HBO’s Bill Maher gave a qualified – if not altogether surprising – endorsement of Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on last night’s Real Time With Bill Maher. “I want to help your campaign,” Maher said as he greeted Hillary Clinton’s chief rival. “I want to see you get the nomination. I want to see you be president.” But Maher implored Sanders to “undemonize” the word “socialism” if he expected any serious chance at the presidency.
Returning to an opinion often expressed by the host, Maher said that the popularity of Social Security, the military and Medicare means the U.S. “is already a socialist country,” with only the word “socialism” being Sanders’ stumbling block. (Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist.)
“No, it’s not a socialist country,” Sanders shot back. “There are some socialist programs.” The would-be nominee went on to insist that Americans needed to be reminded that every other “major country on earth” guarantees health care as a right, offers paid family leave and that the U.S. far exceeds other countries in incarceration rates of people of color.
Though Sanders’ appearance on the show broke no news, he and Maher did disagree on whether Sanders’ proposed social programs, including free public college, could be adequately funded by increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Maher said the numbers didn’t add up, Sanders said “not true,” then said a Medicare for-all-program would be more cost-effective than our current health care system profiting insurance companies.
While Maher was skeptical of Sanders’ claims, the HBO host pledged his support – even though Clinton needn’t feel too snubbed. In an opening monologue analogy that Maher made repeatedly, he told his audience “We have two good candidates. It’s like on the airlines sometimes you don’t get the fish so you have the chicken. I’ll eat the chicken if I have to.”