Thursday night on his popular television program, Stephen Colbert hinted at a run for president. Or, more precisely, he announced that he was “forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for [his] possible candidacy for the presidency of the United States of South Carolina.”
For all the hopeful Colbert-for-president fans out there, the bad news first: it’s probably not going to happen. At least not on the GOP ticket.
He failed to meet the deadline to get his name on the ballot and there are no write-in candidates in South Carolina. That’s of little concern to Colbert the candidate. He’s running not so much for the Oval Office. His campaign is targeted at teaching the country a lesson.
Colbert wants the country to know about Super PACs, the sometimes-convoluted groups allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. For months now, Colbert and Trevor Potter, the former FEC chairman and the comedian’s acting attorney, have been systematically informing the country about the creation, funding and functions of the Super PAC.
Playing straight man to Colbert’s faux-straight man, Potter first appeared on Colbert’s show to explain the formation of Colbert’s Super PAC back in June.
As The Post’s Opinion writer Erik Wemple said, Colbert “proved that serious journalism is no match for our campaign finance laws. Satire is the only way to appreciate them.”
Colbert’s campaign follows a tradition of civic lessons taught through comedy. Just look back to the thickline animation and funky scores of Schoolhouse Rock.
The methods are being adopted by others trying to educate audiences in a fractured, cacophonous media landscape. In 2010, the libertarian Mercatus Center helped create a dueling economic rap between actors portraying John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayak. The video has been seen by over 3 million people on youtube and spawned a followup debate/rap video that has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times.
Factchecking Web site FactCheck.org has recently launched a comedic sister site Flackcheck.org that employs comedy writers who have worked for the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. The writers have created skits and games that show how quickly seemingly benign candidate claims can be shown to be inaccurate.
As for Colbert, he may not move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue anytime soon, but he’ll still have plenty of time to stump this election year. He’ll also have help. Thursday night, Colbert signed over control of the Super PAC to his colleague, and business partner, but someone he is “definitely not coordinating” with: Jon Stewart.