One of the widely circulated left criticisms of the Sanders campaign claims that the hopes invested in it can be equated with those which were raised for Obama 2008 and with the disastrous outcome which this precipitated. Some of those doing so cite Noam Chomsky’s rejection of Obama in 2008 as well as his well known suspicion of electoral politics as their grounds for rejecting supporting Sanders.
In fact, Chomsky supports the Sanders campaign. In the following exchange, I asked him to discuss the basis of his support and why he feels Obama 2008 and Sanders 2016 should not be equated:
It struck me that it might be useful to have an on the record answer from you to the following question:
While you have stressed the low probability and also the limitations of a potential Sanders presidency, you have commented somewhat favorably on the Sanders campaign.
This contrasts to your response to Obama in 2008 regarding the high hopes for his presidency to be largely misplaced (correctly as it turned out).
Could you please explain the basis for why your judgements appear to differ with respect to the two candidacies?
“Because the candidates seem to me very different. Even before the 2008 primaries, I wrote (quite critically) about Obama, relying just on the webpage where he presented himself as a candidate. I wasn’t impressed, to put it mildly. And I had also followed his career and statements to a certain extent. On that basis, I felt that the widespread beliefs about him were mistaken.
Sanders I think is a different story. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think he is a decent and committed social democrat, pretty much a New Dealer, which is a breath of fresh air in the current political spectrum.
The main significance of his campaign, I think, will be if the popular forces he’s mobilized for a continuing and growing active political movement, not limited to the quadrennial extravaganza. And I understand that he’s been calling for that. Again, quite different from Obama.”