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Chomsky Says Pick the Lesser of two Evils

(tip to Steve)



Norm, are we making Utah a little Bluer this year?

I've been wondering about that myself. Anecdotally it's certainly true. An employee of mine was telling me of two of her close friends both lifelong Republicans. , one is voting for Obama and the other is seriously considering voting for her first Democrat ever. There is also the interesting fact that I've seen dozens of Obama yard signs but only a single McCain sign.

There haven't been any recent polls, that I'm aware of the latest in September were something like 69-21 McCain.

It will be interesting to see if the gap closes on Election day.

With all the anecdotal evidence of Republican dissatisfaction with McCain-Palin I'm surprised the polls don't reflect it.

I am sure the Romney write-in vote alone will cause the numbers to tighten a bit.

I read the Salt Lake Tribune came out for Obama - does that make a difference?

I was thinking about the newspaper and magazine endorsements and wondering if that mattered in this age where fewer and fewer people are reading papers seems like those that read them will be exactly the people who would be inclined to McCain - older and less on the internet seems like a good thing...

Not so much in my opinion, but my gut feeling is that there has been a significant shift to Obama. If I had to guess I'd say 55-45 McCain. If the spread is less than that I'll be presently surprised.

Nationwide, newspapers endorsements are running about 3-1 for Obama. Kerry and Bush ran almost even.

"The question we settle in election is not WHETHER elites shall rule, but WHICH elites shall rule"

I had to watch that 6 times to be sure I got the quote right.

I'm sure fans of Chomsky are thinking: "well, no duh Zaphod"

Well, sure, we all knew this already. But isn't a little odd the veneer of legitimacy is peeling away so quickly now?

Is it a good sign? Are people finally fed up with it? Is the revolution finally approaching?

Is it a bad sign? Is my beloved America going to start openly embracing plutocratic oligarchy? Are the kings and queens going to declare themselves, and abandon the illusion of democracy altogether?

It raises the hair on the back of my neck either way.

The question we settle in election is not WHETHER elites shall rule, but WHICH elites shall rule.

Given the realities of human nature, can you imagine a democracy in which this wouldn't be true - at least after the "revolution" is over? The question is, "What are the criteria do we use to establish which of our chosen representatives and leaders are "elite" who are fit to govern? Don't you want Justice Department lawyers to be "elite" lawyers, and not Alberto Gonzales or Sara Taylor? Heck, one could argue that Sarah Palin is the candidate least connected with any elite (though I think she and Todd are worth wealthier than Biden).


I think this should go without saying, but apparently not...

If you look up elite in a dictionary, it will give several definitions:

It is clear that Chomsky is referring to definition d: "a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence." This is not synonymous with a: "the choice part."

His point is that such centers of power do exist in the United States (not controversial), and that insofar as they do, their political program will reflect their own interests. (Maybe this someone could contest, but look back 100 years and the point will become much clearer.) One can say this is 'inevitable,' or even prefer a political system like this -- Chomsky points out Madison quite forthrightly did -- but at the very least it can't be called democracy.

I'll amend my question:

Can you imagine a representative democracy in which this wouldn't be true - at least after the "revolution" is over?

Isn't that quote from George Will (not that Chomsky doesn't agree...) And, I think this is what we're fighting for in America. Not that elites don't rule - I don't have a problem with that - I have a problem with a class system though where elitism is hereditary and the deck is stacked against "main street" being able to become elite. For example, if a college degree is the first barrier set but a college degree is unaffordable to the middle classes - the rich have set up a bar you can't get over. Or, if entry into college is only to those with the best scores but the schools available to the middle and lower class are not being properly being funded by the government - again - locked out of the best jobs. If people are grandfathered into the Ivy League schools (think Bush) which are definitely connected to those earning the largest salaries - what do we have here but a ruling class.
America used to be about the best and the brightest who ARE the elite and a promise of a pretty good life for those who work hard and the possibility of a different life for their children if that is their goal. That is okay with me.

The quote is from George Will; I just assume anyone familiar with Chomsky already knows this to be true.

And yes, in any government, those with power will collude to maximize it, to the detriment of the common people. This belief is core to the entire Libertarian worldview. The problem they make is focusing on government, when religion and corporations have a history just as bleak as any government.

