He may no longer be running for president of the United States of South Carolina, but The Colbert Report’s hyperreal satirist (and genuine nice guy) Stephen Colbert is still educating viewers on America’s arcane political machinery, while schooling mainstream journalists on how to properly inform the citizenry. He’s participated in the democratic process by recently launching the super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and campaigning for office in both 2008 and 2012. And he’s amassed a well-funded war chest of still-unknown size, with which he plans on creating more attack ads to monkeywrench the electoral status quo, and perhaps more.
Some in Colbert Nation, including this writer, spend much time dreaming that Colbert announces a surprise third-party run for the White House. If only to further illuminate the two-party system at worst, and at best, to strike a blow for satirists and other culture jammers who should seriously think about local or national politics as a worthy side project.
“The pundits have asked if this is all a joke,” Colbert said at the College of Charleston. “And I say if they are calling being allowed to form a super PAC and collect unlimited, untraceable amounts of money from individuals, unions and corporations, and spend that money on political ads and personal enrichment, and then surrender that super PAC to one of my closest friends while I explore a run for office, if that is a joke, then they are saying that our entire campaign finance system is a joke.”
“The Yes Men come the closest to Colbert for using existing rules and structures to expose and satirize their intent,” media theorist Douglas Rushkoff told AlterNet. “Of course, Timothy Leary ran for governor of California, and Abbie Hoffman levitated the Pentagon. But Colbert is clearly on a scale that would have been hard to imagine early on.”
To accomplish his clever political gamesmanship, Colbert mashes his fluid identities (both of which command separate Wikipedia entries) into a unified force for transparency and hilarity, gliding in and out of character until he’s destabilized the situation to his advantage. It’s a much-needed merge. His various goofs have galvanized what has otherwise been depressing months of paid advertising — courtesy of CNN, Fox and MSNBC, which should really be reporting something important — for 1-percent cheerleaders like Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and worse. Even though they’ve had a mind-numbing number of “debates,” none of them, save Romney, probably have a shot at winning their own party’s primary, despite the disgraced Newt’s peaking popularity. They certainly have little chance at winning a national election against Obama, a powerhouse incumbent.
But last week, Colbert was polling nationally at 13 percent in a hypothetical presidential election between Obama and Romney, and he hasn’t even announced a run. The Republicans need him like the Democrats need more actual socialists like Bernie Sanders. But even if they, and we, can’t actually vote for him in the 2012 election, Colbert has blazed trails for present and future culture jammers seeking to derail business as usual, in politics and beyond. Here are three ways his pranks have made us stronger as a nation in a tumultuous time when we could desperately use some better press.
Uniting Citizens Against Citizens United - Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission hammered the last nail into the creaking concept of clean American elections. But it also energized Colbert’s attention, perhaps because it’s the ultimate long-running joke: A judicial ruling so ridiculous and offensive that it’s destined to rust alongside Dred Scott v. Sandford and Bush v. Gore as the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history. The best thing that can be said is that Citizens United has kicked progressive asses into action, from Scott Walker’s recall to SOPA blackouts …