Noam Chomsky, the renowned US academic, author and political activist, speaks to Avi Lewis on Al Jazeera's Inside USA. They discuss whether the US election this year will bring real change, the ongoing conflict in Iraq and why Americans should look to their Southern American counterparts for political inspiration.
Avi Lewis: I'd like to start by talking about the US presidential campaign. In writing about the last election in 2004, you called America's system a "fake democracy" in which the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, and you've been arguing in your work in the last year or so that the candidates this time around are considerably to the right of public opinion on all major issues. So, the question is, do Americans have any legitimate hope of change this time around? And what is the difference in dynamic between America's presidential "cup" in 2008 compared to 2004 and 2000?
Noam Chomsky: There's some differences, and the differences are quite enlightening. I should say, however, that I'm expressing a very conventional thought – 80 per cent of the population thinks, if you read the words of the polls, that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves not for the population [and] 95 per cent of the public thinks that the government ought to pay attention to public opinion but it doesn't.
As far as the elections are concerned, I forget the exact figure but by about three to one people wish that the elections were about issues, not about marginal character qualities and so on. So I'm right in the mainstream.
There's some interesting differences between 2004 and 2008 and they're very revealing, it's kind of striking that the commentators don't pick that up because it's so transparent.
The main domestic issue for years … is the health system - which is understandable as it's a total disaster.
The last election debate in 2004 was on domestic issues ... and the New York Times the next day had an accurate description of it. It said that [former Democratic presidential candidate John] Kerry did not bring up any hint of government involvement in healthcare because it has so little political support, just [the support of] the large majority of the population.