Democrats spurn Colbert

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When I saw on Comedy Central (the website, not the channel; I’m cheap) that Stephen Colbert was running for president, my first thought was, ‘Whoa! Could he pull off a Pirate Captain?’

In my junior year of undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill something shocking happened — an election for student body president that didn’t bore me to tears. Our rival school, NC State, had a candidate running for president as the Pirate Captain. Speaking only in Pirate and dressed in full pirate regalia with blond wig, eye patch, parrot, and sword, the Captain (whose real name is Whil Piavis) made a campaign video in which he and his “scurvy crew” dug up treasure on a beach while explaining his platform, or “plank,” which included, according to local TV channel WRAL, “expanding the bus lines to haul thar peopled cargo to and fro from ACC bouts at the yonder RBC Center” and “holding meetin’s open to all ye landlubbers.” The effect was immediate. After a record voter turnout, the Pirate Captain was elected. “The wind be in our sails,” the student paper, the Technician, quoted him as saying after his win.

I was thrilled. Our student elections always resulted in dull, ineffective leaders who seemed to make little difference on campus and never attempted any meaningful change.

Not everybody agreed with me. The Captain’s defeated rival denounced him for “making a mockery of the system,” according to the Technician.

Colbert faces similar criticism today. The comedian planned to run only in his home state, South Carolina, as a favorite son (a politician who is popular due to ties to a certain region). For awhile, things were looking good — despite condemnation from all sides. Last Monday Bob Coble, mayor of Columbia, not only presented Colbert with the key to the city and proclaimed him officially a favorite son, but even declared the day “Stephen Colbert Day.”

The celebration was short-lived. On Thursday, South Carolina’s Democratic executive committee voted to bar Colbert from the ballot even though the comedian had paid the $2,500 filing fee on time. Bad Democrats! Bad!

What the hell is their problem? We have to keep the way clear for “legitimate” candidates who change their positions to suit the political wind, veer unwaveringly toward the middle of the road so that nobody gets upset, care more about raising money than being true to themselves, and see UFOs?

Is it any surprise that the fervor for Colbert is much wilder than the fervor for any other presidential candidates? America is aching for a real candidate, not an actor. If the Democrats and Republicans won’t furnish a real candidate, then hell, we’ll go with a real actor.

The Democrats had nothing to lose by allowing Colbert on the ballot. Colbert himself is not interested in the presidency — his bid was designed purely to open our eyes to the absurdity of our system of elections and perhaps make a few more people tune in to the debates. When asked in an interview on NPR how the road to the presidency would play out for him, Colbert replied, “It doesn’t, it ends in South Carolina.”

And so, it seems, it has. My hat is off to you, Mr. Colbert — you’ll always be the president of my America, and that’s the truthiness.