A couple of Thursday nights ago, Comedy Central comedian Stephen Colbert announced on his nightly talk show “The Colbert Report” his intention to explore a presidential bid in South Carolina. Not an avid Colbert watcher myself, I heard about the curious news the following night on “The Daily Show” hosted by Colbert’s bestie and self-proclaimed business partner, Jon Stewart. I remember thinking “Is he serious?” and searching Google News for the truth.
Let’s face it, sometimes you can’t immediately tell if the Comedy Central late-night sweethearts are summoning satire if you’re not totally up-to-date with the political coverage of the campaign season that is heating up. After reading more about Colbert’s presidential run (which is fake) and “The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC” (which is real), it’s hard to discern the comedians’ wiggling eyebrows as their smirks say “Ha, isn’t this ridiculous what I am saying to you right now?”
This is a case in which King Colbert has asked for too much of Americans with only a casual or minimal interest in politics. Colbert’s “campaign” team can’t assume that the average American will know that Colbert can’t actually run for president in the correct sense because his pseudo-candidacy came too late (among other things), even for a write-in ballot. The Unaware of Colbert population possibly won’t understand his mock support of former front-runner Herman Cain, who in fact dropped out of the race in December.
Cain agreed to participate in the “Rock Me like a Herman Cain: South Cain-olina Primary Rally” on Jan. 20, which broadcast Colbert’s apparent support of the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO. According to some, like Mitch Potter of the Washington Bureau, Cain somehow remains unaware that he is the butt of a very clever joke. According to other sources like ABC News, Cain is apparently in on the joke but is politely using the opportunity to show Americans he can “lighten up.”
The gamble, perhaps unsurprisingly, failed, when the Cain/Colbert ticket garnered only 1 percent of the vote in the South Carolina primary, according to another Politico.com post. Although I’m still unsure as to whether the Colbert campaign considers this to be a failure, because the actual desired result of the slightly outrageous bid is unknown, at least to me.
One meaty component of Colbert’s campaign is the “The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC,” a poke at the fairly new use of Super PACs in election campaigns.
A PAC, or Political Action Committee, is ostensibly a group of people organized to raise money for an individual candidate’s campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’s website. The recent rise of the Super PAC means a new kind of group created July 2010 that can raise and spend basically unlimited money for campaigns.
Colbert let his pal Jon Stewart take over, thereby showing how convenient it can be to sidestep legal limitations. Stewart, proclaimed “President For Life For Ever” of the Colbert Super PAC, continues to let air out of the PAC balloon by making obvious mockeries of the PAC system. His Jan. 17 program showed Stewart sporting a jeweled crown while Mario Batali prepared (and ate) a frittata con le erbe, all in the name of independent campaign expenditures.
Colbert is hoping that citizens of the Colbert Nation are educated enough to know that a tiara and fancy egg dish represent the ridiculous idea that Stewart, while technically not “coordinating” with Colbert, can spend excessive amounts of cash in the name of the PAC. Viewers are meant to watch and hear this while simultaneously understanding that the self-proclaimed faux newsmen are throwing America a clever lampoon.
What I don’t think they counted on was that the American public simply isn’t as educated about the political election process as our forefathers once hoped. I’m not saying this applies to everyone, for sure, this is when political science students have their field day. It’s almost easier to watch Colbert’s fake run for president and turn that into our reality because he speaks to us in a language we better understand. It is sometimes impossible to follow the Republican presidential nominations as closely as Colbert and Stewart might hope, especially the financial aspects of the campaign processes.
The stint ended Monday night during “The Colbert Report” when the funnyman said, “It is with a heavy heart and a spastic colon that I’m re-suspending Herman Cain’s suspended campaign. Also, I’m hereby officially ending my exploratory committee to run for the president of the United States of South Carolina.”
So this pseudo presidential run is more than just a joke. Colbert and Stewart (and the Comedy Central team, I’m sure) have bridged comedy and a real political process in an unprecedented way to spread knowledge to Generation Y. The efforts of the short-lived “Colbert for President of the United States of South Carolina” quasi-campaign remain to be seen.