The Grand Old Party

“Liberals made a big mistake. Because we attacked your boy Bush like he was the end of the world, and he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way – I gave Obama a million dollars, cause we were so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much, or yours. Or John McCain.

“They were honourable men who we disagreed with and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is gonna be way different.”

by Kolby SolinskyWhite Cover Magazine

First glance, the above apology or concession from Bill Maher seems against-type. Not if you’ve ever watched his show, but here’s betting that most people with an opinion of Bill Maher – a negative, whiny opinion of him – don’t watch his show. Some say he’s the Rush Limbaugh of the left, which he’s not. Rush Limbaugh is a vile snake – along with Alex Jones and the other so-called conservative cowards who have lined up behind America’s potential first Fuhrer, Donald Trump, chasing the easiest path to temporary personal prosperity above anyone else’s. Maher is not Limbaugh. Far from it. To suggest he is is a false equivalency – the same kind most rational people warn of when throngs of alarmists and lazy compromisers compare Hillary Clinton to Trump.

But I was still surprised, pleasantly, to hear the words I quoted above. And he’s correct, while also being a little wrong. And there’s nothing wrong with being a little wrong.

Because Maher, or the many others like him, weren’t wrong to criticize Romney, Bush, McCain, or the many others who they’ve spit-roasted across the past decade. Just like you wouldn’t be wrong to criticize or mock Obama or either Clinton or John Kerry or Bernie Sanders. Comedy is comedy, comment is comment. As Maher himself has said on many occasions, although mostly when he’s referring to religious idiocy (or just simply religion, in general), “We have to be able to call out bad ideas.” Democratic bad ideas, Republican bad ideas, liberal bad ideas, conservative bad ideas, bad old ideas, bad new ideas, independent bad ideas – they’re all bad ideas. It’s not the fault of the person making the joke or laying down the criticism when the audience listening is too immature to keep it in context or perspective. It’s a shame and an unnecessary side-effect, but it’s a side-effect – let’s not excuse the weak and the stupid and the gullible for being any of those things.

And keep in mind, many of the ghosts and monsters stalking this current election – prepared to selfishly capitalize on the morally bankrupt, intentionally disgusting, bigoted, and authoritarian-enabling groundswell Trump has mobilized and politically militarized – came from previous Republican campaigns. John McCain brought Sarah Palin into the fold, and Sarah Palin has hosted a few tea parties in her time. Mitt Romney did his best to distance himself from his party’s radical right once he won the Republican nomination – but he did everything to court their vote and curry their favour before he sewed that nomination up. The three of them together, including George W. Bush and his cockpit, have kept God’s seat open for Christ’s return, knowing full-well that the only prerequisite a presidential candidate really needs is to be someone who prays. Progressives should feel pride for how the western democratic world operates, and they certainly feel pride for the separation of church and state – and fair enough. But no president has ever been sworn in by putting their hand on anything but the Bible, and nobody has ever run for office as a non-believer or agnostic. Certainly not an atheist. It’s not really church and state – it’s church or state.

The seeds of Trump’s anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge, podunk-funded movement were planted innocently but naively by everyone who first legitimized hateful natures and attitudes for the sake of personal political gain.

At the same time, Maher is right. Because any small-l liberal (any big-L Liberal) would take a W. Bush or a McCain or a Romney – or a Jeb, Ryan, or Rubio – over reality TV’s richest orangutan. And they should. The “honourable men who we disagreed with” quote was perfection, a much-needed courteous handshake across the aisle and table – a pragmatic move by a pragmatic host.

For a democrat or a liberal to look at Romney or McCain, as individuals vying for the presidency, it wouldn’t be unlike how a republican or conservative should look at Clinton now. Not our first choice, maybe not our second, but far from the worst thing in the world. Can we work with this person? Yes. Should we be afraid of this person? No. And most of all, will we have the freedom to exercise our opinion on this person, to criticize this person, to question this person? Yes.

The boredom and inevitability of Hilary Clinton’s election cannot be compared to the threat of Donald Trump, and everyone in Donald Trump’s wagon.

You know what people are most afraid of right now? Being wrong.

It’s why Trump doesn’t even lie – he just makes shit up. And when it’s called out or proven to be bullshit, he doubles down with horseshit. He makes up stats, he makes up quotes, he makes up everything, knowing that Hillary couldn’t find a fact-checker in the world who could feasibly correct in real-time any speech or debate that’s 80 per cent pulled-from-his-ass. People believe what they want to believe, and they read what will only further entrench the beliefs they came into the first paragraph with. We’re all guilty of it, to varying degrees.

But when you’re afraid of being wrong more than anything else, when the only thing you’re concerned about is having the final word, of dropping the mic, when you’re committed to ignoring expertise or information or education that contradicts your scrabbled-together predictions or emotions, and then you disguise your feelings or fear for strategy or truth… well, you get a man like Trump. You get his followers. You get his minions and his surrogates – Kelly Anne Conway, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Ben Carson, vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, and benign rejects from Romney’s last race, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

You get people who talk and don’t listen.

Admitting you were wrong about something isn’t weakness. Not doing so is idiocy. Unrelenting, infuriating, intentional insanity.

And what America has earned – and what many of them desire, apparently – is a campaign and a candidate proudly and admittedly fuelled by it, a curling rock of catastrophe heading toward the house, its path swept clear by opportunistic stooges and blind ambition.