In the final few weeks leading up to November 8, Last Week Tonight has increased the amount of time it's devoted to issues surrounding this year's election. Sunday's episode was no different, with the main focus aimed at third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.
Donald Trump's antics were the topic of the first segment of the episode, and, after the antics of, allegations against, and dangerous comments made by the Republican nominee this week, viewers really couldn't expect anything less. Oliver pointed out how "irritating" it is that Trump has dominated the news, given other aspects of this election, such as the information WikiLeaks has released regarding Hillary Clinton's emails. But, as Oliver pointed out, "it's hard to pay attention to that when the man who could be come President is just one unearthed 90s Teen People interview away from being on a sex offender registry".
Trump's comments aren't really that surprising, given that, earlier in the week, he proclaimed that his "shackles" have been removed, allowing him to run his campaign as he wished in light of the growing number of GOP party members who are speaking out against him. Oliver mentioned how perfect the metaphor was, given that "shackles" call to mind both "Frankenstein's monster and a rabid dog".
Oliver highlighted the conspiracy theories Trump is spreading at his rallies, saying "that. is. not. the. kind. of. thing. that. a. presidential. candidate. says." Not only is it a little "tinfoil hat" for a presidential candidate, it's also potentially dangerous. One of the most fundamental aspects of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power, not one made amid allegations of rigged elections.
The segment ended with a clip of Trump telling his supporters that he has gladly suffered the "slings and arrows" of a surprisingly vile campaign on their behalf. Oliver summed it up quite accurately:
"He sees himself as lone, persecuted saviour, who started out in construction, who is suffering on behalf of his followers, and who will one day take them to heaven. We have known for a while that Trump believes himself to be the second coming of Christ, but it turns out he might mean that literally. The only real differences is that, with Christ, we think 'what would Jesus do?', whereas, with Trump, we think 'Jesus! What the fuck did you just do?!'"
The main segment took aim at third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. Setting aside the fact that many believe voting for a third party candidate is splitting the vote in a way that will result with an unfavourable outcome, there are those who want these candidates to be treated seriously. In that light, Last Week Tonight examined Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party leader Jill Stein, giving them the serious attention they deserve. He speculated that the result of growing disillusionment in the main two candidates has been a rise in the popularity of third party candidates and asserted that, if they are going to be considered as alternatives to the two major parties, their policies and politics should be subject to the same close examination.
They began by discussing Jill Stein. Stein has a broad appeal with policies intended to help expand LGBTQ rights and to reduce income inequality. Unfortunately, when you examine her proposed policies with any level of detail, they seem to fall apart. Key aspects such as legality and funding have often been overlooked in a rush to present the public with an appealing policy. Oliver likened Stein's proposal to eradicate student debt with Trump's border wall -- a policy that sits at the cornerstone of her popularity but crumbles under the weight of fact checking or examination. For starters, the manner in which Stein proposes to wipe out this amount of debt can't actually be used in that exact way; so, right out of the gate, Stein is without the means to enact a policy that is pivotal to her campaign. While the government was able to bail out Wall Street using quantitative easements, it was by no means a "magic trick", and the same means simply cannot be used to wipe out trillions of dollars of student debt. To allege otherwise is to demonstrate a shocking misunderstanding of federal laws, and to pass of that lack of knowledge by using cutesy terminology, such as equating a complex element of the United States tax code with a "magic trick", could be misleading to her voters. Oliver argued that voters deserve to know exactly how she plans to enact this particular campaign promise and that, by failing to do so, she is indeed fulfilling the "Trump's wall" analogy.
Oliver also took issue with the manner in which Stein seemed to pander to conspiracy theorists, showing one example of her seemingly entertaining a 911 truther. He also highlighted her ambitious statements on recent political issues. For example, following the EU Brexit vote, she changed her statement from calling it "a victory" to saying that she supported the "UK Greens who supported staying in the EU". The two statements are mutually exclusive, and it's hard to tell which one she actually meant -- was the second one a result of self-reflection or outside pressure? Her statements on whether vaccines cause autism have also left the door open to speculation. Whereas she once held a firm statement, agreeing that there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, she changed her position to read that she isn't "aware of any evidence" that link the two. While the amended statement may not seem that much different, in the scientific community, it speaks volumes. Holding a firm view that one does not affect the other is drastically different than seemingly being open to the concept.
One last piece of Jill Stein trivia Oliver and the team at Last Week Tonight wanted to pass along to viewers was her career as a folk singer. He played a few songs, including one amazing environmental folk-rap. This entire segment is worth watching if only for those brief clips of her music career.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was the focus of the rest of the segment, with Oliver holding him and his cornerstone policies up to the same scrutiny as Stein. Johnson, "a man who, in most photographs, looks like he's about eighty percent sure that he's running for president' has been polling at about six percent. He does have quite a few policies that many agree with, such as legalizing marijuana and demilitarizing the police. Unfortunately, scratch just below the surface, and you'll find that many of these policies fall apart. In quite a few cases, a fundamental misunderstanding of tax law, just as with Stein, seems to be the cause. In one particular case, Johnson even criticized a reporter for asking an in-depth question about how he proposed to follow through with one of his tax policies.
Oliver wrapped up the segment agreeing with those who have argued that elections should be about choice:
"When people say you don't have to choose the lesser of two evils, they are right. You have to choose the lesser of four. Anyone who goes into a voting booth on November 8th and comes out saying 'I feel 100% great about what I just did in there' is either lying to themselves or did something unspeakable in that booth."
"We start off with the 2016 Election, or, as it's better known 'I don't even believe in past lives, but I must have done something really fucking terrible in a past life to deserve this I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry 2016'"
"Now, two weeks ago, I told you that if you could look up, you would see rock bottom. Then, last week I told you that if you looked up, you could see the place we were a week ago. Well, this week, if you look up all you can see is the thin plywood boards surrounding us on all sides because we are in a coffin, and we are buried alive in the horror that is this election."
"Our main segment is, unfortunately, also the 2016 Election, or, as it's better known, 'Lice on rats on a horse corpse on fire 2016'"
"...leaving the door open for doubt, and fucking measles!"
"I'm not sure if he was doing that with his tongue on purpose or if Gary Johnson's tongue just decided, 'fuck it, I'm done' and tried to escape through his mouth."
You can watch the main segment on third party candidates below. Last Week Tonight will return next Sunday at 11:00 pm on HBO.