The Colbert-Cain campaign: a ticket to ridicule Republicans
The former Godfather pizza CEO quit the presidential race after a string of sexual harassment allegations, but his name remains on the South Carolina ballot. As it’s too late for Colbert to get on the ballot he told the 3,000-strong crowd to use Cain as a proxy. “I want you to vote for Herman Cain. Because Herman Cain is me”, the television comedian said.
The “Rock Me Like a Herman Cain South Cain-olina Primary Rally” at the College of Charleston was part of Colbert’s pseudo-run for president of “the United States of South Carolina”. Accompanied by a marching band, a cheerleader squad and a gospel choir, Colbert took to the stage singing “This Little Light of Mine” before introducing Cain as “the Mad Max of the flat tax” and “my brother from another mother”.
Colbert and Cain drew a bigger crowd than any of the real Republican candidates campaigning on Friday. Their rally took place just a day after Cain revealed that he was endorsing “we the people” in the 2012 race for the White House. When he dropped his bid in December last year, Cain promised he would not go away and he has stayed true to his word. Not only is he playing along with Colbert’s faux candidacy bid, he has also launched a “Solutions Revolution”, with a bus tour and website to promote his controversial 9-9-9 tax plan. At the Colbert event, though, he was the willing laughing stock.
Though he sang the lyrics to the Pokemon theme song at the satirical rally (upstaging Barak Obama’s brief rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a fundraiser in Harlem the previous night), Cain also put the kidding aside for a moment. He told the, mostly young, crowd not to tick his name on the ballot. “Don’t waste your vote”, he said.
Colbert’s point, of course, is to poke fun at the electoral system, and particularly to draw attention to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the two-year anniversary of which coincides with today’s primary. The ruling allowed private groups to support or attack specific candidates and to form so-called Super PACs (Political Action Committees), which can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and from corporations, unions and other groups. Colbert’s Super PAC, “Americans For a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”, is now run by his fellow TV-comedian Jon Stewart. Its commercials poke fun at the real candidates’ claims that they have no influence over the committees that support them, and at the candidates’ apparent dismay at the negative messages that the Super PACS peddle.
While the Colbert pseudo campaign ridicules the shallow aspects of American politics and critiques the way Super PACS skew the democratic process, Republican voters are the butt of the joke, too. This has become a chance for Colbert’s fans to ridicule the Republican camp as a whole, and to legitimise a kind of sabotage of Republican voters’ chance to elect their political representative. It’s sort of funny, but it’s also sort of cynical.