Late night talk show hosts are having a moment — not because they’re excessively funny or charming or have the best guests, necessarily, but because for a certain large swath of American TV viewers, they are the new source of reason.
In a political and cultural climate that seems to swing from one extreme to the other every ten minutes, late night hosts like Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, and Seth Meyer have assumed the role of stabilizing voice of reason — taking our cultural leaders to task, wrapped in a light joke, and more and more often schooling us on the actual workings of our democracy.
Take HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. Starting off with a pretty good Chobani burn, Oliver pivoted his usual rant on the personalities running our government to look at something a little more structural. After a rant on why Trump’s attack on Syria should worry us (a lot), and a segment on all the advertisers leaving “The O’Reilly Factor” after his latest sexual harassment scandal (also a lot), Oliver spent the largest section of his show to talk about the sexy topic of Gerrymandering.
In case you didn’t know, gerrymandering is the practice of drawing voting districts to create unfair advantages for whoever happens to be drawing the lines. A rather mundane topic, but crucial to our democracy nonetheless: Oliver points out politicians on both sides of the aisle who’ve been taking advantage of these shifting boundaries for decades.
So why is this bad? Oliver offers up states like Ohio and Pennsylvania as examples: In Ohio, over 40% of the population voted for Democratic candidates, yet two thirds of the Congressional reps heading into DC were Republican. In Pennsylvania, 44% of the votes went to Democratic candidates, but 13 of their 18 districts are still represented by Republicans. This is because gerrymandering follows no agreed-upon standard of representation, which means incumbents and their parties can redraw them solely to create more votes.
Driving home the message with simpler visuals, like ice cream flavors and Juggalos, Oliver’s point is this: The current system of determining voting districts gives politicians the ultimate power to pick their voters, rather than voters picking their politicians.
We’ll hang tight while Oliver and his team craft a Fox News promo about this…
“Last Week Tonight” airs Sundays at 11 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.