Bernie Sanders did not fail - he energised millions of people, Noam Chomsky insists

‘He completely shifted the arena of debate and discussion’

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 10 April 2020 12:40 BST
Bernie Sanders did not fail - he energised millions of people, Noam Chomsky insists

Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid was not a failure because it inspired millions of people and dramatically shifted the political discourse, veteran activist and academic Noam Chomsky has claimed.

The Vermont senator this week announced he was ending his second run for the White House, a day after the Wisconsin primary, which was overshadowed and disrupted by the coronavirus crisis.

With his campaign very much on the back foot and trailing Joe Biden in delegates by some measure, Mr Sanders, 78, said he could not in good conscience continue, given the limited likelihood of turning things around and when people were rightly focussing on combating the pandemic.

Among those to heap praise on Mr Sanders was Mr Chomsky, a renowned progressive intellectual and linguist, who said the campaign was not a failure.

“It’s common to say now that the Sanders campaign failed. I think that’s a mistake,” the 91-year-old told Democracy Now.

“I think it was an extraordinary success, [and] completely shifted the arena of debate and discussion. Issues that were unthinkable a couple years ago are now right in the middle of attention.”

He added: “The worst crime he committed, in the eyes of the establishment, is not the policy he’s proposing; it’s the fact that he was able to inspire popular movements, which had already been developing — Occupy, Black Lives Matter, many others — and turn them into an activist movement, which doesn’t just show up every couple years to push a leader and then go home, but applies constant pressure, constant activism and so on.”

Many commentators have pointed out that because of Mr Sanders’s success and the way he especially inspired young voters – he won the primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – visually every Democratic candidate was obliged to have their own policies on topics such as climate change, greater accessibly to healthcare, and criminal justice reform.

As it, Mr Sanders has said his name will remain on the ballot in the primaries remaining and he will continue to collect and accrue. He said this was a deliberate tactic to try and put pressure on the committee that agrees the party’s official policy platform this summer.

Noam Chomsky says the Republican party is the most dangerous organisation in human history

Mr Chomsky said if Donald Trump were elected it would be an “indescribable disaster”.

“It means that the policies of the past four years, which have been extremely destructive to the American population, to the world, will be continued and probably accelerated,” he said.

“What this is going to mean for health is bad enough. I just mentioned the Lancet figures. It will get worse. What this means for the environment or the threat of nuclear war, which no one is talking about but is extremely serious, is indescribable.”

He said he assumed a Biden presidency would be a continuation of former president Barack Obama’s administration “nothing very great, but at least not totally destructive, and opportunities for an organised public to change what is being done, to impose pressures”.

He said if Mr Biden, 77, were elected Mr Sanders and his supporters could continue to seek to put that pressure on him.

Aware that he will need the backing and votes on Mr Sanders’s supporters if he is to defeat Mr Trump in November, Mr Biden immediately paid tribute to the senator after he suspended his campaign. In a statement directed at those who had so vigorously supported the veteran democratic socialist, he also said: “I see you, I hear you.”

On Thursday, in what was seen as another nod to the progressives he need to win over, he unveiled two new proposals he said would help ease the “economic burden on working people”.

These were a proposed lowering of the age eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 60 and eliminating student debt for some lower-income families.

“In our nation’s 244 years, we have never weathered a crisis that we did not emerge from stronger,” Mr Biden wrote. “This one will be no different.”

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