The definitely-not-coordinating-with-Stephen-Colbert super article

Elana Katz

A comedian can really hit their stride in an election year. Suddenly, jokes are writing themselves and flooding in each day, make the possibilities endless. Sketch shows and stand-ups thrive off of the material, but no comedian can satirize the election quite the way Stephen Colbert does.

As if the 2012 primaries, particularly the race for the GOP nomination, needed to get any more ridiculous, enter Colbert to give new meaning to the word. Involving himself in the election is nothing new for the comedian, but this time it has been difficult to tell if America is in on the joke or not.

It started as satire on the campaign finance system.

In the summer of 2011, he formed a super PAC. Not a fake one used for fake segments, but an actual, entirely legal super PAC. For those unaware of what this is, super PACs were made legal in 2010 and are allowed to raise unlimited funds from any group, corporation, or individual. Colbert named his super PAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” and has been collecting funds from fans ever since with no real goal in sight other than urging voters in Iowa to vote for “Rick Parry, with an A.” Colbert was no longer just a staple on fake news programs, but on the real news as well.

It was not until a couple of weeks ago that he started to get more personal with Indecision 2012.

Colbert has “campaigned” before, but this year’s interest in putting his name on the ballot arrived when it was discovered that he was suddenly polling at 5% without even trying in South Carolina (his home state), 1% higher than actual nominee at the time, John Huntsman. With an ego as big as Colbert’s, it was no time before the comedian announced his decision to “form an exploratory committee” to consider running for “President of South Carolina.”

There was a flaw in his plan, though: a candidate cannot legally be coordinating with a Super PAC, let alone be in control of one. In order to legally “explore the possibilities,” Colbert decided the only option was to give up control of his Super PAC. Who better to take the reigns than his show’s predecessor, former boss, friend, and business partner (running a combination bagel shop/travel agency, From Shmear to Eternity, naturally), Jon Stewart?

Stewart, of course, graciously agreed and, with the help of a lawyer, the power was transferred. The Super PAC was renamed “The Definitely-Not-Coordinating-with-Stephen Colbert Super PAC” and Colbert could officially campaign for President…or whatever he was running for.

It was not long before Stewart was contemplating how to spend the large sum of money now suddenly in his hands. One of Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond tiaras, perhaps? It was a nice thought, but the money was probably much better spent on the four ads ran in South Carolina.

It was after the first two ads ran (one of which was narrated by Jon Lithgow and accused Mitt Romney of being a serial killer) that Colbert received some bad news: it was too late to be put on the South Carolina primary ballot. This, however, brought up something else interesting: because it could no longer be changed, this meant that Herman Cain, who had already dropped out of the race, would still appear on it. Seeing this as an opportunity, Colbert announced to his viewers that if they voted for Cain on January 21, he would take it as a sign that they wanted him to run.

This launched another super PAC ad with a different message: a vote for Herman Cain was a vote for Stephen Colbert.

Things appeared to be going smoothly when polls revealed that Colbert was polling at 36%, the highest of all the nominees and one percent above then-front-runner Romney.

The so-called campaign got more ridiculous when Colbert held a rally Friday in South Carolina called “Rock Me like a Herman Cain, South Cain-Olina Primary Rally” It was one of the biggest rallies of the election and Cain was in full support, for the most part. While he discouraged voters from voting for him and wasting a vote, he did agree that, “America needs to lighten up.”

If there was one bit that stood out, it was after Colbert recalled everything that his super PAC did toward his “campaign,” announcing, “If that is a joke, then our entire campaign finance system is a joke.”

When it came to the actual primary, the rally was not enough. While Cain earned 6,324 votes- higher than “all the nominees who were no longer trying to win”- it only added up to 1% of vote, nothing compared to Newt Gingrich’s 40%.

Colbert took to his show Monday night to announce his official end for the presidential bid, news that made more than a few political pundits happy. Not everyone was laughing, as many felt he was influencing voters to view the election as a joke. Colbert I. King of the Washington Post shared his opinions, arguing that, “too much has gone into getting the right to vote to treat the ballot like a game.”

Colbert is hardly the first or only one to treat it like a game. Gingrich left not one, but two terminally ill wives for other women while Romney claims to be relatable, yet is making $10,000 bets at debates. We’re expected to be okay with behavior like that, yet Colbert’s actions are too much? It’s hard to believe that anyone would blame him for making mockery of the entire thing.

So, did Colbert actually accomplish anything? It’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever have a chance at a real bid for office, but he certainly has the attention of the public. The Colbert that viewers see on TV is nothing more than a beautifully crafted character intended to poke fun at the Republican Party. Whether his fans agree with him or not, there’s no doubt that the public is more informed about the campaign finance system thanks to him.

Herman Cain’s biggest contribution the election thus far might just be explaining that America needs to lighten up. Cain might be the one blatantly saying it, but Colbert will be the one heavily implying it for many elections to come.