Can someone, somewhere, please introduce Bill Maher to the concept of the Overton Window? In what was only a small portion of Friday evening's Overtime- a sitcom episode better named "Three Men Without a Clue," the conversation among Maher, journalist Sam Stein, and linguist John McWhorter turned to the benefit the guys believe the third party of Andrew Yang would be. Maher argued (at 4:28 of the video below)
Well, I think what would happen= my prediction is you could have it like a sensible middle party. And then what would happen is it would force the Democrats to go back to being the sensible middle party. And they would because they would see that's where- you know, Biden reminds me of some grandfather and when AOC and the woke people come into his office, he just goes along. He doesn't really understand it. It's like "grandpa, can we have money to go play Fortnite? And he's like "I don't know what Fortnite is. I don't know what Tik-Tok is, just get out of my hair."
The only good part of that is that, as Maher prepared to say "because they would see that's where most people are politically," he stopped himself, perhaps aware that would be inaccurate. Instead of trying to emulate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Cori Bush, President Biden has tried to emulate Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Instead of trotting out his public relations team to excoriate Joe Manchin, Krysten Sinema or any Republican, he oversaw White House communications director Kate Bedingfield remarking "Joe Biden's goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party."
And that is where Joe Biden is: the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and not only the mainstream of the Democratic Party today, which Maher believes has gone dangerously left, but the mainstream of FDR, LBJ, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. The President recently struck (but not enacted) a deal on climate, taxes, and health care, the deal was struck not with the dreaded "AOC' of New York City but with centrist Joe Manchin of robustly conservative West Virginia. The Biden Administration confirms the critique "Republicans refer to their most involved voters as 'the base,' and deliver for them, while Democrats refer to theirs as 'some activists' and ignore them. That is why they lose."
That "breakthrough" deal includes a 15% minimum corporate tax, when most Americans pay more in federal income tax; environmental reform with little resemblance to the Green New Deal; and severely limited health care reform in a nation whose ongoing coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the need for universal health care. That's not nothing but it is not sweeping, historical change, and nothing which will set Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's heart atwitter.
Democrats seem liberal, even progressive; but that is only because Republican Party officials have lurched rightward. Now, Democrats hail the daughter of Dick Cheney for her integrity, seemingly accepting a congressional voting record 92.9% in support of President Trump.
When President Biden proposed the ambitious Build Back Better plan, it included the following: universal and free pre-school; investments in child care and eldercare; expansion of Child Tax Credit; promotion of clean energy, especially in disadvantaged communities; initiatives to combat climate change; reduction of prescription drug costs; strengthening the Affordable Care Act; expansion of Medicaid; promotion of affordable housing; extending the Earned Income Tax Credit; increasing access to higher education, academic and vocational; immigration reform.
That was the President's major, arguably only, bold initiative. And yet, Bill Maher and other liberal or center-left individuals unnerved by what they perceive as a rush to the left were noticeably silent on components of Build Back Better. Often, they failed to identify even one component of the proposal with which they disagreed. And yet, they're apoplectic that Joe Biden is morphing into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or, in Maher's case, unwilling to resist any of the congresswoman's demands.
Nuances, details, even sometimes mere facts are to be avoided in favor of the broad, sweeping generalization. Honest and thoughtful disagreement should be encouraged, but has become unfamiliar territory for individuals criticizing Joe Biden from the right. Nuance, detail, sometimes mere facts are avoided in favor of the broad, seeping generalization. We should expect more from our professors of linguistics, journalists, and comedians.