Bill Maher, Donald Trump, and the Existential Threat

Bill Maher - Trump Existential ThreatOn this week’s Real Time, Bill Maher made the argument that Donald Trump is such an existential threat to the country that we must all put our pet issues aside and just get Hillary Clinton elected. His focus was on transgender rights. He noted that in 2008, Obama was not publicly in favor of same sex marriage. Obviously, he was privately. Maher’s point was that Obama was being strategic. He didn’t want to torpedo his campaign for the sake of an issue that would bring out the crazy conservatives to vote against him.

Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Shakezula was not pleased. He[1] particularly didn’t like the notion of transgender rights being a “pet issue.” I understand and sympathize. But I do think he grabbed onto that one statement rather harder than is reasonable. For one thing, Maher was talking about bathroom choice for transgender people. As with same sex marriage, I don’t think it is a particularly big issue. When LGBT people are still commonly beaten up and even murdered, these other worthy causes strike me rather more as easy and non-threatening things that the straight community can do until the descriptor LGBT itself because pointless.

But Is Trump an Existential Threat?

None of this means that I agree with Maher. The truth is that each presidential election is framed as an existential threat to our republic. Both parties do it, although clearly there is the stink of demagoguery in the Republican arguments that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were extremists. But there is a lesser bit of nonsense that comes from us Democrats. Certainly Trump would be a far worse president than George W Bush was. But then, Bush was a far worse president than his father. If Donald Trump becomes president, I guarantee you that the Republicans will offer up an even worse candidate than he.

None of this should come as a surprise. Richard Nixon is now seen as quite the reasonable politician except for that little paranoia problem. But he was responsible (with the aid of his inside man, war criminal Henry Kissinger) of extending the Vietnam War for at least four more years, leading to the deaths of at least 21,000 American troops. People now talk about Reagan’s willingness to raise taxes as some super-ability, as though the “no new taxes ever” philosophy of the Republican Party is normal in any functioning democracy.

Trump Would Be a Catastrophe — Like All Republicans

Donald Trump RNC BounceDo I think that Donald Trump would be a total catastrophe for our nation? Yes! Although like with George W Bush, I don’t think we would get a Trump presidency. For six years of the Bush administration, it was Dick Cheney running the executive branch. I have no idea who would be running the country under Trump, but I know it wouldn’t be Trump himself, because he has no interest in it. But the biggest problem with a Trump presidency would be that he would likely get to appoint two Supreme Court Justices — just like Bush. And good luck with transgender rights under those circumstances.

But that’s going to happen even if Trump dies on 9 November 2016 and we get “reasonable” Mike Pence as president. Or, for that matter, any nationally known Republican. The truth is that the Republican Party is simply terrible. Trump may be stupid, ignorant, and gauche, but he isn’t especially different from other Republicans. He’s the symptom, not the cause of Republican dysfunction.

Liberals Need to Be Liberals

So as liberals, now is not the time to panic. There is no more existential threat than usual. It is not the time to pretend that we aren’t liberals — to back off on transgender bathroom rights or anything else. If this election is an existential threat to our nation, then they all are. And that means that liberals should always be abandoning their beliefs to win this one election. And we’ve seen what this has brought us: a Democratic Party that is in the mushy middle and is too often unable to beat a party made up primarily of mad men.

[1] I assume that Shakezula is a man, given that posts at his personal blog are posted by “Jules.” If anyone has contrary information, let me know.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

12 thoughts on “Bill Maher, Donald Trump, and the Existential Threat

  1. Reminds me of all of the times liberals (men and women) have told pro-choice activists to wait our turn. Which then never comes.

    But then I have been pointing out on Twitter what you said-the sole reason that Trump is driving most Republicans nuts is that he will lose and lose big. And that is what they can’t stand, they don’t care about the rest of it.

    • Oh yeah, that’s definitely true. They might also be like the Murdoch kids and find him embarrassing when they are out at nice restaurants with sophisticated people. But mostly it is that they think he will lose. As I noted, his loss would mean the loss of two or more Supreme Court picks. If he won, they would be in heaven. Ryan Budget here we come!

  2. I’m reading about the history of the ADA. Disability activists had a tough choice to make; should they ally with those who wanted legal protection against discrimination for people with diseases, like AIDS? That put the whole law at risk from Jesse Helms types. But they included that protection, and got an even more important victory as a result when the law passed.

