It’s hard to think of a more famous leftist than Noam Chomsky. Frequently cited as one of the most influential people alive, this 87-year-old has a long academic history of challenging mainstream thought.
He’s taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over half a century, and through lectures given around the world, has established himself as in icon of the socialist left. He’s written countless books and given hundreds of interviews.
With a presidential campaign underway, many are asking Chomsky for his thoughts on who is the best choice. That’s what happened recently in an interview with Alternet.org, where Chomsky was asked about Trump and Sanders.
While it’s no surprise that he has no time for Trump, what he had to say regarding Bernie Sanders’ plan to break up Wall Street banks was puzzling.
He stated that in order for this to be done, “The consequences should be carefully explored. I haven’t done so.” People who follow Chomsky must have done a double take.
I’m a conservative, but I’ve always been interested in Chomsky’s work. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit he can be quite compelling on a plethora of issues. He’s well spoken, and knows how to make an argument, so watching him back away from Sander's plan to break up big banks -- when he himself has been lecturing on that exact topic for 10 years -- must be unsatisfying for his fans.
I don’t expect Chomsky to wholeheartedly endorse a candidate or join someone’s campaign team. That would be extremely unlikely. But at the very least, he shouldn’t be this hesitant to support radical left proposals, considering his résumé.
This is a man who says he wants to see a complete change in how the world operates, but he thinks that breaking up the banks he hates is suddenly too risky? Not just that, but he of all people hasn't done enough research on the topic? He has been extremely critical of Wall Street and the politicians who are bought and paid for by banks, but when someone offers to try to halt that relationship, suddenly Chomsky’s a conservative? Suddenly he believes in slow, meticulous change?
Chomsky is an anarchist, but the kind who approaches anarchism from the communist/socialist side. There’s nothing about that description that isn’t radical, and it’s a label he wears proudly. So his suddenly being afraid of espousing radical ideas makes little sense.
He’s also said that Sanders essentially has no chance at winning the nomination, let alone the presidency. It must be incredibly disheartening for American leftists who want change to hear their icon calling their case essentially doomed.
These comments reveal the biggest problem with Chomsky and those like him:
Leftists are adept at criticizing leaders and political systems, but when it comes time to offer actual solutions or ideas, they come up short.
I almost feel sorry for Chomsky's fans, who are likely in the Bernie camp and would appreciate the Chomsky seal of approval. Noam has criticized America as a country run by the rich and powerful, instead of the American people. This sounds like it could come right out of a Sanders advertisement.
I’ve always respected someone who stands by their principles, but I think we’re seeing Chomsky’s hubris finally interfering with his ideas. His posture of being too morally righteous to support any politician is clashing with a reasonable frustration that many Americans have. It’s beginning to look like he’s being engulfed by the very elitism he claims to fight against.
It’s so ironic that the ideological left, which brought us Occupy Wall Street, and preaches constantly about the systematic disadvantages facing Americans, is about to unify behind the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, it’s the conservatives who are hungry for change, and rallying to Donald Trump, who in his own weird way, is offering the hope that invigorated the Democrats in 2008.
If leftist ideologues are abandoning ship, it might be safe to say that the movement itself is losing steam. Which, to most of us, would be considered a good thing.