You aren’t normally going to find me singing the praises of Bill Maher, but he absolutely nailed it last night when discussing why voting matters. Yes, you heard that right, that’s me praising Bill Maher and using a click bait headline to describe what happened – because I believe in giving credit when it’s due, regardless of who the message comes from. No, that doesn’t let him off the hook with me for his anti-science views on some subjects or sharing links from Addicting Info, but as we will discuss here, nobody’s perfect.
A reader sent me the clip from Bill Maher’s page in which he mocked Russell Brand’s message of some sort of spiritual, non-violent overthrow of the status quo that’s accomplished by opting out and not voting, something I caught a lot of flack for recently when calling Brand out as well. In addition to that, Maher also imagined for us a dystopian America that hadn’t elected Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 and had elected Republicans to the White House instead.
The important takeaway from this is that voting does really matter, whether or not a party or candidate manages to excite you. Politics is often dirty, regardless of which party is making policies and slinging campaign ads. No candidate is perfect, all of them have character flaws and sometimes make stupid mistakes that destroy their political careers – so stop waiting for Jesus Christ himself to descend from heaven and run for president. There isn’t going to be some political messiah that leads us out of the desert into the promised land of a $15 minimum wage, sustainable green energy and affordable healthcare access for everyone. Yet, that’s what I think far too many Americans did. They pinned all of their hopes and dreams on electing someone to the White House who they believed would change everything, then didn’t bother voting again, and then wondered when the “hope and change” was going to show up.
What’s more, a lot of people don’t grasp the complexities of politics. They don’t understand that even folks like Elizabeth Warren and the “purest” of ideological politicians have to make compromises and vote for less than ideal things in exchange for getting their own bills passed or even considered. Many voters are also swayed by a lot of the negative stories and propaganda created by super PACs and other organizations designed to create misinformation, confusion and apathy. I’d venture a guess that probably 80% or more of voters simply do not have the time or the ability to fact-check stories coming from the ever-growing number of partisan blog sites disguised as news outlets. Over and over again, they’re told that both parties are the same or that President Obama has broken his promises to the people who voted for him, and many are beaten into apathy. After all, wouldn’t you grow weary of seeing the same political attack ads on nearly every TV channel or website you visit? Wouldn’t you get tired of the same old “describe him/her with one word” political images popping up in your Facebook feed every single time you look at your phone, and wouldn’t you just want to say “screw it” and go watch a mind-numbing reality TV show instead or play whatever the hot new Facebook game is these days?
Politics is dirty, it’s not easy and sometimes you really do have to pull the lever for the lesser of two evils – but that’s the way politics has always been since the concept of representative government came around. Politics in a nation ruled by the people instead of monarchs unfortunately requires compromises, back room deals and the necessity to be pragmatic instead of constantly idealistic. If more voters would realize these facts of life and get involved at the same time, we’d get a lot closer to reducing money in politics and stopping voter suppression efforts – but none of these things will happen until we stop being apathetic and waiting for a political messiah. Nobody can save us from our political predicament except ourselves – and I wish more people in Bill Maher’s line of work would point that out on a regular basis to their viewers.
Watch the video below via Real Time’s YouTube channel.
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