      • I’m trying to remember the “morality of religious motivations” scale me and a friend came up with once. I think it went something like this:

        1: Hope for justice
        2: Hope for joy
        3: Fear of death
        4: Need for personal validation
        5: Wish to see enemies get whupped on

        Of course, by “justice,” we meant that people who worked tirelessly all their lives for others would be rewarded, and those who were mean would see the error of their ways. Jesse Helms tortured for eternity is not the ideal! But Jesse Helms forced to read aloud legislation he voted “yes on” without reading it for 86 years, that might be just.

  3. OMG, I was blind! I caught that the blog title “LGM” was a reference to a Warren Zevon song Hunter Thompson co-wrote. And I know many chic young liberals love HST for his lifestyle and aggressive writing tone more than his lifelong hatred of conservative politics. But, benefit of the doubt. Some hipsters love HST, some writing fans do, some hardcore liberals.

    I missed the user name “Shakezula”!

    I read it as “shock-e-zula” in my head. Just a cool sounding name with vague non-English spelling.

    What a dipshit I am!

    It’s a reference to the Adult Swim cartoon “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” a favorite of hipsters and stoners for over a decade. The cartoon (which I enjoyed; it was very surreal) had main characters including an anthropomorphic order of French fries, a meatball, and a shake. Who, in the opening credit song, was referred to as “Shake-Zula” (although the character’s name was Master Shake).

    Of course the site is for rich young hipsters! Boy, did I miss that one.

    At least it gives me an excuse to repost the greatest cartoon movie opening of all time, from the film whose title you’d love: “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters.”

      • I can guess what it was. I went pretty over the top going “wow, I misread those comments.” Who cares, I don’t know that site, of course I misread them.

        I just have a bad history with upwardly-mobile liberals as friends (I’ve never known any well-to-do conservatives, only the poor variety.) They’ve been very cruel to me as I failed to keep up with their professional success. Such is life, I don’t have anything to do with them anymore.

        They do tend to share a certain pop-culture taste snobbery. Do you know this podcast, this show, this band, etc. I remember one day at my old job, a company auditor was in, looking over the books, an upwardly-mobile young liberal type, listening to the alternative radio station. I went about my business, she hers. At one point the radio began playing a Tom Waits song, and I idly sang along, and she was flummoxed. “You know Tom Waits?” Sure, why not. “It’s just that …” she paused, not knowing how to say Tom Waits is for educated folks like herself, not schlubs like me.

        It is what it is! I liked the Zevon song. I like white guys using south-of-the-border romantic song styles. Steve Goodman’s “Banana Republics” is another good one.

        • Not at all. I admitted to not noticing the same thing.

          James, you frustrate me at times; you are educated! I remember a brilliant friend of mine talking about going to Reed College and how excited he was to meet all these professors. And he found out that they weren’t as well read as he was. (Now that I think about it, he was the guy who got me interested in Don Quixote.) I’m not really sure what “educated” means anymore. I’ve known a lot of brilliant scientists who knew no more literature than an average reality TV show watcher.

          Speaking of which, I just got The Essential Leonard Cohen from the library. Nothing I don’t know, but a nice collection.

          • You know what I mean by “education.” Career focus. Networking, getting a job at the ad firm with whatever bullshit degree you had, etc. That bored me and I didn’t pursue it. I thought there was always time to change my mind if poverty got too unbearable. I wuz wrong!

            And the worst thing about poverty wasn’t being poor. It was losing all the charming, physically beautiful friends I had. And all their similarly appealing friends. That’s the world you enter if you’re on the fast track to a upwardly-mobile liberal life, and it stings to lose it for racist convenience-store bosses telling you to mop up puke and watch out for blacks because “they steal.” You wonder what could have been.

            Are their lives perfect today? Hell’s bells, no. Time and chance happeneth to us all. And I’m probably a better person, or at least no worse, for not joining that world. Yet any whiff of it still sends me running for the hills. If I go to a taproom or art event and it’s full of young hipster types, I turn and flee. I never need to be around those people ever again, for the rest of my life. I prefer the poor people who are interesting; happily, I know one or two.

            I don’t worry about my “education” from a personal standpoint. I’m quite ignorant about most things, which is why God invented libraries! You can never stop learning.

            That is a great Cohen collection. He’s a trouper.

            • I don’t think in terms of education related to employment. But I get what you mean now. Most people are that superficial.

              One of favorite books is Jude the Obscure, largely because Jude is such a noble character. I often think of a part where he is reciting Latin in a bar. Although he does do it originally to show off, he is immediately deflated and ashamed of the act. The problem with our society is that even with all the progress we’ve made, we still can’t appreciate the Judes of the world. We’ve simply replaced meaning with occupation.

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