Bill Maher: The "slow-moving coup" is still moving

A few days ago he marveled that the overwhelmingly liberal crowds he’s used to drawing for his stand-up gigs have become more politically diverse lately. “That never used to happen. Never. I think it’s because 10 years ago, in my opinion anyway, the left did not have a crazy section,” he said on Joe Scarborough’s podcast. “There was no such thing as woke, and now they do have a crazy section, which I call out as a liberal. I think I’m kind of one of the only people doing that, so there’s a hunger to hear that.” It’s true, Maher has been right about a lot over the last six months. And conservatives have noticed.

He’s right in this new clip from “Real Time” too even if Republicans don’t want to hear it. And it’s a show of integrity on his part that he felt obliged to drop this truth bomb at the very moment that he’s gaining right-wing fans for his anti-woke commentary.

The last 80 seconds of his monologue are speculative but not so far-fetched that they can be ruled out. The previous seven minutes are entirely correct. It’s an ineffable disgrace that a political party would consider renominating an ex-president who led a months-long disinformation campaign aimed at overturning an election that ended in a riot at the Capitol. But as things stand, not only are Republicans set to do it, they’re going to do it by acclamation. With Trump running unopposed.

Which makes me think it doesn’t matter whether Maher’s prophesy actually comes to pass. The fact that there are enough voters willing to risk the perfectly foreseeable scenario he describes by nominating Trump a third time means we’ve already passed a point of no return. Even if 2024 goes off without a hitch, the country is destined to break down civically and democratically before much longer.

I’m not sure we won’t see some lesser version of what Maher describes even if Trump doesn’t run. “Stop the steal” is now a precedent and a litmus test for Republican candidates, particularly populist candidates. It’s based on the conviction that Trumpist populism can’t possibly be outvoted at the polls; only cheating can explain its defeat in a popularity contest. If a MAGA-approved traditional politician like Ron DeSantis were to be nominated and lose in 2024, the GOP base would cry foul about the result in swing states even if DeSantis himself didn’t. And DeSantis would come under intense pressure to not concede, knowing that Republican voters would treat a concession as evidence of weakness and unwillingness to “fight.” Any hope he had of being renominated in 2028 would evaporate.

That’s not to say that a party led by DeSantis would produce the scenario Maher lays out. It wouldn’t. That degree of destabilization requires a demagogic ringleader who’s fully committed to gaining power by hook or by crook irrespective of what it means for America’s civic traditions. That’s Trump, not DeSantis. But GOP voters prefer Trump to DeSantis even though — maybe even because — he’s willing to destabilize the country in the name of assuring Republican (i.e. his own) rule. That’s the point of no return. Even if we don’t get Trump again in 2024, we’ll get another Trump eventually. The people demand it.