There has been a lot of virtual ink spilled on the ways in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump might pull off a win in the general election, or might not, but Real Time host Bill Maher made one of the more bizarre arguments about the former during this week’s “New Rules” segment.
Maher started off well enough by arguing that for liberals, the stakes in this election are too high to allow what he called “pet causes” to become a distraction, and promised that if shutting up about marijuana legalization might help Hillary Clinton defeat Trump, he’d be willing to take the hit:
Every issue, every fight, every cause, has to take a back seat to defeating Trump. He’s like an infection, you don’t fool around with it… If somebody told me that pushing pot could cost Hillary Ohio, until November 8, I’m just going to shut the fuck up about it.
That’s a reasonable-enough argument, although there are probably cancer patients who would disagree with the “pet cause” label, and the stakes in this election are high enough that you could even argue that non-pet causes ought to be on the table, as well. He’s only saying that we should avoid talking about wedge issues, not that we should abandon the policies. If Hillary has to pipe down about Heller in order to win Pennsylvania, I’m fine with that.
But then, Maher veered right off the track when he chose “the transgendered” as the “pet cause” that liberals ought to stay away from, lest they become a wedge in 2016:
I’m not suggesting we throw the transgendered unde the bus, or discounting their struggle. It can’t be easy finding pantyhose when you’re 6’4″. But this is exactly the kind of culture war issue that rousts a certain type of voter out of their trailers on election day…Let’s not die on this hill.
There are several problems with this, not the least of which is the fact that the fight for trans rights isn’t just about peeing or buying pantyhose, it’s about standing up for people who have long faced violence for being who they are. Maher has tried to pose himself as a “good liberal” who just likes to kid “the transgenders,” but there’s a dismissive hostility underlying it, and an obsession with anatomy that’s characteristic of transphobia:
If you want to constantly make jokes about how weird trans people are, and deliberately misgender them so you can then complain about “pronoun police,” that’s fine, but then you don’t get to claim you’re an ally, and you’re only “brave” to the extent that you’re making fun of people who are, by definition, a tiny minority.
But the biggest problem with Maher’s premise is that “bathroom bills” are getting their asses beaten without any help from us. Although the polling on the laws is somewhat mixed, Americans overwhelmingly favor equal protection for transgender people, and wealthy corporations have arrayed themselves against these laws in no uncertain terms. Liberals aren’t about to die on that hill, someone else has already taken it.
What’s behind this bit of weird concern-trolling? I’m sure part of it was to set up Trump supporter Caitlyn Jenner for a well-deserved slam, but mostly, it was the same pique you hear from other “progressives” who dismiss “identity politics” as an obstacle to political change, and who would also rather not have to worry about the “PC police.”
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.