Recently, after realizing that he was polling at five percent in South Carolina, Stephen Colbert announced that he would form an exploratory committee to decide if he should run for President of the United States in the South Carolina primary.
Colbert announced this decision on his show “The Colbert Report” after signing his Super Political Action Committee over to fellow comedian Jon Stewart.
A Super PAC, according to the Houston Chronicle, “can collect unlimited and undisclosed individual, union and corporate contributions to back chosen candidates.” This allows for anonymous corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money on political campaigns.
As long as Colbert does not “coordinate” — a term that is eerily vague — with Stewart, his former Super PAC can fund a limitless amount of media supporting Colbert’s possible campaign, or bashing any opposing candidates.
Colbert’s actions are drawing much-needed attention to Super PACs and corporations’ heavy influence on elections. According to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations are legally considered as people. Therefore, corporations also have the First Amendment right to free speech. If they choose to express their “speech” with donations and ad campaigns, so be it.
To most citizens, I hope, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling seems completely idiotic. Corporations are not people, and should not have the rights granted to them. Human rights guaranteed in the constitution are just those — human. By allowing corporations the right to freedom of speech, the Supreme Court is hampering the voice of the unincorporated, everyday citizen.
That being said, Colbert’s satire raises several extremely valid points:
1. None of the Republican candidates are exciting.
2. Corporations should not be able to buy elections through the use of Super PACs.
3. Many citizens trust him, a comedian, more than they do any politician or news source.
Why hasn’t traditional news media raised the issue of Super PACs prior to Colbert’s prompting? Why did it take a satirist to bring attention to this extremely important and relevant topic?
Colbert’s work channels a feeling that most citizens now hold, a feeling that American politics have become a joke. Many citizens, including myself, now feel that politicians are so far removed from the realm of the voter that they are not moving us forward, but are instead hampering that progressive movement.
Only in this dire political climate could Colbert’s possible campaign be newsworthy and exciting, or even plausible. The recent South Carolina poll placed him ahead of Republican candidate Jon Huntsman — who has since withdrawn from the race. Citizens clearly agree with the theme of Colbert’s satire.
So what happens if he is successful in South Carolina? If he got a significant percentage of the vote, would other politicians take note, would they get the hint? I would really like to hope that they would, but I doubt it. The media and politicians would chalk off Colbert’s success as a fluke, a prank pulled by college students — and that’s a shame.