I confess to minimal access to the inner workings of the Maher mind, though I take him at his word when he says he is not the kind of celebrity who can cough up a million dollars without some actual pain. His recently announced donation of a million dollars to the superpac devoted to President Obama’s reelection would be a message in itself, even without the accompanying explanation, precisely because in fact he isn’t the kind of celebrity with so many millions he is unable even to count them up.
His explanation, in a nutshell, is that despite the confidence of liberals in his acquaintance that Barack Obama is something of a shoe-in for reelection, the marshalling of economic force on the other side means any Republican is a threat to be taken seriously. I agree: while the Republican cavalcade of loopy radicalism, ideological eccentricity, hermetically incubated dogmatism and sheer bozomania makes it increasingly likely a large segment of American voters will flee in terror from the eventual Republican nominee, and in all likelihood, like me, come close to laughing themselves to death along the way, reliable Republican economic power and a history of determined mendacity as well as a genuinely sweaty desperation this time around, means one can expect a Republican power base that stops at little (and they aren’t normally plagued by a terrible burden of conscience nor stymied by the restraints of decency) in this campaign.
For anyone who missed it, in particular liberals overly committed to whatever passes for “civility” in this benighted day and age or to the etiquette of pure intellectual rationality, the Republican Party and its reactionary ranks declared total political war twenty or so years ago and have only become more dogmatic and absolutist since. As I have said often and perhaps with tiresome repetition (See: GOP Looks to Future with Backing of Crazy Old White People, Treading Boiling Water, American Civil War, 2011) the words and deeds of the modern Republican Party make it more than unmistakable, in fact blatant that for it, the opposition political party and opposing positions no longer are regarded as legitimate at all, or even American. The vision of these self-righteous and mythology besotted and delusional kooks is America as redoubt of imposed backwardness, radical ideological purity, alternate reality and strict economic and democratic inequality.
The only acceptable reaction to this is: Who the hell do they think they are? Whatever combination of zealotry, deluded and overconfident conviction and pure illusion causes this assortment of hypocrites and fanatics to believe the rest will accede to this warped agenda of America as some bizarre hybrid of de-facto theocratic state and radical capitalist killing field that has nothing in common with the theories of capitalism that flowed from the European enlightenment and informed the nation’s beginnings, has to be met and repudiated with every physical and financial resource the reality-based community has.
Again, for those who missed the significance of another recent historical episode, the American right did not simply oppose the Clinton administration it attempted to destroy, literally, both the Clinton presidency and the man himself. And now, with even more accelerated fury the right has sought to annihilate the Obama presidency and the legitimacy of the man himself. And the words of Republican candidates during this election season are not those of political participants who believe politics and governance are a game of balance and shifting power and priorities over a long process, but a zero-sum game and a holy war. If there is anyone left who does not fully comprehend this hard fact, now is the time to swallow hard and to come to grips.
As Maher and many others have pointed out, Citizens United, as expected is producing an electoral financial arms race that heavily favors those bankers and oil barons and corporate hedgehogs staking the Republican Party. Add to this, what indeed is true, and Republicans no doubt are aware of and fully comprehend: the demographics and the politics of the country rapidly are threatening to render them a distinct political minority well into the foreseeable future; meaning the time they have left to institutionalize as many of their advantages as they possibly can is running short, and the battle to do so will be bloody and fierce.
Indeed the Koch brothers and the other powerful economic interests understand this is something of a last stand for them, and in fact a great deal of economic and political power literally is at stake. And these are the are the sort of people who play for keeps even in the best of times; and now they and their gilded interests are perceptibly on the ropes for real. Understood in this light, nearly anything is possible, and to be expected, and the effort to ensure the rigging of the game as far in advance as possible is apparent in the nationally broad Republican effort to destroy the power and political clout of labor unions and to tightly restrict the ballot box.
Unsaid by Bill Maher at the time of his donation, though I believe he has said it before (and I certainly have, a lot, it turns out) is that whether liberals and Democrats have fully assimilated the fact or not, war has been declared. Perhaps I should correct the title of this to Maher Goes to War. It’s no small matter when he or anyone else comes to grips with the reality they are indeed in one.