Monday, July 18, 2011

Bill Maher: Comic High Priest of Liberal Progressive Contempt for Jacksonian America

by Michael Kaplan

Bill Maher, the acid-tongued comic and political commentator, has emerged as the downscale H. L. Mencken of the Baby Boom generation: the high priest of the liberal progressive obsessive paranoia and contempt for all things Jacksonian. In this video from the July 15 episode of HBO Real Time with Bill Maher, the eponymous host launches yet another vicious tirade against Jacksonian America, cheered on by his panel of progressive worthies, including, sadly, financial journalist Chrystia Freeland whose work I respect. Maher focuses his comic ire—surprise!—on the two women who best embody Jacksonian America, its populist culture, politics, and values: Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. You can also find the video herehere, and here.

I must admit that I used to watch Maher in his ABC Politically Incorrect incarnation from 1997 to 2002. He seemed funnier and more engaging back then. Perhaps he was embittered after ABC fired him for a lack of patriotism; after 9/11 he opined that Mohammed Atta and Al-Qaeda’s suicide jihadists showed more courage than Jacksonian America’s fighting men and women in Afghanistan. Since then on his HBO show his act has degenerated into mean-spirtied obnoxiousness, and snide elite contempt.

Like Mencken in the 1920s, Maher since 1993 has built his career on satirizing Jacksonians, the people he too calls “boobus americanus,” and denigrating everything they hold dear.
Like most elite liberal progressives, Maher goes ballistic when he beholds the rise to positions of power and leadership of two women he dismisses as white trash religious fanatics who are as dumb as doornails. As Maher put it with his usual comic eloquence:
Now I’m not saying that sexism doesn’t exist and isn’t real, but we can’t throw around the word “sexist” just to stop people like me from pointing out that Michele Bachmann, now running second for the Republican presidential nomination, isn’t [sic] a dangerous nincompoop. And when I point out that Sarah Palin is a vainglorious braggart, a liar, a whiner, a professional victim, a scold, a know-it-all, a chiseler, a bully who sells patriotism like a pimp, and the leader of a strange family of inbred weirdos straight out of The Hills Have Eyes, that’s not sexist. I’m saying it because it’s true, not because it’s true of a woman.
Maher then takes on his favorite hobby horse, the Christian faith, calling it the font of bigotry and all things rotten and evil in America. “In America, you’re allowed to justify almost any kind of bigotry, sexism or intolerance if you source it to God’s big book of bad ideas.” Maher cuts to the heart of why elite liberal progressives have such venomous hostility toward Jacksonian America. Jacksonian leaders like Palin and Bachmann, and the people who support them, are evil, crazy, and stupid. Jacksonian patriotism and Jacksonian evangelical faith are just covers for hustling, wackiness, and bigotry. No bien-pensant (right thinking, lockstep) avant-garde progressive takes things like patriotism and faith seriously. So they can only be a con game, a conspiracy, or a species of insanity. And people who do take them seriously are either dupes, knaves, or wackos. Even worse, they breed dysfunctional white trash families with more than a hint of illicit sexuality: Casey Anthony anyone? Maher, like most liberal progressives, believes that the roughly 60% to 70% of Americans who are Jacksonian in their culture, traditional conservative values, and way of life, simply lack the brain power and capacity for self-government. They need progressive mandarins to tell them how to live their lives, to avoid being caught in the snares of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. etc. Is it any wonder then that Jacksonians of the heartland, who do take faith, family, and patriotism very seriously, have nothing but contempt of their own for Maher and his ilk.

To say that Bill Maher does not connect with conservative populist Jacksonian America is an understatement. Nor does he understand the Jacksonian style of leadership as embodied by Palin and Bachmann. Such elite contempt for and underestimation of Jacksonian leaders is nothing new. In 1828 Andrew Jackson was denounced as an ignorant, dumbass ruffian by his political opponents. They even called him “Andrew Jackass,” which is why the donkey became the symbol of the Democratic Party.

Andrew Jackass

Jacksonians believe that intelligence and leadership derive from character, instinct, intuition, decisiveness, and common sense, rather than from academic Ivy League credentials or technocratic analytical abilities. A president needs intellectuals among his advisors, but he (or she) needs above all to be a decision maker who can assimilate conflicting strands of advice and information and make a policy decision based on his or her larger vision of where America should be going. (Jennifer Rubin wrote a perceptive article on “Why Jews Hate Palin,” which looks at this issue.) Just as Barack Obama is the model of the liberal progressive technocratic style of leadership, so Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are models of the conservative populist Jacksonian style of leadership.

