There was a strange sense of deja vu on Friday’s episode of Real Time With Bill Maher. Maher himself may have put it best it in his opening monologue, saying, “I still can’t wait for last year to be over.” Nominally, we’re now in the second month of 2021 — but it speaks volumes that many of the week’s most heated topics involve looking back on the last year in American politics.
That Valentine’s Day weekend and the impeachment trial are coinciding gave Maher a space to riff on how surreal that juxtaposition was. From there, Maher spent a few minutes riffing on the impeachment trial and revisiting the Capitol breach. Unsurprisingly, Maher also had plenty to say about the recent story about Marjorie Taylor Greene having had an affair with, as the Daily Mail phrased it, “a polyamorous tantric-sex guru.”
Maher’s first guest for the night was, like Greene, a Republican member of the House of Representatives — albeit one with a very different opinion on the impeachment. Rep. Adam Kinzinger represents Illinois’s 16th District; he joined Maher remotely. “I’ll bet that right now you have a lot of new friends and a lot of new enemies,” Maher noted — which brought up the subject of partisanship and unlikely political allegiances, a running theme for the night.
Kinzinger spoke about “a steady diet of fear” coming from things like overly alarmed fundraising emails, setting a tone that has led to the current national mood. That his PAC is called Country First offers an accurate description of the position he took throughout the interview. This has led to, as Maher pointed out, at least one person accusing Kinzinger of being possessed by the devil. Kinzinger described the experience as oddly positive, as it had given him direct experience of “the level of brainwashing in some people.”
Maher pushed Kinzinger on a few points — briefly on matters of religion, and longer on questions of whether Kinzinger could actually spark a significant ideological shift within the Republican Party. Not surprisingly, Maher was skeptical. But those questions on the future of the GOP continued on into the episode’s next segment.
The evening’s panelists occupied distinctive ideological spaces: Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas and Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt. As with last week’s episode, Maher also took time to spotlight his frustration at waiting several years to get solar power turned on at his home. Maher began with a provocative question: have most of the country’s wounds in recent years — including the financial crisis and the flawed response to the pandemic — been self-inflicted?
For Moulitsas, the issue came down to elections — essentially, of Republicans being elected and disrupting Democratic attempts to return to normalcy. Schmidt mentioned that he is now a registered Democrat, and spoke about his concerns about an “autocratic, fascistic” element within the government. Schmidt spoke of his admiration for the peaceful transfer of power in this country — and his horror at the aftermath of the 2020 election.
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