Norman Solomon

Here's why Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg are so adamant about defeating Trump

"There is a kind of an official view about democracy—it says that you, the public, are spectators not participants," activist and scholar Noam Chomsky points out in a new video. "You have a function. The function is to show up every couple of years, push a lever, go home, don't bother the important people who run the world, you've done your job. We can't accept that."

At the same time, Chomsky is vehement about the urgent necessity of defeating Donald Trump. "Sometimes it's worthwhile to take a little time away from real politics, an interlude, and make sure you get somebody out. This time it is critically important," Chomsky says in the video (produced by my colleagues with the Vote Trump Out campaign). "There's a real malignant cancer that has to be excised."

Excising Trump from the top of the executive branch is essential. "Take the trouble to remove him from the political world," Chomsky says. "Then go on with the real work of politics. Creating. Understanding. Consciousness. Organizing. Activism and engagement. Everything from your local school board, your local community, on to the international world. All the time. That includes pressing whoever is in office to keep their word and go beyond."


Defeating Trump is a crucial—and certainly insufficient—precondition for making possible the kind of changes in government policies that are desperately required for social decency. "Under a Biden presidency, progressives would need to be persistent from the very beginning in challenging and opposing many of the things that he may propose," Daniel Ellsberg wrote this month in the Detroit Metro Times. "Yet, for now, the imperative need is to free the nation from Trump's unhinged and destructive grip."

Ellsberg, who has been an activist for peace and social justice ever since releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, has no illusions about the Democratic nominee. "Joe Biden's record is not at all progressive," he tweeted last week. "So how can I ask progressives to vote for Biden and urge others to do so? Three words: Trump. Climate. Democracy."

And Ellsberg added: "If you're not urging others to vote for Biden, you're not helping remove a would-be Mussolini from the White House balcony. Especially in swing states, by encouraging others to vote for someone else or not to vote at all, you're risking that Trump stays, and the Paris climate goals stay decisively out of reach." Ellsberg urged people to "do all you can" to "remove a climate-denier and would-be dictator from the White House."

President Trump is a dream come true for those who despise democracy. The year he moved into the Oval Office, a book by historian Nancy MacLean—Democracy in Chains—documented what she called "the single most powerful and least understood threat to democracy today: the attempt by the billionaire-backed radical right to undo democratic governance."

The forces aligned with Donald Trump have achieved enormous breakthroughs during the last four years in their quest to "undo democratic governance." The potential for democracy in the United States will largely hinge on whether Trump gains re-election.

Mike Pence is a reminder that destructive leaders are symptoms of an anti-democratic status quo

If President Trump dies from the coronavirus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans largely due to his deliberate negligence, the man replacing him will be no less dangerous. While Mike Pence has eluded tough media scrutiny -- in part because he exhibits such a low-key style in contrast to Trump -- the pair has been a good fit for an administration that exemplifies the partnership of religious fundamentalism and corporate power.

The vice president, a former Indiana talk-show host who went on to become a six-term congressman and then governor, has described himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order." But he remains at cross-purposes with the biblical admonition (Matthew 6:24) that "you cannot serve both God and money." Whether Pence has truly served God is a subjective matter, but his massive service to money—big money—is incontrovertible.

Pence ranks high as a Christian soldier marching in lockstep with Trump on all major policy issues, a process that routinely puts business interests ahead of human lives. Whatever his personal piety might be, the results of Pence's fidelity to right-wing agendas have further consolidated a de facto coalition of those seeking ever-lower taxes on wealth and corporations; denial of LGBTQ rights; a ban on abortion and severe restrictions on other reproductive rights; voter suppression and barriers to voting by people of color; obstruction of healthcare for low-income people; and on and on.

Pence embodies the political alliance of very conservative evangelical forces with anti-regulatory forces of corporatism. In the arenas of elections and governance, that coalition is the present-day Republican Party, dedicated to imposing the edicts of religious dogma, rolling back democratic reforms and serving the rich at the expense of everyone else.

