that the political spectrum has shifted entirely to the right.
Today’s Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They’re so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes by presenting those positions.
The result, Chomsky says, is that the party has “mobilized sectors of the population”, including devout Christians and certain xenophobic groups. These sectors are now “the base of the Republican party”, which is evident from watching the primaries, the debates, or simply the reaction to any number of Trump’s asinine comments.
Chomsky suggested that “other candidates are not that different” from Trump. The evidence is in their “astonishing” views. He highlighted the fact that both Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, both Republican presidential candidates at one point, said they would bomb Iran if elected to office. As Chomsky said it’s “off the spectrum of not only international opinion, but even relative sanity”. Trump, says Chomsky, is merely “comic relief”. His antics may be entertaining, but the fact that other Republican candidates are espousing similar political opinions is a far more important topic for discussion.
Watch Professor Chomsky’s talk below.