Dear Bill Maher: Liberals Can Be Angry at Multiple Things

low angle view of a an array of microphones
low angle view of a an array of microphones

On Friday's Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO, the always-sardonic host used his closing monologue to rail against liberals who criticize other liberals, such as #BernieOrBust pledges, Clinton supporters who accuse Bernie Sanders of sexism, people who were outraged at some of Matt Damon's problematic statements, and, um, Dolce and Gabbana. He emphasized that there's no time for liberals to be fighting among ourselves when there are "real enemies" to be fighting, such as Donald Trump.

Because apparently we are only allowed to be angry at one thing at a time.

On #BernieOrBust, Maher criticized the slogan, "Revolt against plutocracy," insisting that refusing to vote for Hillary Clinton is instead "helping elect a plutocrat who's revolting" [Donald Trump]. This criticism misses the entire point; many Bernie supporters believe (justifiably or not is not the question here) that Clinton is almost as much of a plutocrat as Trump. You can say that's ridiculous all you want, but Clinton should be convincing them otherwise if she wants their vote, not using the implicit threat of Republicans to scare them into falling in line behind someone they do not feel comfortable with.

And while it's true that many Sanders supporters took their criticism of Elizabeth Warren's lack of an endorsement for Bernie much too far ("Karl Rove's money?" Really?), it's easy to understand their frustration. Warren has criticized Clinton before, and the issues that she constantly speaks to line up very well with Sanders's platform. From the perspective of a voter, it appears that Warren is hedging her bets instead of standing on principle.

Maher went even further, criticizing Black Lives Matter for refusing to support either Democratic candidate, holding up both their 100% approval ratings from the NAACP and contrasting it with Trump's support from white supremacist organizations. It's another fallacious argument: Black Lives Matter should compromise their principles and support one of two candidates (neither of whom will call for reparations for slavery and segregation) because someone out there is worse, even as Black Lives Matter has very good reasons not to trust the Democratic Party.

And sure, Matt Damon can weigh in on LBGT issues with his horrible, worthless opinion that nobody asked for, but don't criticize him for it, because he's a good Hollywood liberal and LOOK OVER THERE IT'S DONALD TRUMP! Maher sarcastically quipped, "Right, the real obstacle to gays achieving equality is Matt Damon," which is a false equivalency. Nobody said that, Bill. Comments like that, coming from a straight, white male, are offensive any way you cut it and deserve to be called out.

When it came to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana literally saying that children born of IVF were "synthetic children" and that gays should not start families period, Elton John and many others were right to be horrified. Comments like those coming from within the community can do untold damage to people who are still fighting for equality. It's the same reason there has been such an enormous backlash against Caitlyn Jenner for her endorsement of Ted Cruz (something Maher didn't mention, because it's okay to criticize conservatives for meaningless things, apparently).

While I disagree with a lot of what Bill Maher says, I still love his show and defend him whenever it's called for. This time, it is not called for. He is espousing here a dangerous attitude, that everyone on the left of the political spectrum should refrain from having disagreements, criticizing the negative aspects of our community, and fighting internal battles to be better. In effect he is championing a terrifying strain of conformity and chauvinism, where people who generally hold similar beliefs to our own are beyond reproach.

Worst of all, he is using fear to try to keep people in line. Don't criticize someone who deserves it, because they may be the lesser of two evils. Compromise your ideals, because ideological unity is more important than doing the right thing. Shut your mouth, because Trump is looming.

I don't believe that Maher is being malicious or doing this intentionally, but it's a troubling thought coming from the left. The split that is happening between neoliberals and progressives, between the establishment Democrats and the insurgent Democrats, is a completely necessary evil if the Democratic Party is to remain relevant. Whichever side wins out, it is more important that we have this discussion now than that we keep our mouths shut for fear of Donald Trump.

Criticize away, Lefties.