Yes, he’s a funny guy, and granted, he’s a celebrity and thus already commands an absurd amount of attention and bandwidth, but we’re quite serious about our pick of Stephen Colbert as this week’s Truthdigger.
Why? Well, reviving the Cain Train, however fleetingly, was an artful trick, as was outstripping Jon Huntsman in the run-up to the South Carolina primary, but we would respectfully submit a bigger, better reason—plus, those other stunts have already spun out the other end of the news cycle.
Though South Carolina’s foremost satirist no doubt has some ratings-driven motives for staging showy antics in his home state, there was, as per usual, an earnest impulse of civic service behind Colbert’s latest pranks on a political system that all too frequently veers into self-parody without any help from the good people at Comedy Central. Announcing that he was running for president (again) was one way to demonstrate, by simple insinuation, that any clown with the requisite money and vanity could buy a chance to become this season’s hanging chad (with a follow-up book deal and a stint as Fox News pundit in the bag). And attempting to sponsor the S.C. primary was a witty strategy to point out how branding and voting are disturbingly codependent activities in this, the America of the 21st century.
But pondering these electoral object lessons now obliges us to get to the point: We think Colbert deserves the laurels this time for the work he’s done to share his platform with the unfunny problem of campaign funding gone berserk. Establishing what is now known as “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC,” thanks to a mysterious induction ceremony involving Colbert, his lawyer, Jon Stewart and intentionally bad special effects, was a deliberately confusing way to bring the Supreme Court’s scary Citizens United ruling into focus on a national scale. Certain operatives from all points along the political spectrum would do well to fixate less on crashing their fellow Americans’ commitment ceremonies and instead channel their energies into busting up the unholy marriage between money and politics over which our enrobed friends at SCOTUS presided back in 2010. Got that? Good.
Because from the look of it, loosening up the flimsy campaign finance regulations that still hung over the body politic like a cheap camisole has made way for some pretty bald and bawdy power grabs by parties with deep pockets but questionable intentions toward our civil liberties. So, although he may not be president anytime soon (or Herman Cain, for that matter), mockery might make for good policy if Colbert can make his super PAC play money talk in the preferred language of our country’s prevailing corporate politicians.
Here’s a clip of Colbert’s pre-primary speech in South Carolina from Jan. 20:
AP / Bruce Smith
Comedian and Charleston native Stephen Colbert hails the crowd during the “Rock Me Like a Herman Cain South Cain-olina Primary Rally” at the College of Charleston in South Carolina on Jan. 20.