Defunding the police, Black Lives Matter, coronavirus, and the Donald Trump of it all were all points for discussion tonight on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher. The host held a virtual panel with former Comedy Central Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore and Fifth Column podcast host Matt Welch.
Maher brought to the panel’s attention how tone deaf Trump was in resuming election rallies on June 19 (“Juneteenth”) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the date that African Americans celebrate the end of slavery.
“Not since Reagan went to Philadelphia, Mississippi to open his campaign in 1980 have I seen a racist dog whistle that loud,” remarked Maher.
“Trump is past dog-whistling, it really is a dog mega phone,” said Wilmore, “Even if it’s not that, Bill, the insensitivity to it — just do your f***king research! Do your homework! Be more conscientious about your actions.”
“Even the way he did his silly walk to (St. John’s) church…just for that ridiculous photo op, Trump, he’s in the weirdest kind of bubble I’ve ever seen for a president,” added Wilmore, “It defies explanation.”
While concurring with Maher on how odd it was to see Republican Senator Mitt Romney marching alongside Black Lives Matters protesters toward the White House, the Black on the Air podcast host said that the former presidential candidate “is a thumb in the eye of Trump,” adding that the protests for George Floyd weren’t just diverse, “but global. In the ’92 riots, it was localized in Los Angeles.”
Wilmore praised, “It’s interesting to see the number of Republicans that are starting to respond to this, especially the military leaders who are coming out and going against Trump, people he’s had in his cabinet and other people. I’ve never seen anything like that. That’s unprecedented.”
Maher brought up how the recent primary in Georgia is like “a bad moon rising,” reminding us what could go sideways on Nov. 3 as the state experienced massive problems between broken voting machines, long lines, and shortage of ballots.
“I see this is a bond between Trump and Republican allies — trusting democracy to the voters,” Maher said.
“That’s a tough one,” said Wilmore, prognosticating what might happen in the fall at the polls “If there’s a feeling of a protest vote, like the way protests are happening now, people aren’t going to be thinking of corona(virus).”
Wilmore responded, “If COVID comes back early, you might be right — you talk about the ultimate deus ex machina coming down and saving Trump, for Christ’s sake, our heads would explode if people don’t get out to the polls because of this coronavirus and Trump becomes President again.”
Turning the conversation to defunding the police, Maher pointed out that “only a third of Black folk want to defund the police…I worry that Democrats are walking into another purity test that won’t serve them well.”
“The thing that gets me about this, is what happens after you get rid of the police?” said Welch.
“The purge!” answered Maher.
“There’s interesting conversations to have as to whether the cops should pull you over for traffic tickets, or one way of looking at it is that police should stop being funded by shaking people down and seizing their assets,” said Welch. “Funding the police through operations like that has created all types of terrible incentives.”
“One of the problems in Ferguson a few years ago…the police were funding themselves through all these excessive traffic tickets. If you’re struggling to make it month-to-month, you can’t pay for a ticket that’s $400-$500 for an incidental thing like a rolling stop. Then you go to jail for a rolling stop? That’s the type of civic oppression people face all the time, and it puts them in these economic holes that makes it hard for them to get of,” added Wilmore.
Talking about how protests turned to looting in cities like New York and Los Angeles, Wilmore found it odd: “Looting happens right away when people are at their angriest,” i.e. turning against “that business that’s taking money out of the community.”
“But people were looting in Santa Monica, you gotta use Waze to get there, Bill!” quipped Wilmore.
“When people burnt the police station in Minneapolis — that’s a horrible thing to do. But I understand where that anger comes from, I would never support that,” said Wilmore, “But I don’t understand people looting The Gap in Venice Beach. It doesn’t make sense.”
Maher’s other virtual guests included Washington Post opinion journalist and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, Radley Balko; as well as cardiologist, public health expert, and Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian.