Typically, Bill Maher begins his weekly Real Time show on HBO by telling his audience, “I know why you’re happy tonight” and then mentioning some positive news story that happened that week. This week, on the heels of the United Kingdom’s vote to “Brexit” the European Union, the host went with, “I guess you don’t have any money in the stock market.”
“The issue got hijacked by a bunch of anti-immigration isolationists who were obsessed with the idea that foreigners are stealing their jobs,” Maher said of the world-changing referendum. “Thank god something like that could never happen here.”
The point Maher was making, and would continue to push for the rest of his show, is that if the UK could be blindsided by its own people’s decision to “leave” then the same thing could happen here in America with Donald Trump. He may be trailing Hillary Clinton in most polls, but as the world learned this week, anything can happen.
Speaking with a panel that included The Daily Beast’s own Betsy Woodruff (along with Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former RNC chairman Michael Steele), Maher returned to this theme. “This is sort of a harbinger for Donald Trump,” the host said of Brexit. “These are the same issues that Trump is talking about. ‘We’re getting screwed on trade, too many immigrants,’ and they underestimated Trump, they underestimated this.”
As Woodruff pointed out, those speaking in favor of Brexit before the vote were saying “almost verbatim” what we have been hearing from Trump and the few Republican officials who publicly support him. “It’s the identical argument and it works on both sides of the pond,” she said.
Describing both movements as a new type of “conservative populism,” Maher said what it boils down to in the U.S. is, “people love their entitlements and hate Mexicans.” Noting that young people did not show up in high numbers for the UK vote, Maher added, “If they don’t show up here, welcome President Clown Meat.”
For his part, Trump has now taken credit for predicting Brexit’s success while hitting President Obama and Hillary Clinton for standing on the side of “remain.” After inexplicably spending the majority of his Scotland press conference promoting his golf course resort, Trump told reporters, “They took back their country, it’s a great thing,” adding, “people are angry all over the world.”