Trump And The Flawed Nature Of US Democracy: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Trump’s presidential victory exposed to the whole world the flawed nature of the US model of democracy. Beginning January 20, both the country and the world will have to face a political leader with copious conflicts of interest who considers his unpredictable and destructive style to be a leadership asset. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, world-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky sheds light on the type of democratic model the US has designed and elaborates on the political import of Trump’s victory for the two major parties, as this new political era begins.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, I want to start by asking you to reflect on the following: Trump won the presidential election even though he lost the popular vote. In this context, if “one person, one vote” is a fundamental principle behind every legitimate model of democracy, what type of democracy prevails in the US, and what will it take to undo the anachronism of the Electoral College?
Noam Chomsky: The Electoral College was originally supposed to be a deliberative body drawn from educated and privileged elites. It would not necessarily respond to public opinion, which was not highly regarded by the founders, to put it mildly. “The mass of people … seldom judge or determine right,” as Alexander Hamilton put it during the framing of the Constitution, expressing a common elite view. Furthermore, the infamous 3/5th clause ensured the slave states an extra boost, a very significant issue considering their prominent role in the political and economic institutions. As the party system took shape in the 19th century, the Electoral College became a mirror of the state votes, which can give a result quite different from the popular vote because of the first-past-the-post rule — as it did once again in this election. Eliminating the Electoral College would be a good idea, but it’s virtually impossible as the political system is now constituted. It is only one of many factors that contribute to the regressive character of the [US] political system, which, as Seth Ackerman observes in an interesting article in Jacobin magazine, would not pass muster by European standards.

Ackerman focuses on one severe flaw in the US system: the dominance of organizations that are not genuine political parties with public participation but rather elite-run candidate-selection institutions often described, not unrealistically, as the two factions of the single business party that dominates the political system. They have protected themselves from competition by many devices that bar genuine political parties that grow out of free association of participants, as would be the case in a properly functioning democracy. Beyond that there is the overwhelming role of concentrated private and corporate wealth, not just in the presidential campaigns, as has been well documented, particularly by Thomas Ferguson, but also in Congress.

A recent study by Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen on “How Money Drives US Congressional Elections,” reveals a remarkably close correlation between campaign expenditures and electoral outcomes in Congress over decades. And extensive work in academic political science — particularly by Martin Gilens, Benjamin Page and Larry Bartlett — reveals that most of the population is effectively unrepresented, in that their attitudes and opinions have little or no effect on decisions of the people they vote for, which are pretty much determined by the very top of the income-wealth scale. In the light of such factors as these, the defects of the Electoral College, while real, are of lesser significance.
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Housing In Dublin In Sixty Four 1964

Sixty Four: Woman speaking to John O’Donoghue about her move from Dublin city centre to new housing in Finglas.

How do current living and housing conditions in Dublin compare with 1964? The RTÉ television series ‘Sixty Four’ broadcast a report on the housing situation in Ireland’s capital city.
How do current living and housing conditions in Dublin compare with 50 years ago? In 1964 RTÉ television series ‘Sixty Four’ broadcast a report on the housing situation in Ireland’s capital city.

In this clip from the programme John O’Donoghue looks at the history of Georgian Dublin. By 1964 many of the Georgian buildings in Dublin city centre, which were built in the 18th century, were falling down, being demolished or both. O’Donoghue remarks “Once the proud townhouses and residences of the wealthy, the decorated ceilings are now falling down.”
Many of the landlords of these Georgian buildings claim that the tenants themselves have deliberately damaged the properties in order to get them condemned and moved out to new corporation housing estates in the suburbs.

Go to: http://www.rte.ie/from-georgian-slums-to-the-suburbs-1964/

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