Famed linguist and gadfly Noam Chomsky, who has long been a critic of American foreign policy and civil rights matters, said recently that presidential candidate and self-declared democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is actually more like President Dwight Eisenhower than a radical. Chomsky has himself been described as a radical in the past for his positions on the Cold War and U.S. policy towards Latin America.
“He’s considered radical and extremist, which is a pretty interesting characterization, because he’s basically a mainstream New Deal Democrat,” Chomsky said. “His positions would not have surprised President Eisenhower, who said, in fact, that anyone who does not accept New Deal programs doesn’t belong in the American political system. That’s now considered very radical.”
Chomsky recalled that New Deal policies, such as Social Security, have enjoyed overwhelming support from Democrats for decades. “When Obama put through the Affordable Care Act, there was, you recall, a public option, but that was dropped,” Chomsky said. “It was dropped even though it was supported by about almost two-thirds of the population. You go back earlier, say, to the Reagan years, about 70 percent of the population thought that national healthcare should be in the Constitution, because it’s such an obvious right — and, in fact, about 40 percent of the population thought it was in the Constitution, again, because it’s such an obvious right. The same is true on tax policy and others.”
Sanders, said Chomsky, can only be called a radical if the Republican Party is accepted as a legitimate participant in a democracy. “We have this phenomenon where someone is taking positions that would have been considered pretty mainstream during the Eisenhower years, that are supported by a large part, often a considerable majority, of the population, but he’s dismissed as radical and extremist,” he said. “That’s an indication of how the spectrum has shifted to the right during the neoliberal period, so far to the right that the contemporary Democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans, and the Republicans are just off the spectrum. They’re not a legitimate parliamentary party anymore.”