"As vice president, Mike Pence is doing everything in his power to control people's bodies," the Planned Parenthood Action Fund declares. Meanwhile, those who are inclined toward racism or outright believers in white supremacy are bolstered. And Wall Street has never had a better friend in Washington.

Pence's most consequential role during 44 months as vice president has been as chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Since late February, he has functioned—in effect—as Trump's willing executioner, standing by and blowing smoke while Trump obfuscated and lied as the death toll kept mounting.

"The truth is that we've made great progress over the past four months," Pence proclaimed in a mid-June statement, "and it's a testament to the leadership of President Trump." Pence charged that "the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a 'second wave' of coronavirus infections"—but "such panic is overblown."

To underscore his full devotion to Lord Trump's downplaying of the virus, the vice president concluded with a blame-the-messenger flourish: "The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success. We've slowed the spread, we've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives, and we've created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That's a cause for celebration, not the media's fear mongering."

Pence's June 16 statement made its way into the Wall Street Journal as a prominent op-ed piece whistling past Covid graveyards. "It was so clearly wrong back then and has turned out to be so clearly wrong since that I hope there's some part of him that's embarrassed," Ashish Jha, the head of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said in late summer. "I had already been seeing data for a good week that things were really heading in the wrong direction." The Washington Post editorial board immediately responded with a denunciation under the headline "Mike Pence Is a Case Study in Irresponsibility."

No one with any discernment would associate Trump with religiosity because he held up a Bible at a photo op. But the other half of the ticket is a very different matter. Days after the November 2016 election, Jeremy Scahill wrote that Trump is "a Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy, and Pence is one of its most prized warriors."

Scahill quoted an author of books on far-right fundamentalism, Jeff Sharlet, who said that "when they speak of business, they're speaking not of something separate from God, but they're speaking of what, in Mike Pence's circles, would be called biblical capitalism, the idea that this economic system is God-ordained."

What does all this mean for progressives? The case of Mike Pence should be an ongoing urgent reminder that—as toxic and truly evil as Donald Trump is—the current president is a product and poisonous symptom of an inherently unjust and anti-democratic status quo.

Instead of focusing our rage on the persona of one destructive leader, we should remember that corporate domination provides an endless supply of destructive leaders. While they come and go, the system of corporate power remains—and we must replace that system with genuine democracy.

Tax revelations and corporate media won't defeat Trump — here's why

he big banner headline across the top of the New York Times homepage as Tuesday got underway—"TRUMP'S TAXES SHOW CHRONIC LOSSES AND YEARS OF TAX AVOIDANCE"—might give the impression that Donald Trump is finally on the verge of political downfall. Don't believe it for a moment.

The same kind of mistaken belief has led many to put undeserved trust in a corporate-media system. But the New York Times isn't going to save us. Neither is the Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN or any of the other mass-media outlets, "liberal" or otherwise.

To a large extent, the corporate media—especially the TV networks that gave Trump billions of dollars' worth of free airtime while raking in enormous ad revenues—made him president. The advertising-and-ratings-bedazzled head of the CBS network, Leslie Moonves, uttered an infamously emblematic comment eight months before the 2016 election, in the midst of a campaign that Trump dominated with TV coverage: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."

Less well-known are other statements that Moonves also made while speaking to a Morgan Stanley conference in February 2016. "Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now?" And: "The money's rolling in and this is fun." And: "I've never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going." And: "Donald's place in this election is a good thing."

At the same time, CNN president Jeff Zucker—who presided over the network's "all-Trump-all-the-time" policy during the 2016 primaries—was privately offering guidance to candidate Trump. Zucker had helped build the Trump myth years earlier when he was at NBC presiding over Trump's "Apprentice" show, which turned out to be financially and politically crucial for his path to the White House.

Under the ongoing reign of the casino economy, the corporate house is set up to always win.

Now, after doing so much to help create a political Frankenstein, most of the big media organizations are largely disapproving. While the right-wing zealots at places like Fox News and aligned talk-radio and online entities are determined to re-elect Trump, the majority of mainstream media outlets are down on him. Yet the tenor of their coverage, including news of the latest polls, should not lull anyone into a false sense of security about Trump's impending demise—a demise they've predicted before.

