|Colbert is exposing US voters to the ‘auction our politics has become’ by running in South Carolina [GALLO/GETTY]|
Columbus, Ohio – Political satire, from the time of Aristophanes through the not-always-safe-for-work (and oft hysterical) programming produced by Seth MacFarlane, has played an important role in shaping political thought throughout the ages. In a time when the ombudsman of The New York Times has to ask whether journalists should report actual facts, or just relay what they are, according to the likes of Rick Santorum and his sweater vest, it has become essential.
That is why what Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are doing with their “Super PAC” is not only extremely funny, but actually a public service at this point in our country’s democratic experiment.
Super PACS – A new media weapon
Right now, Colbert, or should I say Stewart (because coordination would be illegal, now, wouldn’t it?), is running ads in South Carolina through Colbert’s Super PAC, Americans For A Better Tomorrow-Tomorrow, using every device possible – short of playing flash-card memory games with Rick Perry – to show how unbelievably absurd our whole system has become (even claiming Stephen Colbert is Herman Cain – a nice touch).
They have exploited the very same loophole used by Richy Richs – such as the infamous clean-air hating Koch Brothers, Newt Gingrich’s sugar-daddy Sheldon Adelson and most of those on Mitt Romney’s Verizon Wireless Friends and Family plan – to give large and unregulated sums of money, or speech, to candidates, or corporations (transitive property: If candidates are people and people are corporations, well then, candidates are corporations. Somewhere Mr Bender, my 6th grade math teacher, is pretty psyched I remember this).
There is a word we used to use for this thing where corporations gave you large sums of money and you then voted in favour of their interests. It almost rhymes with “library”. Which is why, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – the last time when trusts ran the joint like they owned it – legislation was passed to rid us of this scourge on our society.
The Tillman Act of 1907 was one example. It banned corporations and nationally chartered (interstate) banks from making direct financial contributions to candidates for federal office. States such as Texas went further, prohibiting corporate giving to political parties.
Campaign finance system charade
You don’t believe me? Just ask Tom DeLay’s impending ankle bracelet or potential cellmate, “Killer”. But then came the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, overthrowing 100 years of legal precedent and cogent thinking, by making an already corrupt system resemble a poker game at Jack Abramoff’s place. And that is why we so desperately need Colbert and Stewart, because sometimes you just have to fight farce with farce.
By running, and participating in this charade our campaign finance system has become, they’re able to go beyond the funny and necessary critique they have provided of politics and the political press in the US, to playing a starring role in exposing its silliness.
In ways that are not always clear to people who have bills to pay and no time to watch every move in our corporate-political lambada, Stewart and Colbert can bring bring clarity to the issue of how easily corporations can manipulate our political process in our post-Citizens United world.
They can be “business partners” but still claim there is no coordination. They can run ads in states such as South Carolina, only limited by the moolah they raise – and these ads can say almost anything. Colbert can even run for office, as he is in South Carolina, while all this is taking place (and receiving a healthy 13 per cent in one GOP primary poll, again showing how money = name recognition = polling numbers, no matter who it is).
You really can’t make this stuff up – although, if you did, Mitt Romney could probably hide any paperwork in the Caymans for you.
A whole lot more people are going to be exposed to the auction our politics has become because of this – and perhaps that will help eventually lead to a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s ill-considered and ill-informed decision.
In the meantime, as Colbert himself said: “With your help – and with possibly the help of some outside group that I am not coordinating with – we can explore taking this country back.”
Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
You can follow him on Twitter: @cliffschecter
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.