The unforeseen junctures of the campaign trail
By Ryan McBee
With the political season nearly in full-swing, it’s time for us all to kick back and bask in the glory of our political leaders as they rise to the top of the proverbial crème and make outrageous promises that will flare out faster than a roman candle in the patriotic humidity of early July. At this point, the ‘08 campaign trail seems best exemplified by Mr. Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, who recently announced his official entry into the 2008 Presidential election. The initial announcement came on The Daily Show, and was thought to be a hoax. But, in Colbert’s words, “This is not a dream that you are going to wake up from.”
Recently, Mr. Colbert appeared with Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press to discuss his new role as Presidential hopeful. In the interview, he explained to Mr. Russert his reasoning behind throwing his hat into the Presidential ring:
“I’m doing it, Tim, because I think that our country is facing unprecedented challenges in the future,” Mr. Colbert said. “I think the junctures that we face are both critical and unforeseen, and the real challenge is how we will respond to these junctures, be they critical, or God help us, unforeseen.”
(nytimes.com, “'Daily Show' Personality Gets His Own Platform”, 10.22.07)
All belly-laughter aside, Colbert is just the latest example of the power of the “Comedy Central vote”; i.e., the authority pundits like Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show’s John Stewart have come to wield over the political opinions/beliefs of the 18 – 28(ish) demographic - who, quite frankly, seem to have given up all together on “traditional media.” Instead, many have turned to more entertaining cable-resources the likes of The Colbert Report to have their opinions formed in a very “witty” and “smart” format. The real genius of this equation is that Stewart and Colbert can go onto traditional news shows and criticize until their tongues go dry and begin to crack and bleed, because they are simply “comedians” who host “comedy shows.” Colbert may have just lost this claim. This cute little duo has proven time and again that satire can be the greatest weapon of all. I’d be willing to put money on Stewart getting 10% of the vote if he decided to make a legitimate run at the White House.
Couple all of this with the growing influence of the Internet as a legitimate news source, and the numbers for most network news shows have consequently fallen off a very well-defined cliff. And the divide that has subsequently formed between potential viewers and network execs seems to be ever-widening with each network broadcast. How desperate have the networks become in their attempts to recapture viewers? Well, Russert gave Mr. Colbert 15 minutes of face-time on a show known for serious political discussion by the 'legitimate' talking-heads.
So, where’s Ralph Nader when you need him? If anything, maybe Colbert can make this upcoming election a bit more entertaining - even allow us all to take it a little less seriously than we probably should. He may even go so far as to redefine the role of the third-party candidate. Much like Ross Perot did to Bob Dole in 1992, Colbert may throw the already complicated equation of the ’08 election into further disarray.
On that note, I would like to announce that I will officially be accepting write-in votes in my name. I am not announcing an official campaign, simply the option to impulsively scribble my name into the “other” category if none of the pre-populated choices seem worthy of your vote. Should I win, I will be sure to pay all of my major contributors back mightily with ridiculous tax-breaks and no-bid contracts for numerous government projects in corners of the globe where we can rest assured that no one will take notice! (Even those hard working journalists at the networks.) All checks written to support my campaign can be made out to me personally, and there is no need to specify on the check what the funds are for, I’ll take care of it. Just trust me, America. I have your interest at the center of my heart.