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Chomsky on Obama

The following is the transcript of an e-mail interview between and Noam Chomsky. Originally posted at by John F. Kirch. As someone who has advocated, written about  and worked for progressive causes for many years, what was your reaction to  Obama’s victory on Election Day?

Chomsky: I was pleased that he won.  A McCain victory  could, I think, have been extremely dangerous, and the fact that a Black family  will be in the White House is a matter of considerable significance. In what ways do you believe an Obama  presidency will help and/or hurt progressive causes in the United  States? Chomsky: I presume that some of the  harsher edges of recent policies will be smoothed, as has already happened to an  extent during the second Bush administration, in the international arena at  least. In what ways do you believe  that Obama represents true change? In what ways does he not represent  change?

Chomsky: With the rhetorical flourishes stripped away, Obama  presents himself as more or less as a familiar centrist Democrat, roughly on the  Clinton model.  His early appointments and advisers conform to that  judgment. There has been a lot of  talk in the news media about the historical nature of Obama’s victory, with  connections being made between Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and  the rise of an African American to the presidency. Do you see Obama’s election  as a culmination of King’s “dream”? Why or why not? What does the election of a  black president mean for the United States?

Chomsky: The election, along with the fact that the other  Democratic candidate was a woman, indicate that the country has become much more  civilized since the 1960s, when this would have been unthinkable.  The  progress is a tribute to the activism of the 60s and its aftermath.  But  there is a long, long way to go to approach King’s “dream” — which was not  limited to the fate of oppressed minorities: the last years of King’s life were  devoted to the needs of the poor and suffering generally, here and abroad.   He was assassinated as he was seeking to organize a poor people’s movement, and  after he had taken a strong stand against US aggression in Indochina. In his acceptance speech, Obama said that his  election does not by itself bring change — that it only brings the opportunity  for change. What can progressives do to ensure that their voice is heard in an  Obama administration? What, if anything, are progressives doing now to mobilize  in response to an Obama presidency? Chomsky: Obama  energized a great many people, mostly young.  If they fade away, or simply  take instructions, we can expect little from his administration.  If they  become organized and active, and undertake to be independent voices in policy  formation and implementation, a great deal can be achieved — as in the past,  and elsewhere today, notably South America.


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