America still leads the world in comedy
With the GOP field narrowing even further with the withdrawal of John Huntsman, the most contentious issue of the contest is still the role of super PACs. Since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, corporations have been granted the same rights as people in their ability to make anonymous donations to groups supporting a candidate, though the candidate is legally not allowed to have anything to do with the group.
The current state of affairs has been bemoaned, but used, by nearly everyone and has allowed candidates to stay competitive off the single giant donations of interested billionaires.
Though Huntsman has dropped out, one Stephen Colbert, the comedic character from Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, joined the GOP field. His show airs after The Daily Show every Monday-Thursday late night, and last Thursday he launched his exploratory committee.
Colbert had already been making waves after he started his own super PAC to demonstrate the ridiculous nature of money in American politics. Americans for a better tomorrow, tomorrow raised money and put ads on the air in Iowa. Though they poked fun at Rick Perry, they were not seen as particularly threatening.
With Colbert’s ‘entry’ into the race, he was legally not allowed to hold on to his super PAC and he handed it off to Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show. Over the past week the PAC has produced and aired ads that refer to Mitt Romney as a serial killer (if corporations are people and Mitt kills them – he must be a serial killer). This has upset many in the Republican sphere once again.
The story has an additional twist. Since Colbert can not get on the ballot, the latest add asks for voters to vote for Herman Cain, who has dropped out but is still on the ballot, and they will take that as support for Colbert.
Between Colbert and Stewart, American satire has never been so good. Young voters see The Daily Show as their political news outlet and through it express their disappointment at the polemical cable news networks in America.
Though super PACs have been a main subject of debate for the previous two GOP debates, it is Colbert and now Stewart who are really demonstrating the ridiculous nature of their existence. Despite the Republican desire to keep the debate focused on issues rather then personal attacks, Colbert will keep the spot light on the vehicle that the candidates have used to attack each other.
While many have complained about super PACs, it is the comedic talent of American satirists that might be able to convince the public of the need to change their system.
Joel Braunold is is a Labour party member currently at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA. Follow him on twitter @braunold
comedy, Jon Stewart, Mitt Romney, PACs, party funding, Republican primary, satire, Stephen Colbert, Super PACs, United States, US Presidential Election