In a lengthy essay published in The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday after non-establishment candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders cleaned house in New Hampshire, leftwing HBO host Bill Maher writes that Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid is in trouble, and argues that Trump and Sanders have “rewritten” the rules for campaigning.
“No one thought a politician could survive, much less stay in the lead for as long as Trump has, based on a campaign of braggadocio and utter contempt for political correctness,” writes the Real Time host. “But the younger generation is leading a movement to prize authenticity above all. Trump is a petulant child, but at least that’s real, they seem to be saying. Bernie, too, is as real as real gets. (So real he doesn’t even own a comb.)”
Amid speculation of an impending “implosion” of the Clinton campaign by the New York Times, Maher adds another leftist voice to the growing number of Democrats who no longer exclusively support Hillary. The host credits Sanders’ popularity for his ability to offer Democratic voters authenticity; something Hillary is lacking. He writes:
…the idea that America could be more like a Western European democracy, quasi-socialist (we’re that already, of course, with Social Security, Medicare and farm subsidies) where you pay more in taxes, but you get more: free health care and free college. I call this his ‘New Deal,’ and we haven’t really had one of those since FDR’s…We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR … until anyone proves otherwise, Bernie has earned the right to be considered absolutely viable.
…And poor, poor Hillary Clinton. I mean she just is such a Charlie Brown figure. I could see the nomination slipping away from her again. I don’t know why everyone just wants to beat up on her … I think she is unfairly demonized and has been for her entire career. I personally don’t think she is dishonest. And yet the hatred for her is just amazing — the hatred on the right and the abandonment on the left. She’s particularly hard to watch as a candidate. (That laugh.) Yes, the hard truth is that Hillary Clinton is a terrible campaigner who is living in a different era.
I’ve told my audience, who are overwhelmingly for Bernie: If you’re on a plane and they don’t have your first choice — the fish — eat the chicken! That’s Hillary; no one is exactly excited, but that’s not all her fault. She’s been around forever, so people tend to take her good points — her accomplishments, her deep knowledge of policy — for granted, and she’s been demonized more than anyone ever by the right wing. If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, really, eat the chicken.
“Look, I’m all for a woman president. I love Elizabeth Warren. Warren is very close to Bernie on a lot of this stuff. If he got the nomination, what an awesome vice president pick to really double down on those ideas,” he writes.
Furthermore, Maher concludes Hillary is “still playing that kind of politician, the one who never upsets anybody, who always says the thing that no one can quite attack, so she comes off in this new era as inauthentic and just unappetizing to watch.”
“I think all the enthusiasm that people wanted to have for Hillary Clinton — the first woman president! — they’re having trouble mustering because of the way she campaigns and because Bernie is more exciting,” writes the comedian.
Maher also makes note of Sanders’ popularity in Hollywood, which is an industry that the Clintons have been courting for decades:
The show business community in Los Angeles has always been very engaged, no matter the year or who’s running. Hillary has her fans out here, but there’s no doubt that the sentiment and energy are for Bernie … it’s also true that Hollywood is no different than anywhere else: For every informed person, there are legions of lazy dopes who just know which team to cheer for. They don’t delve into the issues too deeply; they just go with the flow.
The comedian also comments on the growing anti-establishment sentiment among voters in both parties:
It’s funny that both the left and the right could not agree more that the country needs radical change. It’s no longer this endeavor where you have to watch every word you say. Bernie said in early February, ‘I’m not involved in organized religion.’ Not a deal-breaker. ‘I’m a socialist.’ The world didn’t fall apart. Donald Trump, on the other hand, obviously says whatever flies into his head — there are Tourette’s patients with more control — and people like it. Americans have been choking on political correctness and overly careful politicians for the last generation or two and are sick of it.
While Maher is ultimately critical of Trump, he describes the Republican frontrunner as a natural campaigner who “has a sense of what his audience wants and what works for them like nobody I’ve seen in a long time in politics. He also has a talent for smiting his foes that is very rare, literally anyone who crosses his path.”
Maher also compliments Trump’s ability to take on and disarm his political opponents:
Ben Carson rose in the polls for a while — bam, dead. Ted Cruz, he went right for the jugular: ‘You’re a Canadian, Ted.’ Hillary? Who even thought to bring back Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? Everybody thought that was old news; Bill Clinton is an elder statesman now. ‘Nope, your husband is a rapist, first woman president, and you’ve been enabling him.’
Read Maher’s essay in full here.