When the going gets silly, the silly get going. Stephen Colbert, the ultimate exercise in personal branding gone horribly amok, is possibly running for President. The reigns of Colbert SuperPAC have been turned over to Jon Stewart, who immediately asked the most important question – “Does anybody know where the key to the Super PAC bathroom is?”
It had to be turned over to Jon because what matters in SuperPacLand is that there is no “coordination” between the candidate and the PAC. If that seems awkward, consider that “awkward” is a synonym for “uncoordinated”, so there you go. And now Colbert is free to pursue an exploratory campaign to possibly run for President, maybe.
That’s what our political system is today – a kind of performance art.
It might seem trivial to care about what Colbert does, but without placing his name on the ballot in his native South Carolina a poll had him at 5%, ahead of John Huntsman. That was before he ran any nasty ads accusing his opponents of … well, I don’t know what he might accuse everyone else of, but tradition dictates that South Carolina ads should be nasty. It’s a “thing”.
It smells like a protest as to how ridiculous things are in the wake of the “Citizens United” ruling which entitled corporations to the same free speech as people. It doesn’t operate quite like one because Colbert is only creating mayhem in the election process. In many ways, Colbert actually maybe running for President sort-of dilutes the clear parody, but it also gives him something to promote with his supposedly large amount of dough. Jon Stewart’s new PAC is buying ads all over South Carolina at a pace that rivals any of the real candidates, so we’ll have to watch what happens.
Why care? What makes this a topic worthy of a blog or press or any notice at all? Because the more attention we can give this the more it is clear that the “process” we have now is silly and stupid and really makes no sense whatsoever. It has always been designed for clowns and sock puppets and more than a few freaks as a kind of traveling circus – we just put up with them because the press made it all sound so serious and important.
But today, we have the not-press, the comedians who feed the straightlines to the politicos as much as the other way ’round so that the jokes can just roll from there. Colbert is simply exploiting this rich vein of comedy to the point where it becomes something like a public service. At least, as long as he doesn’t get a big head and think that people actually want him to be President or something. And he’s making it clear to everyone – no, this really isn’t serious or important.
So if our system is really a broken self-parody, what should we do about it? Colbert doesn’t have the answers, but he is asking the right questions. These are the important questions about the role of unlimited money without any reporting where it comes from – the kind of questions that come right after you’re definitely sure where the bathroom is.
Where will it go from here? It is probably far too late for Colbert to actually get on the ballot in South Carolina, but we might expect a strong write-in showing. If the Ron Paul people are capable of creating mayhem on the floor of the Republican Convention, imagine what a few delegates from ColbertNation could do? It should only get sillier from here. But why not? It’s been silly for years but no one was willing to call it for what it is. As the PAC is actually named in a very proper FEC registration, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” may yet deliver just that. But today, we get to have some fun.