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Can Satire Aspire to Leadership? The Case of Stephen Colbert

Can the comedian's critique of campaign finance make a difference or is it too easily dismissed as comedy? Today, Colbert urged South Carolina to vote for Herman Cain, who is no longer running.

What’s the Latest Development?

Today in Charleston, South Carolina, comedian Stephen Colbert urged the state’s citizens to vote for Herman Cain in Saturday’s primary election. Cain dropped out of the presidential race long ago but will still appear on the ballot, thanks to South Carolina’s election laws. That proved a hilarious convenience to Colbert, who has been making fun of the nation’s campaign finance laws since starting his own Super PAC, an extension of free speech rights made possible by the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

What’s the Big Idea?

The same strict laws that will keep Cain on the primary ballot have kept Colbert off. So to satirize what the comedian thinks is an electoral system run amok, Colbert is stumping for Cain, urging that a vote for Cain represent a vote for Colbert. The comedian’s Super PAC has at least tens of thousands of dollars which it has used to run comedic political attack ads in South Carolina. But Colbert’s rally today was attended mostly by college students holding ironic signs of support. Is Colbert’s brand of engaged satire enough to stir change?

Photo credit: wikimedia commons


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