Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
John Oliver
John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

John Oliver knew he was playing catchup on Sunday, tweeting this hours before airtime:

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Not that his chosen weekly topic wasn’t important. That being vote-by-mail and the reasons why Republicans and their Fox News operatives are vein-throbbingly invested in pushing conspiracy theories about the suddenly alleged shocking insecurity of a system that’s been in place since the Civil War, that one in four Americans used in the last two federal elections, and that Donald Trump himself took advantage of in the last several out-of-state contests. It’s just that, as Oliver noted in passing in his pre-taped remarks about the various actual crises the country is dealign with, the police murder of yet another unarmed black man has sent Americans into the streets in unprecedented numbers. (And reportedly sent Donald Trump scurrying to his panic room while flipping the White House lights off like he’s worried those darned trick-or-treaters will TP his shrubbery.)

And while Oliver will no doubt serve as America’s antidote to hyperbolically race-baiting Fox News bullshit about the protests (and mainstream media pearl-clutching about vandalized Starbucks), his main story on Sunday addressed the very real looming disaster that’s shaping up to be the 2020 presidential election. Not because the rise in calls for coronavirus-preventing mail-in voting is, as the likes of Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, and the fussy-at-being-fact-checked Trump, a recipe for widespread voter fraud by those wily Democrats. To that spurious point, Oliver pointed to Oregon, whose 2 million mail-in votes last time found a whopping 54 cases of suspected fake ballots. (That .002 percent is just a hair inside the margin of error.) Nope, because, as Oliver laid out with customary cheeky aplomb, Trump and his GOP cronies are getting the growing sense that—without a conspiracy-fueled plot to keep COVID-cautious voters from taking part in this safe and overwhelmingly secure alternative to cramming into enclosed spaces with hundreds of others—they are looking well and truly fucked.

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Oliver responsibly noted that there are issues with mail-in voting (citing the needs of the disabled and those on Indian reservations and in rural areas), but he also pointed out that, while mail-in voting has never been shown to help one party over another, the sudden, flop-sweaty push to depict this already in-use adjunct to the democratic process as a shady scam to keep Donald Trump from a second term is transparently false. Oliver showed how an unprepared Wisconsin’s choice to close down all but five of Milwaukee’s 180 polling places in the recent primary (that’s 2.8 percent of available polling places) left one line-standing and mask-wearing Wisconsin voter angrily telling lawmakers, “Stop playing politics with our lives.” And that’s just it—Republicans are traditionally the only party that tries to keep people from voting, and no deadly and highly contagious virus is going to stop them from doing that this time. Now, just spitballing, that could be because the GOP knows that its blinkered, bigoted, venal agenda is dying along with its aging demographic and that only by rigging the game do they stand a chance of clinging to power by any means necessary. Or, as Oliver showed Tucker Carlson stating, maybe it’s because they’re so concerned with the sanctity of the election system that they’re fighting tooth-and-nail to block every election security bill that comes across “grim reaper” Mitch McConnell’s desk. Oliver, engaging in a sotto voce debate with Carlson’s typically bad-faith propaganda, concluded, “Go fuck yourself, you human boat shoe,” so he’s pretty much picked a side.

Still, John Oliver is all about solutions. Preferably (of late), small, sticky ones. That’s why—in addition to ignoring the patent nonsense coming out of Trump’s mouth and finally flagged Twitter account—you can get your very own “I voted by mail” stickers, courtesy of Last Week Tonight. (There are four home-voting alternatives to replace that adhesive in-person emblem, which is the only thing most people will miss about trudging into an armpit-smelly elementary school gymnasium on election day.) And, hey, if you want to really stick it to Carlson (as Oliver says, the best reason to do anything), you can mail in your ballot with one of the still-available, Post Office-aiding Last Week Tonight stamps while you do it.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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