Bill Maher explains why incivility during SOTU addresses is 'the canary in the coal mine' for US democracy
Bill Maher (Photo of Bill Maher via HBO)

Political comedian Bill Maher of "Real Time" on HBO, has been warning that U.S. democracy is in a state of crisis thanks to the MAGA movement and far-right Republicans who refuse to accept democratic election results they don't like. As Maher sees it, the type of authoritarian mindset one sees in figures like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can also be found in MAGA Republicans who refuse to accept Joe Biden as a legitimately elected president.

Maher has been arguing that the U.S. dodged a major bullet when Republican Kari Lake (who lost to Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs) and many other like-minded election denialists were defeated in the 2022 midterms. But he also believes that U.S. democracy is far from out of the woods. During a commentary aired on Friday, February 17, Maher pointed to incivility during presidential State of the Union addresses as symptomatic of the threats that democracy is facing in the U.S.

"When someday soon, an actual brawl breaks out on the floor of Congress, don't say I didn't tell you it was coming," Maher told viewers. "And, oh yes, it's coming."

The "Real Time" host went on to show clips of actual fistfights during parliamentary sessions in other countries, followed by clips of booing and heckling during State of the Union addresses by U.S. presidents — including the heckling that President Joe Biden experienced from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and other MAGA Republicans during his recent SOTU speech. Maher said of Greene, "Honey, sit down. This is Congress, not the Waffle House at 3 in the morning."

Maher added, "As far as democracy goes, this stuff is the canary in the coal mine…. Here's who doesn't have parliament fights: countries with authoritarian rulers, because they just wouldn't allow it…. And the other kind of country that doesn't throw punches: real democracies like we used to be."

Maher stressed that when lawmakers are literally punching one another in the face, that is not a full-fledged dictatorship — not yet anyway — but is definitely a democracy in crisis.

"The places where fights break out are the places that aren't sure which one they are," Maher warned. "And that's where we're headed."

New Rule: Parliament Fights | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)