I don’t always agree with comedian Bill Maher (those who know me realize that I don’t even always agree with myself), but I enjoy his comedy and admire him for not being afraid to irk people from both sides of the Great Divide — the great political divide.
Plus, who else on TV these days would have the likes of filmmaker, author and self-proclaimed “filth elder” John Waters on a panel with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell? Both appeared on a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, which is on HBO.
Those on the right basically hate him because: a) In general he’s a liberal; b) he’s a proud atheist who believes religion is stupid; c) he does not believe in the magnificence of President and Supreme Commander Donald J. Trump.
But many on the left also hate Maher, who used to have a show called Politically Incorrect, because: a) He’s frequently politically incorrect; b) he actively mocks and rages against hyper-political correctness; c) he often has people with whom he disagrees on his show, even reviled creatures such as Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter and the especially loathsome Milo Yiannopoulos.
“Woke” folk clutch their proverbial pearls (I guess they’d have to be fake, vegan pearls as not to harm any oysters) over guests like these, claiming Maher shouldn’t be “giving a platform to racists.” I’d counter that none of these far-right personalities won any converts on their Real Time appearances and that it’s valuable to hear firsthand what their arguments are. Also, it can make for great television — unless you can only deal with ideas and spokesmen out of your own political bubble.
On a recent Real Time, the one with Waters and Wilkerson, Maher in his “New Rules” segment had a rant in which he volunteered to be a “coach” for Democrats who want to beat Trump in next year’s election.
“They seem to have shed none of the bad habits that hurt them in recent elections,” he said of Democrats. “The identity politics. The purity tests. The petty infighting. Losing to Trump should have jolted them into a higher state of seriousness, but it did not.”
Maher gave several pieces of advice to Democratic president candidates.
First, he said, Democrats should not be afraid to go on Fox News, even though the vast majority of that network’s conservative viewers aren’t likely to vote for any Dem. “You’ve already got NPR. Go on Fox,” he said. “Get out of Woke-ville, for a day. See what’s going on in Mullet Town.”
Maher acknowledged that several of the Democratic presidential candidates have taken Fox News up on its offer to appear on the network’s “town halls.” But some, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have not.
Calling attention to the huge field of Democratic candidates, Maher said the Democrats should say, “The sign-up period is over! No more candidates. We’re full!” He also observed, “23 candidates? That’s not a primary, that’s an Avengers movie.”
For a second, I thought he might also go into New Mexico’s ever-expanding 3rd Congressional District race. No such luck.
His third piece of advice: Democrats must stand up to Twitter. “Catering to one contrived outrage after another makes us look weak. Just because @WokeBabe99 gets mad at you doesn’t mean the rest of America gives a [hoot].” Then he made a dirty joke about the phrase “gender fluid” that made John Waters grin.
Finally, he told the Dems he’s trying to help them to up their message-discipline game. “MSNBC sometimes shows a montage of a dozen Republicans saying the exact same thing on a certain topic like, ‘Gotcha! Ha ha they all said the same thing.’ That’s not a ‘gotcha,’ that’s how you win.”
That’s the hardest one for me to swallow. The brain-numbing repetitiveness of so much modern political rhetoric almost is as bad as the hair-trigger vitriol and viciousness. And to their credit — which I say more than slightly sardonically — the Democrats have their own repetitive catchphrases and rhetorical refrains, although they probably aren’t as effective at it as the GOP.
But maybe Maher’s right on this one and the Democrats should stick more rigorously to script.
I sure hope he isn’t.