Comedian Bill Maher has become the most important and fascinating political voice in America by fearlessly confronting the excesses of cultural and political progressivism. Republicans might be tempted to cheer because we agree, but his true value to the country is rooted in telling Americans the hard truth they often don’t want to hear.
I always know it is Saturday morning when I receive a text message from one of my Left-leaning best friends. Her text almost always contains the same content: a YouTube video of the latest “New Rule” segment from Bill Maher’s HBO show “Real Time.”
As someone who does not share Maher’s politics or world-view, who has always found his acidic attitude towards conservatives to be the very embodiment of smug, and who detests his celebratory godlessness and recreational drug use, it says a lot about where we are as a nation when it is painfully obvious Maher, without question or qualification, has become the most important political voice in America in 2022.
And it isn’t even close.
Maher’s power does not come in the form of eloquent advocacy, oratorical bravado, or astute journalism. He is a comedian, and a great one. His ideas are cloaked in the sheen of humor. His quiver is filled with the tools and razzmatazz of the comic—he lampoons, ridicules, caricatures, parodies, and satirizes better than anyone else. Just as Aristophanes’ mockery undergirded serious critiques about Greek society during the Golden Age of Athens, so too is Maher a master of making serious points through the various textures of comedy.
It helps, of course, that he is older and thus couldn’t care less about being canceled, called out, or condemned by the very online mobs he mercilessly scorns. Like Jonathan Haidt’s recent essay in The Atlantic, “Why The Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” Maher has done the American public a profound favor by saying out loud what so many of us are only thinking: we are becoming an increasingly irrational, unpleasant, and intolerant society. His pithy and comedic witticisms are a release valve for those of us with wholly conventional opinions who are left scratching our heads when we hear things like men can have babies, socialism is better than free markets, or defunding the police will magically help the poorest among us.
Even Maher’s uber-liberal Hollywood audience will applaud—albeit after an awkwardly painful pause in which it is obvious the audience is thinking to itself, “Is it really okay to clap for this?”—as Maher bravely says what 90% of us are really feeling.
Not that the American Right doesn’t have its deep fissures and profound internal contradictions, but Maher has decided the party he has always supported needs to drink some potent truth serum.
The Democratic Party is at its best when it advocates for working class Americans whose lives could and would be improved with the assistance of government, either through better regulations, a more robust societal safety net, or policies designed to mitigate the potent inequalities that result from a hearty embrace of free enterprise. The allure of the Democratic Party has always been the quintessential American notion that progress is possible; that the government isn’t “them,” it’s “us;” and that liberty is not inconsistent with robust governance. Various versions of this message have resonated across all races and regions for almost a century. It is why the Democratic Party of my youth was populated by everyone from street cops to wealthy philanthropists.
Yet, Maher’s Friday night critiques are a masterclass in identifying just how unmoored the modern Left has become from its traditional message and even objective reality itself. The common theme of his segments is that the Democratic Party has abandoned its conventional message and constituency in favor of a sinister, protean, alienating, and, most of all, illiberal embrace of woke identity politics.
One of his latest segments entitled, “I Want My Lawyer!” brilliantly explained why Democrats keep losing elections: “Because these voters stopped seeing your candidate as their lawyer. That’s why. Their message to you was, ‘I’m an American now. I’m here. Be my lawyer, not the lawyer for the migrant showing up in my backyard.’” Wow. Imagine if the head of the RNC had said that, or Ted Cruz, or the late Rush Limbaugh. Yet, most Americans think it is a little odd for lawmakers to focus more on non-citizens than one’s own constituents.
His segment “Along For the Ride” expressed his deep reservations about the celerity of change and the rapacity for attention which gender ideology now commands from the public: “If something about the human race is changing at a previously unheard of rate, we have to at least discuss it.” He went on to say what so many older Americans feel deep down in their pensive souls about the ever-evolving popularity among young Americans about newfangled and sprawling sexual-gender identities, that “some of it is it’s trendy. ‘Penis equals man? Okay, Boomer!’”
In the past two years he has taken on the unbearable conceit of the self-loathing liberal, the phoniness of pseudo-environmentalism, and the dogmatic absolutism of those policing the social media universe in relentless pursuit of perpetrators to punish or cancel.
Sometimes his segments aren’t political at all, yet they still voice important and obvious social annoyances.
Last year, Maher dedicated his “New Rule” segment to lambasting the Oscars. Instead of the Oscars, he quipped, it should be called, “The Debbies,” because as Maher explained, “A new poll found that less than half of Americans now go to church. They don’t have to. If they want to feel guilty, dirty, and bad they can watch ‘Nomadland.’” My favorite segment, which every waitress and retail worker in America can relate to, is “Your Phone is Turning You Into an Asshole,” in which Maher says, “Phones make people fake their lives instead of live their lives.”
Sometimes it takes a family member or a teammate to call out dross idiocy because it is assumed that one’s intentions are good. America is certainly better off when both parties have truth-tellers in their midst. We shouldn’t exile them; we should listen to them. Maher is to be commended not only for his humor, but, most of all, for his fidelity to truth.
Jeremy S. Adams is the author of the recently-released Amazon best-selling book Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation. He has taught American civics for 24 years in Bakersfield, California and was the 2014 California Teacher of the Year (DAR). You can follow him on Twitter @JeremyAdams6.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.