Review of Stephen Colbert’s Charleston Rally

Any of you avid watchers of Comedy Central’s, “The Colbert Report”, know about Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC, or as he likes to call it, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”. He has been inviting viewers to contribute to it for quite some time now. A Super PAC can, as quoted on his site:

“…raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals.” and “Super PACs can also mount direct attacks on candidates not allowed in the past.”

PACs stand for “political action committees” and are private groups that aim to get a particular political candidate elected or try to influence a certain legislative outcome by either receiving contributions or spending over $1,000 for this purpose. (Wikipedia)

Earlier in January, he announced that he was forming a committee to explore his potential candidacy for the President of the United States of South Carolina. Since Colbert could not legally run for office while still tied to his Super PAC, Jon Stewart, Comedy Central’s other political funny-man, “took over” Stephen’s Super PAC. The Super PACs’ name was also changed to, “The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC”. Aside from his TV antics, Colbert was legitimately making a point about how the PAC system operates. Even though now he’s not “in control” of his PAC money per se–money that he raised for the exclusive purpose of promoting his own candidacy–Stewart, who is now in control of the PAC and friends with Colbert–can use it for basically the same means. (Aside: this is what actually happens).

Since then, Colbert has been seemingly “endorsing” Herman Cain, a former Presidential hopeful who suspended/left the campaign. However Cain still appears on the primary ballot. Colbert keeps telling his viewers that “A vote for Cain is a vote for me.”

SOOOO with all of that background, I now come to what witnessed today: Stephen Colbert’s “Rock You Like a Herman Cain South Cain-olina Primary Rally” at the College of Charleston’s Cistern, January 20th 2012.

An anxious queue, consisting of mostly CofC college students, began gathering outside of the campus’ courtyard as early as 10am–the rally didn’t start until 1pm with doors opening at 12pm. Naturally, the line stretched from the Cistern on St. Philips Street down to busy Calhoun Street a couple of blocks away, spilling around the corner. I wasn’t able to line up early, as I had to work–fortunately at an office building literally just a block or so away. I took off at 12:45 for the rally; apparently the yard had reached its occupancy limit, and the remaining students and curious passers-by had to wait outside. Students climbed up to and held on to iron bars on top of the waist-high concrete perimeter that housed the Cistern yard. I peered in through the elevated iron bars, students’ legs, and around trees to get a glimpse of the stage where Colbert would make his appearance.

The stage with the "Vote Cain" banner. You can see how far away I was.

The stage at the far end of the yard held a gospel choir and a large banner with Cain and Colbert’s faces plastered across the top.

Herman Cain's Campaign bus

Just before 1pm, Coastal Carolina’s marching band started up, Cain’s campaign bus pulled around the corner, and Colbert and Cain appeared on the stage singing, “This Little Light of Mine” and then, “The National Anthem”. Colbert gave a brief introduction, still jesting in his Comedy Central character’s fashion: (as accurately as I can remember his quotes)

“It’s nice to be back in SC. Who says you can’t go home? They probably don’t have their own private jet.”

“Don’t sit down! …Because there aren’t any chairs. I’ll take a standing ovation any way I can get one.”

talking about Charleston in general, “…and if this rally gets out of hand, at least you’ll be pepper sprayed in the nicest way possible.

Even with his jokes, I think he let a little more of himself show through than he normally does, which was nice. He’s hilarious, and I love his show, but it was nice to be able to see him being more himself than having to sift through his TV personality’s sarcasm and jokes to figure out what he actually feels about issues.

Herman Cain then took the stage and babbled on and on about how Washington is corrupt and obviously, since he had to drop out of the Presidential race, that change won’t come from the inside–it has to come from the outside, the people. Then it was “tea party” this and that and “don’t waste your vote on me tomorrow”…and then he started talking about Pokemon for some reason. I don’t know, I was a little far back, but I did hear him say what I thought was Pokemon…and my friend who was closer posted on Facebook that he actually sang the Pokemon song. At this point, I wondered whether or not I should leave. I was sincerely bored, and mainly wanted to just hear Colbert.

After Cain’s incoherent speech, Colbert returned to the stage (thank you!). In his own amusing self, he talked about the PACs and that whole messed up system in general. I mean, look at how far he’s gotten with his Super PAC; in the polls (as of yesterday, 13% are voting Colbert–that’s after only a WEEK. He asked the audience to consider that if corporations are people, we should recognize their civil rights as they raise money to sway the political process. He basically said that the way campaigns raise funds are “a joke.”

“As Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, ‘Give me some money.'” –Colbert

He then urged the audience to be informed and to vote in the primary and the upcoming election and that “every vote counts”.

At that time, I had to head back to work (boo), but left feeling a little more upbeat. Colbert is a not just a hilarious “extremely conservative” TV personality, but a talented, inspiring individual that uses his media power for good to bring flaws in our country’s political system to light. I venture to guess that many of my fellow college-aged audience members at today’s rally didn’t fully grasp everything that Stephen was talking about today; some probably don’t even get his sarcasm on his show and think he’s actually being serious when he says ridiculous things. I still remember that one time I had to explain to my ex-college roommate as we were watching his show that he wasn’t being serious. In fact, I know this just from what the students who were near me were saying. Even so, I hope that Colbert’s call for people to be more informed and to make their vote heard will cause people to stop and think about who they will cast their vote for in South Carolina’s primary tomorrow. I know I taking that a little more seriously now, even if all of the candidates are crooks.

Thank you, Colbert.


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