Bill Maher opened Friday’s Real Time with a round of applause for “a semi-peaceful transition of power.” Maher also applauded the arrival of a new administration and the comic possibilities it presents. In celebration, he spent the first 90 seconds of his monologue on Joe Biden before turning back to Donald Trump jokes. The show as a whole, however, was short on jokes and long on substance.
“It does feel like the whole Trump administration just sort of disappeared, like we lived through a fever dream,” said Vanity Fair contributing writer Peter Hamby during the mid-show roundtable. Maher agreed, comparing the current situation to the “Who Shot J.R.” episode of Dallas wherein the whole ordeal was a dream.
Guest Kamele Foster, co-host of the Fifth Column podcast, did not share those sentiments — nor did place the blame for the recent American carnage entirely at Trump’s feet.
“I just want to try to put it into another context,” Foster said, “that what we’ve seen here over the course of the last, say, 10-12 months is actually a bit of an unraveling; this escalation in political violence that is not limited to the right, but existed on the left as well.
“We saw $2 billion worth of damage done over the course of several months. We saw days of civil unrest in the street. We saw federal buildings surrounded, held under siege for days at a time,” he continued. “This is the United States of America and we have seen a steady increase in the regularity of political violence this country.
“And if there is a broader trend, as opposed to a specific movement that is broken,” he said, “then we’re talking about too narrow a problem as opposed to the right problem. It might be a really major defect in our policy.”
“There’s always been an anarchist, black block gutterpunk element on the left,” countered Hamby. “But Trumpism has infected every state capitol. It is everywhere.”
“We were promised armed rebellion at every state capitol,” interjected Foster, indicating that those rebellions were not pervasive. “Which is why I’m worried we may be miscasting this. We’re thinking: It’s Trump. Trump is the problem. We saw hundreds of people in the street breaking windows after Biden won. Something is wrong. And I’m worried we’re not talking about this in the right way.”
“Now we can’t blame everything on him,” said Maher about Trump.
“When folks talk about Black Lives Matter, it’s often said that, ‘Look, this is just an ethical statement. If you can’t acknowledge this, then that’s a real problem.’ Black Lives Matter is a political statement and there is a political program attached to it,” said Foster. “And plenty of people broadly may not be aware of it. The fact that it does have some roots in Marxism, that there are radical elements of the Black Lives Mater movement that are very disinclined towards free markets and capitalism, that challenge very basic notions that I think are broadly shared by Americans. Like equality under the law, for example. This pivot toward equity and a focus on racial outcomes is something that is rather new but seems to have taken the country by storm.
“Equity as opposed to equality?” asked Maher.
“Yes,” said Foster. “Quite frankly, talking about racism all the time is not a solution.”
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