Bill Maher is kind of a jerk. He’s also pretentious and he thinks he’s way smarter than he actually is. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t right. Or insightful. And on Friday’s episode of Real Time, he had some great advice for the Democratic Party. I know its great advice because I’ve been offering it to the Democrats myself for a while. It all comes down to my long held believe that the Democrats should stop trying to win the “swing voters.” For one thing, I’m not even sure such voters exist. And if they do, they don’t jump from Democrat to Republican based upon policy. If anything is going to win their votes, it is going to be clarity of vision.
It is hard for Republicans because their policies are really unpopular. They need to twist themselves into knots to convince even their own base to vote against their own interests just to get “those people.” The Democrats are in a much easier position. Their policies are really popular. The only reason they seem to have trouble getting votes is that Democrats don’t want to own the policies they supposedly support. You know: the policies that the people like. So we have this screwed up world where Republicans proudly say that rape victims should be forced to give birth to rapists’ children, even though it is a very unpopular position. And we have Democrats who are circumspect about their support for Social Security and Medicare.
In the following “New Rules” segment, Maher points out this issue with far more humor and flair than I would ever be capable of. But I was especially impressed with what he said about Obama always talking about how great Reagan was—never mentioning Carter. That’s always made me angry. Reagan isn’t such an icon just because conservatives love him. Part of his appeal is that the last two Democratic presidents have gone out of their way to say how much they think he was great. Except he wasn’t. He just got credit for the Paul Volcker economic recovery. And in pretty much every way, Reagan sucked.
So I hope that the Democratic Party takes Bill Maher’s words to heart. It is really depressing to be a Democrat and it has been for a long time. It isn’t about winning elections. I could deal with losing elections, if we did it on our own liberal terms. But as it is, even when we win, we lose. You can bet if the Republicans take over Washington in 2016, there will be major changes. If the Democrats take over, it will be more of the same: a tad of financial reform here, a bit of healthcare reform there. I don’t blame the Democratic base from staying home in off year elections. What surprises me is that they show up in presidential elections.