In the aftermath of Amazon announcing they would not locate a portion of their proposed second headquarters in New York, comedian Bill Maher took aim at Amazon (and red states) in his New Rules segment on his HBO show last week.
As anyone familiar with Maher’s work knows, he usually likes to deliver scathing jokes mixed-in with some straight talk before getting deathly serious at the end. This time was no different.
“The flyover states have become the passed-over states. That’s why red state voters are so pissed off. They don’t hate us, they want to be us. They want to go to the party. It’s like we’re the British royal family, and they’re Meghan Markle’s dad.”
“The blue parts of America are having a big prosperity party, while that big sea of red feels like their invitation got lost in the mail. And they still use the mail. They turn on the TV and all the shows take place in a few hip cities, there’s no Real Housewives of Toledo or CSI: Lubbock.”
“Our roofs have solar panels. Theirs have last year’s Christmas lights.”
“There’s no red carpets in Wyoming, and no one ever asks who you’re wearing, since the answer is always Target.”
Humor aside, Maher brought up the concept of Spatial Geographic Inequality, or in simple terms, the concept that the most affluent and best educated Americans are clustered together in just a few cities that line the eastern and western edges of America like bookends.
He’s not wrong.
When discussing the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton said, “I won the places that represent 2/3 of America’s GDP. I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, and moving forward.”
She’s not wrong.
But as Maher noted, maybe that’s a big reason why Trump’s base is obsessed with ‘owning the libs‘ since it seems the liberal coastal elites own everything else?
Comedy is a often a way of saying things that would be too painful to hear in a frank conversation. Maher claimes that these red state Trump voters don’t hate the big city liberals; they desperately want to be them. I don’t think Maher is exactly correct, or maybe he just did not have enough time to fully explain his take?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I walked to school. I walked to the mall. I walked to the local playground, or to church.
A few years ago, I was living in a small town in central Maine, roughly 4,000 people. We had a single-screen movie theater, two stoplights (though one was always set to blink), and an annual egg festival complete with a parade and floats. It was the sort of Everytown you can find duplicated over and over thousands of times in the red states of the rust belt, grain belt, and midwest.
One day, the second-largest employer in town (with roughly 400 employees) announced they were closing and moving the jobs to China and Mexico. My wife was an executive at the facility. We were able to sell our home and move south. But most in town were not. They are still there. The town will survive. It always has. And the people will survive. Mainers always do.
One thing I know for sure though is that the folks in that town do not want to be me. They want to be themselves, but the way they were when they had good-paying jobs and disposable income and their kids could have a future that did not begin with going away.
Despite the tweaks at red state residents, Maher had a bigger point:
“Amazon picked two places that didn’t need them at all. Bezos, you’re worth $130 billion, take one for the team. Stop playing cities off against one another and help a dying one come back to life.”
Amazon could have picked any area of the country and made a difference that would have changed hundreds of thousands of lives. Instead they chose New York City and Arlington/McLean, Virginia, already two of the most vibrant and affluent regions in the mid-Atlantic region.
That’s where the highest density of people with advanced degrees live. That’s were the infrastructure features (ports, highways, airports) are the best developed. That’s where Amazon’s customers and business partners are.
Of course, all the Trump fans in the media missed Maher’s point. They heard the snickering jokes which used red state rednecks as punchlines but ignored that Maher was absolutely pleading with liberals and corporate leaders to throw a lifeline to those drowning in the pool instead of bringing more fresh drinks to those lounging on the decks around the perimeter.
Megyn Kelly apparently only caught the part about higher education and income inequality, or more likely, she did not listen to a single word of it.
Michelle Malkin posted a picture of Maher from Halloween a few years back? As with Kelly, she focused only on the point about education and the income while ignoring the suggestions from Maher on how the liberals are obligated to take action to address the problem.
I could go on and on, but the tweets all seem to repeat the same thing:
“We’re not jealous of blue state liberals.”
The skit is roughly five and a half minutes long.
Care to guess how many times Maher used the word jealous in his commentary?
Yet tweet after tweet from those on the right repeats the same word as if the focus of Maher’s rant was on the jealousy of those in red states and not the left’s obligation to help level the playing field?
Comment after comment about big cities being rat-infested and having high crime rates, or having too many gun laws, and more than a few references to Maher maybe being a pedophile. And of course, no discussion from the right would be complete without a mention of faith, as it seems many in red states would rather have more churches built in their towns than more corporate campuses.
Their residents are getting older. Their communities are getting poorer. Their population is getting smaller. They are not jealous. They are scared. And they need to accept our help before it is too late.