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How Our Politics Came Undone

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/11/01/how-our-politics-came-undone

I agree that there is a stifling of discourse and politics that is led by dogma, but your leaving out huge part of the problem a decontextualizing to an extreme. In the first place, it is absolutely not the case the “politics came undone” under Trump for all Americans. Perhaps for White Americans from economically secure families, it came undone, but for a lot of folk of color, White Supremacy and violent oppression has reigned for the more that 200 years the US has existed - and for the 300 years prior, since the arrival of European capitalist coinquirers.

Today, it’s not just Trump that promotes “fake News”, uses propaganda to shape thought, and wields power anti-democratically. The Democrat Party and most media, including CommonDreams, have embraced tenants of far right Randian capitalist paradigm, and a xenophobic mantra the says Russia = Putin = EVIL = part of the conspiracy to undo the US. Now, even Democrats, most media (even CD) and many “progressive leaders” preach that “lesser evil voting” is the only option and that anything else is supporting Trump/Putin. Now, despite the fact that communities of color are being alternatives to capitalism and the fact that solidarity economics is on the rise, and sustainable community energy projects are growing, even Noam Chomsky is stating anti-capitalist change is so far off that that our only hope to combat climate change is accept the current capitalist institutions(_https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/21446383/noam-chomsky-robert-pollin-climate-change-book-green-new-deal):

We should recognize that if global warming is an automatic consequence of capitalism, we might as well say goodbye to each other. I would like to overcome capitalism, but it’s not in the relevant time scale. Global warming basically has to be taken care of within the framework of existing institutions, modifying them as necessary. That’s the problem we face.
The fundamental institutions are not going to change in time. Human nature allows the possibility of thinking about what’s going to happen in a couple of decades, even centuries. Assume all that.

Of course, having criticized the Democrat Party, White Progressives, and the deified Noam Chomsky, I await my pillorying.


Very astute article. Some on the left sow the seeds of apathy by discounting the importance of voting by saying it is a choice between “a lesser of two evils”. Guess what, when you have only two realistic choices you choose the one that does the least damage; and put pressure on that one afterward. The other option is to live in a pc fantasy. Peter Pan might be in order.

I don’t know if it truly qualifies as pillorying Uncle Noam if, in doing so, you’re promoting his latest book at the same time. (That’s a great David Roberts interview you posted – thanks!)

Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal
by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin
with C.J. Polychroniou

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Not from me;-) Nailed it. If demodogs had stay with working citizens in Amerika election would be easy for them. Nope sold us out to their friends on wall street.


Quite frankly , given that the entire article did not mention LOTE voting and or the role of the Democrats in the undoing of US Politics , I had to dismiss this entire article out of hand.

The Song by the Guess he “shes Come Undun” came out in 1969. The US state was already beating the heads of protestors in . It was fighting wars in Vietnam based on lies. It had a President assassinated along with his younger brother and then Martin Luther King. Counter Intel Pro was active as was MK Ultra…

The undoing of the USA started way back in 1776 when the 1 percent moved in to dictate how the Revolution would turn out and who would be in charge.


The last paragraph is right on. The US political system was structured to advantage mercantilists and slave owners. The electoral college, and the Senate are good examples of how unrepresentative the system is. Then we have the Supremes who answer to no one and are appointed for life. All our present problems are compounded if not caused by these original structures.

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You are right on target, and not at all to be “pilloried”. True progressives MUST face the truth about the bloody, racist, imperialist history of the U.S. from its beginnings, and the willingly-complicit role that BOTH corporate parties and the media have always played in that dismal history, and will continue to play as long as everything is based on capitalism.


Criticizing Noam Chomsky for promoting Lesser Evil Voting and his support of the current capitalist energy generation/distribution system, is not pillorying him. Chomsky has contributed greatly to a lot of progressive understanding and movements. But he has often been wrong on issues of race in the US, electoral strategies, and energy. The start of the lockdown coincided with a major NSF initiative to promote community engagement in energy planning and climate change. It was at the same time as community groups I am working with, ramped up efforts at alternative economics. At meetings with academics, industry leaders, and government officials, I pushed the need to incorporate community voices and to consider alternatives to capitalism. The Black Lives Matter movement, and the fact that most folk there are white, while I, and my community partners, are BIPOC, led to us making headway, particularly with respect to rethinking community energy coops and local control of grids. But, as September rolled around, Pollin’s folk got involved, pushing the Chomsky/Pollin line of working within the status quo - i.e. focus of current corporate capitalist businesses and anti-democratic decision making with respect to energy planning. It has been a major set back. For all their positive contributions to Green energy production, which should not be negated, Pollin, Chomsky, et al have been far too arrogant and patronizing, and they continue to be unwilling to listen to, and to be open to learning from, alternative perspectives from members of BIPOC communities.


I disagree with how you frame this, rainshadow. In most states voters don’t have any choice. US Presidential elections are anti-democratic and operate using the electoral college which, in all but 2 states, are awarded through a “winner take all” process. In most states, the demographics are such that the election outcome is certain. The US election is determined by the results in swing states.

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Speaking of “attack on our notion of shared reality”, the democrats are just as bad. For reference, read the CD article about Biden being the best hope for labor. The person being describes has nothing but a name in common with the democrat candidate.


Miles Kampf-Lassin left out the part of Surkov’s article that equates elections in many Western democracies to Barnum and Bailey’s circus. Trump and Putin both represent primitive and impoverished political models, but let us remember who paved the way for them. Neoliberal capitalism, with its addictive, runaway growth, has left a trail of chaos and cataclysm around the globe that will soon culminate in the 6th extinction. It is also responsible, coincidentally, for both Putin and Trump.

