Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
Bill Maher may have made his cruelest and most ill-informed comment yet – and that says a lot, given his track record – on his HBO show Friday night.
Maher, during a discussion of the economy under Donald Trump, acknowledged that it was “going pretty well.” Then Maher, the sometime liberal, shared his hope that the economy would tank to hurt Trump politically: “I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point. And by the way, I’m hoping for it. I think one (way) you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy.”
He then jaw-droppingly added, “So please, bring on the recession. Sorry if that hurts people, but it’s either root for a recession or you lose your democracy.”
This is wrong on so many levels. It’s despicable for Maher, who is wealthy enough to have donated $1 million in 2012 to a super PAC, to root for an economic downturn in exchange for political gain.
If our nation were to hit a recession again, millions of Americans who are not well-off like Maher would horribly suffer, as unemployment would climb and families would struggle to put food on the table.
Maher’s comments remind me of Rush Limbaugh’s ghoulish wish in January 2009, when the recession was taking hold and unemployment was climbing, about then President-elect Obama. Limbaugh said he had four words to share his view of what he wished for Obama: “I hope he fails.”
Not only were Maher’s comments cruel and callous, they again reveal his superficial analysis of issues. Specifically, when he stated: “It’s either root for a recession or you lose your democracy.”
Maher clearly has no clue about history if he thinks an economic collapse will help safeguard our democracy. As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright documented in her great new book, “Fascism: A Warning,” there’s one common denominator in almost every situation when a leader who comes to power via democracy or within democratic norms is able to become an authoritarian ruler. Want to guess what that is? A very bad economy.
When people are truly suffering economically and struggling to put food on the table for their families, they are more apt to accept less democracy if they believe it will help ease the pain.
And alarmingly, history has taught us that includes accepting the persecution of those who the authoritarian leader deems to be the enemy of the people – be it a free press, religious minorities, immigrants, etc. In her eye-opening book, Albright details example after example of this from leaders in the modern era such as Vladimir Putin and the late Hugo Chavez to historic figures such as Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler.
So despite Maher’s view, history tells us that a strong economy is actually our best hope against Trump’s worst, undemocratic instincts. Conversely, if we entered a recession and millions were out of work and desperate, Trump might see broad support for his authoritative impulses against a free press and his political opponents.
Now, Maher is correct that the economy is going pretty well, but what he’s also missing is that recent polls, such as the one from NBC-WSJ released Thursday, found people were far more likely to support a candidate who will be a check on Trump rather than someone who supports him.
And that same poll found that while nearly 60% of Americans are “satisfied” with the economy, the percentage of Americans who say they plan to vote Democratic in the midterm election rose from 40% in April to 50% now.
People clearly have concerns about Trump and what he would do without checks to his power, especially since, for the most part, GOP leaders have been silent.
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To prevail in 2018 and beyond, progressives don’t need the economy to collapse. They need to appeal to Americans on their concerns about Trump, from his bigotry and alarming temperament to the issues on which he has failed to deliver. The top issue, based on the NBC-WSJ poll, is health care.
Trump promised numerous times to provide health care for all Americans but has failed horribly.
In fact, Trump’s support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate will result in millions losing insurance coverage, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
If Maher truly wants to help America, then he shouldn’t wish for our fellow Americans to suffer. That’s not only abhorrent, it’s dangerous, given what we know about Trump and history.