So when I heard my favorite fake news pundit, Stephen Colbert, announce his intention to run for president in his home state of South Carolina (and only in South Carolina), I was overjoyed. Finally, a man who's not afraid to stir things up and make some noise! Then, I remembered that it was all a big joke.
For me, however, it had an unintended allure. Though he is neither of the following, Colbert represents a potential plan of action for radical and progressive candidates.
Forget Colbert's politics; it's his method that intrigues. He's quick, loud and undeterred. Imagine these characteristics in a Democratic candidate. This isn't so hard to do. Some of the current candidates have these traits, though they aren't quite as zealous as Colbert. These particular candidates also don't have the same kind of support that many of the leaders in the race do. Part of the problem may very well be that they don't have enough book deals, enough money or the right haircut.
I'd say the greater problem is America's addiction to comfort and convenience, and therefore to the status quo. Anybody who tells us what we don't want to hear is going to have a hard time finding their way into the White House.
Average Americans don't want war. They don't want worldwide starvation and injustice. You would have to be insane to want that. What they do want, without really thinking about it, is the latest car and 50 gallons of gas, at a cheap price, with which to fill it. They want a Big Mac and extra fries for only $3. They want a half-naked woman on all 400 channels with high definition and surround sound so they can hear each water droplet landing on her fake breasts as they sit in their pristine, motorized La-Z-Boy recliner (purchased with all of the remaining money from their tax breaks).
Average Americans want someone to tell them that they can have all of that great stuff and save the world at the same time, and the Republicans and the Democrats happily deliver. Politicians pander to the perceived wants of any potentially supportive constituency. They continually reinvent themselves to appeal to the down-home crowd, environmentalist groups, women's rights groups and labor unions. You name a group and politicians have a persona best fit to the group's vote.
Or, if the politicians can't adapt, they'll develop a one-size-fits-all personality. At some point down the line, they lose their genuine identities. Our politicians are dangerously malleable and opportunistic. You couldn't take their masks off with a jackhammer. Having someone like Colbert in there couldn't hurt, someone with strong opinions and a commitment to standing by those strong opnions, albeit within reason, folks, as I'm not advocating another eight years of brain-dead leadership.
But what happens when someone tells us that we can't have our cake and eat it too? Let me put it in more realistic terms. What if someone confidently, loudly and sincerely tells us that in order to keep our abundance of cheap cars, gas, food and televised naked women, we have to give up biodiversity, a clean and stable environment and certain civil liberties. What if they tell us people have to suffer? What if they tell us that people have to die? That's what it takes to keep the global machine, as it is right now, spinning. You don't get this much for nothing.
My hypothetical savior, Colbert, might say, "You want peace? You want justice? Then you can't have so much gas. Then you can't have so much consumer liberty. Then you can't have strawberries in January! And even in summer, they won't be the size of your four-year-old child's fist!" He'd be laughed at. Who is he to tell us what we can and can't have? Right? The United States and its citizens are not yet ready to willingly sacrifice convenience for the benefit of others. However, you can be sure that Colbert would get somebody thinking. And they would get somebody else thinking.
The importance of progressives like Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel (and Colbert), who know very well that they won't be elected, is that they challenge the stale approach of the men and women who will, without a doubt, be our leaders. The months leading up to the election are a time when dissent and doubt is most necessary. Who, besides the media, is in a better position than the minor candidates to make sure the major ones don't have an easy time? The success of true democratic processes depends on the presence of many differing opinions and voices.
Colbert has one of those differing voices, but unfortunately the South Carolina Democratic Party Executive Council - he only applied as a Democrat because it was cheaper than the Republicans' $35,000 entry fee - voted against him 13-3. Even though his preferred method of scrutiny is satirical, who knows how the other candidates and the voters might have benefited from a sharp tongue that lurks just around the corner or at the next podium.