The beauty of YouTube is, of course, that it’s a capsule. And my apologies if any of the embedded videos below expire by the time you read this and start scrolling. It’s especially a capsule for someone like Bill Maher and for a show like his Real Time – which has a tremendous YouTube channel, updated with fresh uploads as quickly as is almost possible every Friday, and with over 787,000 subscribers. And it’s fascinating to be able to flip backward through elections, to 2012 when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squared off in what now seems like a rather flaccid, tame campaign, and to compare it to what’s been the longest year in an involved American’s life.
So, go ahead. Use the vids below and time travel just like they always said we’d do in the future.
Bill Maher Recaps the 2012 Election (November 2, 2012)
I enjoy particularly the jab at Donald Trump right off the top, delivered with no idea that President Orangina would be running for office only four Novembers later.
Bill Maher on Obama’s Re-Election 2012 (November 16, 2012)
With a decent bit of Nosferatu, Maher lays out the hopeful aim of Obama’s second-term – ‘Okay, you’re back in your chair. Now, get shit done.’
On Ronald Reagan and Today’s Republican Party (June, 2013)
Well before Donald Trump’s campaign was a glint in the eye of every American male with a pair of Ryder sunglasses and a Stag’s stuffed head on their wall, the Republican Party was laying dormant only a few months removed from a defining loss in the 2012 election. Reagan’s name had been on their minds for a long time, this idea that if only the ‘Tear Down This Wall’ guy was still politicking, they’d roll over Obama and his successor.
This is one of Maher’s all-time takedowns – not just of a man, but of the myths that surrounded him.
On JFK and Reagan (November, 2013)
On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Maher holds up the Democratic Party’s idol and the elegance on the Sixties against his counterpoint on the Republican side – Ronald Reagan and the excess of the Eighties.
Real Time with General Colin Powell – September 19, 2014
For those across the aisle, Powell was always the most respected executive in Bush’s White House – for his genuine compassion and his admitted conflict with his own party’s radically right-heading social evolution. Those are both on display in this interview from 2014, well into the Republican Party’s descent from elephant to tea bag:
Overtime with Ann Coulter (June 19, 2015)
Notice the first question of this Overtime session, directed at Ann Coulter, which is to ask her which of the declared Republican candidates had the best shot at winning the nomination. Her answer, without hiccup, is Donald Trump.
Now, there are a thousand clips from Real Time that I could embed here over the past year where Maher eviscerated or mocked or fired off at Trump. But this is my favourite. It’s just before the eventual candidate’s campaign really ramped up, obviously just before it was taken seriously. Because the entire audience and all of Maher’s panel laughs in Coulter’s face.
But she was right. And it’s stuff like this that shows very simply why it took the Democrats and their voters so long to take Trump seriously. Never confuse what should be with what could be.
The 50s Man (July 22, 2016)
This is my favourite of Maher’s many Trump bits over the past year. It’s a perfect takedown of not just the man on the ticket, but of the truly scary and repressive nature of his candidacy – it’s rooted in the idea that the past was somehow better than what we have now, that progress is the enemy. Trump is a “50s guy” – happier living in black-and-white than in colour. And his followers are the same, Golden Age thinkers who want to Make America Great Again, even thought it was never as ‘great’ as they thought. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Last show before the 2016 Election (November 4, 2016)
Skipping all the way ahead to last Friday here. Some may think Maher is being an alarmist, repeatedly calling Trump and his supporters Fascists, warning that Trump won’t give up the presidency once he wins it, delivering a plea to America’s millennial voters as if this episode might just pre-date the end of the world… but look at the panel he has, headlined by comedian Martin Short, former Governor Jennifer Granholm and David Frum. These are rational, intelligent people. And none of them raised their hand to disagree with the host.