I do not oppose "elites". Obama is an elite. The defining factor is that he is a self-made elite, unlike John "fortunate son" McCain, born to an Admiral, or George "Junior" Bush.

I am in favor of any system which encourages more self-made elites. And, I have come to see the light that a properly-managed collectivist society can achieve this better than a Libertarian, no-rules society. The only thing keeping me from declaring myself a liberal is the fact that no major Presidential candidate has shown me they can handle the responsibility (i.e. they both voted for FISA, the bailout, etc). In this view, the overall goal is to prevent them from causing more grief for me, rather than electing them to fix problems.

Maybe Obama is just waiting to be President before he throws down and stands up for the Constitution. I want to believe in super heroes, so what the hell. Lesser of two evils, right?

WOW! Zaphod! You just amazed me.

Nice interview; a good of good points. As usual I'm dubious about his claims about public opinion, but I agree that it's more left than the pundits claim it is.

I wish I could get podcasts of Chomsky reading bedtime stories. THe guy has the nicest voice I can think of. I think I just realied that.

As usual I'm dubious about his claims about public opinion

Exactly what I was thinking: In your dreams, pal, in your dreams...

Chomsky in his books is quite thorough in documenting such claims. He typically quotes opinion polls from respectable pollers.

He also points out that these polls aren't reported by the corporate media, which leaves people thinking they are isolated on the issues (say, health care, the environment, war) when in fact they possibly share their opinions with a majority of the population. People don't know what other people think since it's not reported in the media. The media can keep spinning the illusion that the U.S. population is all pro-capitalism, pro-busines, pro-war, anti-unions, anti-socialism, etc., and people have no reason not to believe it. (It would be a fallacy to claim that Dende and Tim's incredulity proves Chomsky's point, but it certainly could an example of that very fenomenon, if Chomsky is right.)

I don't doubt the core methology of the data he cites. In fact I agree with him that these polls should be published more widely, so politicians would stop saying "we're still a center-right nation".

But there are two major problems with his use of polls. One is that he neglects the salience of issues, and the other is that he neglects what's called measurement error, which involves weak poll questions.

When he cites a poll that says most Americans want a more even-handed polict towards Israel, he doesn't consider that only a minority of Americans care a lot about that issue, and most of the ones who care a lot about it are very pro-Israel. The Israel Lobby is successful in large part because being insufficiently pro-Israel can hurt you in elections. Politicians always get away with things that most people don't want. Why? Not because polls aren't published enough, but because people are not willing to change their vote because of it.

Measurement error. People gravitate toward the moderate, sensible, nice sounding answer in questions. So ask them about the international court, spending on the poor, or cooperation with allies, and they'll give the nice sounding liberal answer. Ask the the question while mentioning Americans being prosecuted in the international courts and tax increases for social programs and you get less liberal answers. People may want the end, but not the means, and Republicans are very good about publicizing the alleged consequences of liberal programs. So at root I don't think that public opinion is as left as Chomsky says.

"Norm, are we making Utah a little Bluer this year?"

I wish Utah were getting bluer, but Utah is so red that Obama has not spent a dime there. If he had maybe you'd see some movement. Maybe his appeals to the state and the big win the primary (all U and BYU professors, according to Michael Barone!) will help him. Party ID matters, and Utah is massively Republican.
I've done my part and got my father in law to soften up on Obama, though.

He has campaign offices down in salt lake city And he did make a trip to Park City during the Primaries.

Also, a funny sidenote, one of our tv news stations has the backdrop of a local plaza, and Obama's Campaign set up a huge booth with giant obama signs right between the two newscasters in the plaza for the 5pm newscast. If it wasn't on purpose, it was a happy accident.

I haven't seen a single McCain sign in utah, but Obama signs and stickers are rampant.

I think most 'republican' utahn's are still mad about Romney not being the candidate or the vp pick.

The only election news every night only consists of 1: top headline news about the race (no details) 2: The 'celebrity' section that includes palin stories and 3: if romney said anything. It's pretty strange.

Thank you for posting this. It feels good to know that here is a well known, smart, intellectual dude that holds exactly the same opinion that I do about the Democrats and the Republicans.

Furry cows moo and decompress.


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