Maher’s tirade has earned him the applause of liberal pundits. Jason Easley, writing on the PoliticusUSA blog, exclaimed that Maher got it just right. Palin and Bachmann are nothing more than empty vessels with sexually attractive packaging who spew a never ending stream conservative Christian talking points on family values and trickle-down economics, all meant to fool women into returning to a condition of barefoot pregnancy and submission to men. Here, in Easley’s words, is the true evil of Palin, Bachmann, and all the Mama Grizzlies:
Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are disliked because they sell bad ideas. They are reviled because they are arrogant and ignorant. They are deemed repulsive because they are undoing the progress that their own gender has made. These two are walking talking commercials for the religious right’s belief in the subjugation of women. They are sending a horrible message to girls and women that your looks will always count more than your ideas, and that you can only be what a man tells you to be.
Easley’s tirade, like Maher’s, betrays an astounding depth of ignorance of Jacksonian America and its commitment to liberty, honor, faith, family, and patriotism. And they fail to comprehend the extent to which Palin and Bachmann have become symbols of empowerment for conservative women. Both women are redefining feminism in the image of the Jacksonian frontierswoman, updated for modern America, whose strength of character and heroic endurance built the nation. Conservative Christian women see Palin and Bachmann as leaders who eloquently articulate and confirm their traditional values in opposition to liberal elite feminists. Governor Palin and Congresswoman Bachmann have also become role models for living one’s life in a way that joins those conservative traditional values with active engagement and success in the modern world. Their message to women is certainly not “that you can only be what a man tells you to be.” When you put it all together Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are the face of modern Jacksonian populist nationalism, following in the footsteps of Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan. Both women bring together potent symbols of feminine sexual power, motherhood, professional achievement, and legislative and executive authority. Which is why they drive progressive critics like Bill Maher into paroxysms of rage.

For Maher, Easley, and the whole progressive elite, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann embody all their stereotypes of white trash America, its boorishness and tackiness, wrapped up in one package. Both women ooze trailer trash sexuality and fundamentalist brimstone. They are the leaders of the White Trash Nation rising up in rebellion against the bonds of a politically correct nanny state, aiming their moose hunting rifles at everything liberal progressives hold dear. Palin, even more than Bachmann, is a mere cliché in the progressive mind: a badly dressed hillbilly with a screeching voice, a roughneck husband, and a slutty teen mom daughter, and no knowledge of the complex world outside of Wasilla, Alaska. For an avant-garde sophisticate like Bill Maher to have to live in a country filled with such ignorant hicks, who also have the right to vote and choose leaders who support their values and interests, is an outrage to the cynically hip. The very popularity of Bill Maher and his show and his caricatures of Palin, Bachmann, and their supporters in elite liberal circles reveals again the true extent of the cultural divide that separates these elites from populist Jacksonian America.

© 2011 Michael Kaplan


  1. I have added you to my blogroll and hope that you will consider doing the same or a link exchange or both. Thanks for the good work!

  2. Michael,

    Another excellent essay. It always amazes me how the left as evidenced by folks lie Maher continue to marginalize any one who is in disagreement with them! As you point out, they are in fact completely ambivalent to anything that is in fact nothing more than common sense. Morality, responsibility for one's own actions or earning ones way is something they cannot allow in their lust for not only power but complete control of the population in general. A sad but true fact.

  3. @Mike Shaner


    Thanks for adding my blog to your blogroll. I don't have a blogroll yet, but I do have link to the Confederate Underground on list of Website and Blog links. I'll add a link to The Oak Park Republic too.


  4. @joetote


    Thanks as always for your comment. I gave up watching Bill Maher a long time ago. With so much else on TV, let alone having to keep up with my reading and writing, I didn't see the point. Maher, again like most on the left, really doesn't understand what makes this nation exceptional: liberty, Constitutional government, capitalism grounded in morality, and rugged individualism. In fact the left tends to think America is exceptionally vicious and stupid and insist that Palin and Bachmann are evidence of that.


  5. Michael,
    My first visit to your blog. Essays are provacative! Please post more often. I am the woman who does all those boring 17th,18th,19th-century American Women blogs + that one on gardens + It's About Time. If you write more often, I can have more to think about, even when I don't agree! High on American exceptionalism, not too high on Palin or Bachmann, but even less high on anyone trying to stuff me into a one-size-fits-all box. Looking forward to your next essay. Thanks.

  6. @Barbara,

    Hi Barbara,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I will try to post more often. I really try to think things through before I send my essays out into the blogosphere. I am working on a few more at present, which I should be posting soon.


  7. @Barbara,

    I really iike your 17th, 18th, and 19th-century American Women blogs. They are far from boring.