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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Bill Maher’s smug liberalism trouble for Democrats

    In light of his Tucson visit last weekend, right now’s a perfect time to say it: God if I don’t hate Bill Maher. Whether it’s Maher’s support for the loathsome People for the Ethical Treament of Animals organization, his anti-vaccine stance, his comments about America becoming too “feminine” and “sensitive” and therefore weak or, as has been made newsworthy lately thanks to his little kerfuffle with Ben Affleck, his extreme Islamophobia, Maher is the kind of liberal who makes me understand just a little why the red states resent liberals so much: the smarmy asshat who needs a good dose of getting-hit-in-the-kisser by one of those blocks of frozen toilet water that fall out of airplanes.

    As has been lamented many times, from Salon to The Nation, the Democratic Party has lost its way when it comes to populism, ceding the lower-class blue-collar wing of the American vote to the great red elephant. I attributed this loss in a previous column to the lack of spine in the modern Democratic Party, and while I still believe it, Thomas Frank articulated another valid hypothesis in his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”

    In it, Frank explains the idea and evidence for how when both parties ignore or exacerbate people’s economic conditions, they instead start voting based on shared cultural values — or rather, shared sides of the culture war. In a recent interview, Frank said that even with the election of President Barack Obama, this pattern still hasn’t changed.

    It’s time we slashed the tires on that particular bus to hell, at least if we want to make a comeback like the Republican Party did in the 80s.

    That is not to say that those who we fought the so-called “culture wars” for — women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and intersex people — should be thrown under the bus, but along with becoming more focused on said economic issues, the left should also eject those in its midst who stoke those divisive, sulfurous flames just to appear pure. The idea that they are right and everyone else is dumb. Or, in other words, those like Maher.

    People like Maher are more about pissing on other people and making their opponents angry with acidic rhetoric while they sit on a lofty perch of privilege. They’re sort of like the liberal equivalent of that one libertarian friend who really liked “Fight Club” and “V For Vendetta” while missing the point of both entirely.

    They aren’t even really all that “pure” in their liberal values, as shown by Maher’s idiocy mentioned above, or in the sexism and Islamophobia of New Atheism.

    And their provocateurism is a liability, because research shows that though, like liberals, conservatives value the principles of helping versus harming and of fairness, they also value an abstract “purity,” ingroup loyalty and authority far more than liberals.

    So, to get conservatives on the liberal side, we need to convince them that we’re not on separate “teams” here, and we need to lean hard on the economic issues on both fronts.

    We need to say that whatever the effects “the gays” have on your ideas of community, the economic depredations of corporate America and an environmental global warming apocalypse will be far worse. A stronger social safety net will make all of our communities a lot stronger.

    But every time Maher calls his opponents slack-jawed yokels, this joint effort is pushed back.

    Because these smug punters are helping to keep that populist outreach down by pissing on the torch of progress and saying, “No, we can’t reconcile, you’re all idiots, I’m right and you’re wrong.” Liberals cannot abide this within their own ranks if they want to shift the political winds away from the right and towards the left.

    But I think all of us, right or left, can unite to agree that Bill Maher can go jump in a lake.


    Tom Johnson is a film and television junior. Follow him on Twitter.

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