Admonishing young supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders whom he deemed excessively cynical, HBO comedian Bill Maher said on his late-night program over the weekend that they needed to get over their discontent with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in order to prevent the “fascist” Donald Trump from keeping the White House for the rest of his life.
“I’ve been doing this for 23 years on TV,” Maher said. “I’ve seen a lot. I know politics. This is different. I promise you this will not make your life better. And also once fascists get power they don’t give it up. You’ve got President Trump for life.”
Speaking to panelist David Frum, a conservative writer, Maher hearkened back to past elections, saying that his fellow progressives had exaggerated the faults of previous Republican presidential candidates:
I know 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 because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn't have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain.
The current GOP nominee is wholly different from his predecessors, the comedian argued: “They were honorable 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 going to be way different.”
Maher’s comments are reminiscent of an essay published in September by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni exploring the same topic. “Did Democrats cry wolf so many times before Trump that no one hears or heeds them now?” he wrote.
Bruni quoted several conservative writers who have argued this thesis but his sentiment was also echoed by Howard Wolfson, a Democratic strategist who has worked on many presidential campaigns.
“I’m quite confident I employed language that, in retrospect, was hyperbolic and inaccurate, language that cheapened my ability — our ability — to talk about this moment with accuracy and credibility,” Wolfson was quoted as saying.
Bruni also contended that Republicans had done the same thing by repeatedly denouncing top Democrats as covert socialists or President Barack Obama as a covert Muslim or African nationalist. “The sad truth is that we conduct the bulk of our political debate in a key of near-hysteria,” he wrote.