Trump won in 2016 while the bubble inhabited by elite media was rarified and cut off from the everyday experiences, frustrations and anger of everyday people. As a consummate demagogue, he knew how to stoke and pander to resentments against elites—resentments that mainstream media seemed clueless about.

The corporate media are part of a system that thrives on rampant income inequality, giving more and more power to the rich while doing more and more harm to people the less money they have. Media elites are apt to do fine whether Trump wins or loses the election.

Four years ago, Trump played off the elitism of the establishment to ply his toxic political product laced with racism, xenophobia and misogyny. He has governed the same way he ran in 2016, and he hopes to govern for the next four years the way he's running in 2020—using the broadly and vaguely defined establishment as a foil for his poisonous, pseudo-populist messaging.

Amid the bombshell coverage of Trump's tax records, it might be tempting to believe the tide has turned and will drown his election hopes. But that's wishful thinking.

It would take more than two hands to count the times during the last several years when Trump's preposterous and vile statements—or the emergence of incontrovertibly damning facts—provided ample reasons for his political fortunes to turn into toast. Instead, he has continued to conduct a national master class in demagogy.

Trump would like nothing more than to play his victim card yet again while media give the impression that he's headed for defeat—a combination that worked like a charm for him in 2016. It could easily happen again. With voting now underway, healthy skepticism toward media spin is badly needed.

Four years ago, corporate media overwhelmingly insisted that the likelihood of a Trump presidency was remote. On Election Day, the New York Times categorically pegged the chances of a Trump win at less than 10 percent. Now, those who want to prevent another Trump victory should go all-out to show they won't be fooled again.

Trump’s climate denial gains strength if Americans are in denial about his neo-fascism

Spiking temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, catastrophic hurricanes and unprecedented wildfires are clear signs of a climate emergency caused by humans. Denying the awful reality makes the situation worse. The same can be said of denial about the current momentum toward fascism under Donald Trump.

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Why the left must reject and elect Biden at the same time

In the next three months, a dozen states will determine whether Donald Trump wins another four years as president. Those swing states should be central to the work of progressives who are determined to prevent that outcome.

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Joe Biden needs an intervention

Whatever our political differences, vast numbers of Democrats and others agree that it’s imperative to defeat Donald Trump. But with scarcely five months to go before the voting starts, Joe Biden is not helping to assemble a broad tactical alliance. Instead, he’s ignoring the wisdom that Jesse Jackson offered at the Democratic National Convention in 1988: “It takes two wings to fly.”

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Trumpism is sliding into fascism — but some progressives are in denial about how bad it could get

Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, the author of "How Fascism Works" assessed him in a video. "It might seem like an exaggeration to call Trump a fascist," Yale professor Jason Stanley said. "I mean, he's not calling for a genocide or imprisoning his own people without due process. But . . . if you use history and philosophy as a guide, it's easy to see parallels between Trump's words and those of the most reviled fascists in history. That scares me, and it should scare you too."

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Why Bernie Sanders is absolutely right to back Joe Biden — as painful as it is

This week, soon after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, one of its most effective message-crafters summed up a vital challenge ahead. “The best hope to defeat Trump is to positively and constructively motivate a large Democratic turnout,” David Sirota wrote. “The best way to do that is to show progressive voters they are actually valued, rather than taken for granted. And the best way to show them that they are valued is to actually embrace an agenda that they want.”

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Bernie's campaign is over: But retreat is not the same as surrender

Politics is ultimately about life and death, as the current pandemic horrors make clear. Policies that can seem abstract not only routinely harm quality of life — they also kill.

Both of Bernie Sanders' campaigns for president have brought a principled seriousness to the national discourse that no other candidate has come near matching. Now we seem to be entering new terrain. Or are we?

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Trump's mass negligent homicide doesn't let Democratic leaders off the hook

In the last few days, New York and Pennsylvania postponed voting in presidential primaries from April until June. A dozen other states have also rescheduled. Those wise decisions are in sharp contrast to a failure of leadership from Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

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