Juliette Dallas-Feeney: The clashing of comedy and politics

Picture this, nation: it’s November 2008 and the 44th president of the United States of America is…Stephen T. Colbert?

To the dismay of many “Colbert Report” watchers, the mock conservative no longer has the opportunity to woo us with campaign speeches. Last week, Democrats and Republicans in South Carolina voted to keep him off the ballot.

Facebook is no Gallup, but more than 1,477,000 Facebook users are members of the group “1,000,000 Strong for Stephen T. Colbert.” Sure, half of the members probably joined because they think Colbert’s funny, but I have a hunch that a lot of those members seriously believe Colbert would have been (and still is) a viable candidate for the presidency of the United States – even if he did have to start in South Carolina.

We go to one of the most politically active universities in the United States. Many of your classmates will one day be in active in politics ranging from the Student Association to the federal government. You cannot avoid being politically aware when you are a GW student. So, honestly, would GW students vote for a guy who thinks bears are one of the biggest threats to America?

Not surprisingly, the answer is no.

I know several people who thought Colbert would have at least landed a spot on the ballot in South Carolina, but they did not think he would make it much further. Of course we will be asking ourselves “what if he had?” at least another four years. Sophomore Katy McCoy said, “Of course some people would have voted for him as a joke, but I wouldn’t have.”

The possibility that people would vote as a joke raises the question of how seriously young people take voting. The right to vote is a privilege that should be exercised with the knowledge and willingness that comes with the distinct honor of being an American.

As of late, young people have been voting in unprecedented numbers. There are numerous campaigns specifically targeting the younger demographic to vote.

This is all well and good, but are young voters critically looking at each candidate’s campaign agendas, or is it reduced to a high school popularity contest? Colbert is clearly the class clown and the “coolest” of this class of candidates, but is he the best choice for office?

Critics of Colbert say he was making a mockery of the presidential process. A New York Times blog reported on concerns from Barack Obama supporters that Colbert might take away young voters from the Illinois Democrat.

But maybe we should not blame the youth and label them as politically ignorant. Perhaps young people are jaded by the political process. Colbert offers a fresh perspective that happens to attract a younger crowd. Publicity stunt or not, he got your attention and made you think. He gives a sense of political enthusiasm and insight into political discourse unmatched by any other candidate. A comedian’s attitude toward framing serious, difficult topics in non-threatening terms would be productive, especially in getting young citizens more engaged.

I do not think it is fair to say that Colbert would not have taken the election seriously. People forget that he plays a character on his show. Did people think Arnold Schwarzenegger would stay in his Terminator character once elected as governor of California?

Colbert pokes fun at the serious and all-pervasive subject of politics. Is he less of a viable candidate for doing so? I guess we will never know how the Colbert 2008 bid for South Carolina would have turned out. But I think he possesses the most truthiness out of any other candidate.

Lighten up, nation.

The writer, a sophomore majoring

in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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