Democrats have to take partial responsibility for the controversial election of Rep. George Santos (R-NY) as he played into their tradition of “identity politics,” according to political commentator Bill Maher.
“Everybody keeps asking, ‘How could a guy like this get elected?’ I’ll tell you how: Because no one cares anymore about substance. It’s all tribalism,” Maher said on his show Real Time during the first episode of 2023.
“The only thing that matters is ‘Is he on our team? Is he doing our shtick?’” he added.
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Maher said the embattled lawmaker knew how to appeal to both sides of the aisle, especially appealing to the Democrats’ love of “victimhood.”
But even as the politician’s lies caught up with him, the talk show host said Santos learned that people tend to tune out “what doesn’t fit their narrative” and has largely been able to “get away with it.”
“Of course, we’ve seen liars before … but it was always about tacking from the extreme to the center of your own party,” Maher said.
Santos has been under the microscope after his lies caught up to him, including his assertions regarding his property ownership, that he graduated from college, worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, had grandparents who fled Europe to escape the Holocaust, and is Jewish.
He has also faced allegations of check fraud in Brazil and campaign finance violations and is under federal and local investigations for claims he made during his campaign.
Many House Republicans, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), have kept their support behind Santos thus far, adding that if the violations turn out to be true, there would be a discussion of whether or not he should be removed from office.
Despite growing calls for Santos to resign, the New York Republican has been tapped to serve on two committees in the 118th Congress, including the House Small Business Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
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Maher pointed out that Santos was able to use his claims of being gay and a person of color to attract Democrats and his alleged support of former President Donald Trump to appeal to Republicans.
“Everyone saw in George Santos what they wanted to see,” he said.
“Republicans love a winner, and Democrats love someone whose life story makes you want to kill yourself,” Maher added.