On Friday’s episode of “Real Time,” Bill Maher used the “New Rules” segment of the show to talk about the problem of voter suppression — responsibility for which he laid squarely on the Republican Party’s shoulders. And in doing so, he said what voters are increasingly forced to go through is as if the whole electoral system has been converted into an edition of the game show “American Ninja Warrior.”
“An election is meant to eliminate candidates, not voters,” Maher said at the start of the segment. “Last week in Georgia, early voting in the wealthier white neighborhoods in Atlanta took just 15 minutes, barely enough time for the poodle in the car to get hot.”
“But voters in some Black areas stood in line for up to eight hours. In Texas, the governor decreed that there be only one ballot dropbox per county,” Maher continued, describing two very real problems. which is fine for Loving County, population 169. But Harris County, which includes a city of Houston and has 2.4 million eligible voters spread across an area larger than Rhode Island — also got one box.”
Maher noted some of the needlessly complex mail0in ballot schemes in some states as further examples, and then made it clear that these attacks on people’s right to vote are absolutely not bipartisan in nature. “For people who say both parties are basically the same: voter suppression is the starkest example that that’s not true. This is 100% a Republican thing,” he said.
“They know their policies aren’t as popular, so they came up with an effective time-tested political tactic called cheating,” Maher continued. “I can’t make you want to vote for me, but maybe I can keep you from voting for the other guy. That’s their credo. May the best man lose anyway. The other night I was watching one of those obstacle course shows, you know, the ones where a contestant has to get across a terrain of giant bouncy balls and slippery balance beams, and swing on frigging ropes like Tarzan.”
And that’s when he got to the “American Ninja” metaphor. “Then it occurred to me while watching this, watching Ricardo lose his grip on a foam roller, that this is exactly what our voting system has turned into. It’s ‘American Ninja Warrior: Democracy Edition.'”
Maher described this situation like so:
“Try to move forward without getting knocked off the voter rolls. Match your wits and physical prowess in our most challenging steeplechases, like The Eliminator — where you show up to vote only to find your polling place has been closed. Splish splash, you’re taking a bath.” (Read more about that here.)
“Or then there’s The Excruciator, where you finally find your polling place, but the line is hours long because they’ve shut down all the other polling places, and your precinct has been given the old broken voting machines. Kerplunk.” (Read more about that here.)
“The Mis-Identifier, where you finally get to the front of that line that you’ve been waiting in for hours and they tell you that you have the wrong ID. Hope you can swim!” (Read more about that here.)
“The Monkeywrench, where you say, ‘OK, fine, I’ll mail in my ballot’ only to find they removed the only in mailbox the neighborhood. (Read more about that here.)”
“And finally, brand new this year, try to stay dry when going up against The Obstructor. Where you say ‘f– it, I’ll just drop off my mail-in ballot at a designated drop-off box only to find there’s only one for 2.4 million people. Wah wah. (Read more about that here.)”
“It’s amazing how brazen Republicans have become in owning voter suppression,’ Maher continued. “Back in March when Democrats were pushing for a vote by mail, same-day registration and early voting, Trump — because he’s a poker player who always tells you his hand — said this would result in ‘levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.’ Well, not quite, but yes, more people vote for Democrats. A process known as ‘counting.'”
Maher then used the example of North Carolina state congressman David Lewis, who in 2016 justified the state’s absurdly gerrymandered voter districts in surprisingly honest terms, saying “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats, so I drew this map in a way to help.”
Maher joked in response that “it must have been such a relief for a cheater like that to stop pretending that there was a good reason for their cheating and just say it. Like when mom finally admits that the Hitachi Magic Wand isn’t for her back.”
“Well, here’s my message to the cheaters. I’ve always preached on this show that you can hate Trump, you can’t hate his supporters. I meant it then and I mean it now. But that goes out the window if you steal from me. My vote is a thing of value. You steal it, I do hate you,” Maher said.
“Because that’s not ‘we see the world differently, our politics are different,'” Maher said as he wrapped up the bit. “That’s ‘you’re a crook, a thief and a schmuck.’ Elections are supposed to be free and fair, not wet and wild. And if you wait eight hours to vote, when you get out of the booth you deserve to do this.” At that, he played a clip of an “American Ninja Warrior” contestant celebrating.
Check out the whole thing in the video at the top.