If people are too stupid and inattentive to grasp that the present system (and its alternatives, like Putin and Xi) are unsustainable, then there probably is no hope for human society. Let’s hope that enough species survive us.


Thanks for that. In my vegan household, we’ve always been annoyed with Pollin’s failure to grok the overall problems with animal agriculture on today’s planet Earth.

Your experience struggling against what sounds like corporate orthodoxy from unwelcome angles – this is definitely a story worth sharing, imho.

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Oh, my, Trump is bad. We already know that. But rigging the Dem Party nominations in 2016 and 2020 against Bernie Sanders and Medicare for All and offering voters nothing but “Not Trump” as millions face job loss, hunger, and homelessness, is worse.


Here is the thing I find with Chomsky and how he damages his own reputation in his insistence that the people must vote Biden.

He knows that in 2016 and in 2020 Bernie Sanders had much greater support in the battleground States then did Hilary Clinton. Clinton might have won the popular vote but much of her support and that 2 million advantage came from California which Bernie would also have won.

Bernie would have defeated Trump in 2016 but the DNC actively colluded to ensure he did not win because the DNC preferred Trump over Sanders.

The DNC did the same thing in 2020. They had a candidate who could beat Trump easily yet worked to ensure that he could not win so as to get a Corporatist in as their nominee. In other words the DNC did all they could to give Trump the best chance of winning and now Chomsky (just as he did in 2016) insists that the Democratic party has to be supported because it a crisis.

If it that great a crisis why did the DNC do all it could to ensure that the person who could defeat Trump would not face trump?


What sort of alternatives were you pushing? And was there any sort of plan for how to get there from here?

Hi Trog. Most of what I was advocating for was (is) authentic voice and agency for people from marginalized and vulnerable communities. On the plus side, there seemed to be a lot of agreement that much of the challenge is political, not technical. On the down side, I don’t see the political will to enact any change. It seemed like there was an opening with the lockdown and the Black Lives Matter insurrections, but that diminished. My gut feeling, is that movement will be brought on by external factors such as an economic collapse or environmental catastrophe.

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Is having authentic voice and agency for people from marginalized and vulnerable communities an alternative system to capitalism? Is such voice and agency inherently in conflict with any form of capitalism, including managed capitalism?

“On the plus side, there seemed to be a lot of agreement that much of the challenge is political, not technical. On the down side, I don’t see the political will to enact any change.”

Political will, to me, ultimately boils down to governing will–an impetus to enact change through government fiat, directive, or legislation–whether that government be broadly representative, narrowly representative, or autocratic. What I’m also sensing is a general lack of cultural will (a popular desire to change to another system), social will (a broad willingness to take action towards that change) and technical vision (a generally unified view of the goal state and how to get there). Without all three of those, it is difficult to see why any of the representative forms of government would ever develop the political will to change, or why the autocratic regimes would unite and also be motivated to get behind such a change.

“My gut feeling, is that movement will be brought on by external factors such as an economic collapse or environmental catastrophe.”

The salient question with respect to Chomsky is: can it be brought about without such a precipitating collapse or catastrophe? My sense is that he does not foresee us abandoning capitalism by choice in time to avert global environmental catastrophe, and so he is looking for ways to try to avert or mitigate that catastrophe that could work within the current capitalist system. That does not necessarily mean he supports the current capitalist system, it just means he is acknowledging that is the reality we have, and the one we are likely to have for the foreseeable future.

Hello Trog. My previous comments reflect the baby step being attempted. We have far to go.

Capitalism drives towards increasing commodification and wealth concentration. In the US, we are at a stage where political power and social control have been commodified. The US is a plutocracy. Authentic voice and agency are no more present in political representation than they are in energy planning. So, bringing community voice and agency to energy planning is an alternative the anti-democratic processes that pervade US power structures, but it is only a step on the path to developing alternative economics.

Where are you looking? Certainly not in marginalized and vulnerable communities. Do you deny that there are power dynamics that exclude these communities from having voice and agency? Have you considered why these inequities exist?

Yes, but Chomsky and Pollin ignore , and silence, folk from marginalized and vulnerable communities who are working on sustainable energy initiatives through non-capitalist means. Casa Pueblo in Puerto Rico is a great example of a non-capitalist initiative rejected by Chomsky and Pollin.

It is shocking that Pollin, an economist, seems unaware of the impending economic collapse when the there is a burst in the bubble created by corporate bailout money that was used for stock buyout and creation of wealth decoupled from production and value. Whether it will be this year or next, it is just a matter of time - a short time.

Chomsky and Pollin calling for an exclusively capitalist led approach to combating the energy crisis on the grounds that a change to capitalism is unrealistic in the next 30 years is like them calling for the response to the police killings of BIPOC people to be directed, exclusively, by racist police unions because racism is unlikely to be ended in the next 30 years.

“The undoing of the USA started way back in 1776 when the 1 percent moved in to dictate how the Revolution would turn out and who would be in charge.”

Indeed. That’s the root of it all.

This one sided article is another one (as Suspira has before pointed out), that starts with a false premise and knits a sweater upon it. Magically ignores the debunked Russia hysteria of MSNBC, the ex military and intelligence class that has inundated the non-right journalistic airwaves, but most importantly it ignores the corporate journalistic model that makes money on numbers of clicks and pays millions to some actors posing as journalists for their ability to manipulate and create consent of the masses.

The Trumps and Bannons, and Rachels and Brennans, and Clappers and co, come and go, on both sides, the system generates them. This article is funny, as its own existence is itself a manifestation of what it purports to criticize - and for that, let’s give it some credit.