Noam Chomsky on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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The full title of this interview by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report) is “Noam Chomsky on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Spectacular” Victory & Growing Split in Democratic Party.” Goodman interviews world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky (laureate professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona and professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than 50 years) and progressive Democratic candidate (of Puerto Rican descent) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Here are excerpts:

The 2018 midterm election season has been roiled by the internal divisions between the Democratic Party’s growing progressive base and the more conservative party establishment. In New York City, this division came to a head with the most shocking upset of the election season so far, when 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez handily defeated 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. [. . .]

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the upcoming midterm elections and the increasing number of Democratic Socialist candidates running, who raise the issue of immigration as one of the top issues. I recently sat down with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democratic congressional candidate, whose recent primary victory upended the 10-term incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, who was being talked about as the next House speaker to succeed Pelosi. And I began by asking her how she achieved her staggering primary victory.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: [. . .] And I knew that if we were going to win, the way that progressives win on an unapologetic message is by expanding the electorate [. . .] speaking to those that feel disenchanted, dejected, cynical about our politics, and letting them know that we’re fighting for them. [. . .]

AMY GOODMAN: And the issues you ran on?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: And the issues I ran on were very clear, and I think it was an important part to us winning: improved and expanded Medicare for all; tuition-free public colleges and universities, as well as trade schools; a Green New Deal; justice for Puerto Rico; an unapologetic platform of criminal justice reform and ending the war on drugs; and also speaking truth to power and speaking about money in politics not just in general, but how it operates in New York City.

[. . .] NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think there’s—her victory was a quite spectacular and significant event. [. . .] I think she was right in saying that the policies she’s outlined should have broad appeal to a very large segment of the population. We should bear in mind that, for now almost 40 years, since the neoliberal assault began, taking off with Reagan, on from there, a large majority of the population are living in conditions of stagnation or decline. Real wages are—for, say, male real wages—are about what they were in the 1960s. It’s been—there has been productivity growth. Hasn’t gone to working people. It’s gone into the very few extremely overstuffed pockets. And that continues. So, the Labor Department just came out with its report for wages in the year ending May 2018. Now, they actually slightly declined. All sorts of talk—real wages, that is, wages measured against inflation. And it’s apparently continuing, with an even further drop. This is a time when a lot of crowing about the marvelous economy, you know, full employment and so on, but wages continue to stagnate. And furthermore, it’s plainly going to get worse. The Republicans are on a binge of pursuing the most savage form of class warfare. The tax scam is a good example, the attacks on workers’ rights, on—Public Citizen just came out with a report on corporate impunity, which is almost comical when you read it. The administration has simply cut back radically on any kind of dealing with corporate crimes. And, of course, the EPA has practically stopped working. It’s as if grab whatever you can, stuff it in your pocket, before—while you have a chance. Under those conditions, the kind of appeal that she was talking about should mean a lot to the general population.

Notice, as everybody’s well aware, the tax scam was a purposeful effort not only to enrich the super-rich and the corporate sector—corporate profits, of course, are overflowing—but it was also an effort to sharply increase the deficit, which can be used—and Paul Ryan and others kindly announced to us right away what the plans were—the deficit could be used to undermine any elements of government structure which benefit the general population—Medicare, Social Security, food for poor children. Anything you can do to shaft the general population more can now be justified under the argument that we have a huge deficit, thanks to stuffing the pockets of the rich. This is an astonishing phenomenon. And under those conditions, a properly designed progressive program should appeal to a large majority of the population. But it has to be done correctly and not shaped in ways which will appease the donor class.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to the interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has really upended the Democratic Party, and the kind of message this candidate of Puerto Rican descent in New York has sent to the entire party, I think the Republican Party, as well. But this is what she says about immigration.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We have to occupy all of it. We need to occupy every airport, we need to occupy every border, we need to occupy every ICE office, until those kids are back with their parents, period.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the right-wing media—for example, Fox News and others—have kept—have written about this over and over since she made this comment about occupying airports. Interestingly, her area of Queens and Bronx include Rikers Island and LaGuardia Airport. Noam Chomsky?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think we just had a very dramatic illustration of what courageous opposition to these atrocious policies can do—namely, the young Swedish woman who prevented an airplane from taking off because it was deporting an Afghan man to almost certain murder. [. . .]

For full program and transcript, see https://www.democracynow.org/2018/7/27/noam_chomsky_on_alexandria_ocasio_cortezs

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