On last week's episode of Real Time, Bill Maher aimed his final blistering "New Rule" at the millions of Americans who didn't bother to vote in the mid-term elections. He pointed out that the turnout on November 4th was the lowest this country has seen since 1942 and that it's probably at least partially due to the misguided view that voting just doesn't really matter anymore.
Maher explained what should be obvious to anyone not a complete idiot, namely that not all candidates are created equal and therefore if you abdicate any responsibility to your own governance, you can wind up in a situation that's a hell of a lot more dire than the worst case scenario you imagine in your head.
Early in the bit, he brings up a recent push by actor, activist and Austin Powers-on-Ketamine Russell Brand to get people to abandon the polls altogether as a means of upending the political paradigm. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole clip but the pertinent quote is highlighted below:
"Russell Brand is in the news. He's a funny guy, but he just wrote a book that's more laughable, where he tells young people not to vote because the system is so awful and so dirty that the only solution is to bring it down -- not by violence, but not by voting either. No, by some sort of spiritual awakening. Oh, for fuck's sake. Fine, you know what? Don't vote. But don't dress it up as something noble or sophisticated."
That pretty much sums it up.
Well, of course Brand is now responding to Maher's jab. During an interview with HuffPost Live, he said that he didn't care whether he offended Maher and he doubled-down on the comments in his book. "There is no point in voting, because there is no one that is representing the interests of ordinary people," he said, adding, "I'm optimistic about humanity, but Bill Maher’s been doing that job for a long time and I suppose it hasn’t made a lot of difference, so he’s probably a bit worn out."
Pardon my British, but Jesus, what a pompous twat.
It would be foolish to try to claim that money and corporate interests haven't polluted the politics of the United States and much of the West. But as Maher says, to cast a decision not to vote as some moral and righteous act -- a silent form of revolution -- is nothing more than ineffectual nihilism wrapped in a clever disguise. When it comes to politics, perfect has always been the enemy of good. And there's little that's more obnoxious or more selfish than taking it upon yourself to sacrifice the good that can be done for everyone by a decent candidate in favor of holding out for some utopian pipe dream -- certainly one that can only be achieved by just walking away and letting the system supposedly crumble (which it won't do anyway). I have no idea how many times I've said this now, but it's simple mathematics and an acceptance of political reality that getting 60% of what you want from your government is better than getting nothing you want. Worse, getting kicked in the nuts by a government that doesn't care one bit about you and is run by men and women who are actively working against your interests.
Sure, it sounds good to say that if we just stop turning the gears of the machine the machine will eventually stop. The problem is that until it grinds to a halt -- if it ever actually does -- it's going to continue rolling right over the least influential of us. It's easy to be cynical given the way things are right now, with one of the two major parties in this country refusing at all costs to do its job if it means its political enemies will be able to reap any kind of benefit. But the way to rise up against that, at least for the time being, is to vote anyone who thinks this way out of office. Sometimes it seems like an insurmountable task but it's the best option we have right now. If you're someone who doesn't think so -- someone who either doesn't care or simply can't be motivated to get up off your ass and get to the polls -- well, then you get exactly the results we saw on November 4th. You get a bunch of assholes running things. You get the keys to the kingdom turned over to the very people who've been sabotaging it from within for years.
RELATED: How's this for irony? Salon actually believes Russell Brand's "revolution" doesn't go far enough. You can read about that here.