Don’t vote Colbert 2008

Lots of young adults — high school students, college students and recent graduates — get their national headlines from Comedy Central. Every weekday at 11 and 11:30 p.m., Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert educate by entertaining, noting the irony in real events with sarcasm and satire.

That’s better than nothing. Scary for those of us in the traditional news media, perhaps, but it’s still better that our generation is staying on top of current events somehow, rather than just being ignorant. Ideally, viewers hear about an issue on “The Daily Show” or the “The Colbert Report” and turn to the Internet or a newspaper to find out more. If not, at least they know what the hot topics at the top of the news wire are today.

And that’s fine.

What’s not fine is Colbert’s recent announcement that he will run as a candidate in the next presidential election.

Colbert is a comedian, and at its core, his show is a comedy program, not a news outlet. While people don’t always recognize it as such, they should be careful to recognize his race as what it is — a joke.

He has told The Associated Press he wants to run as both a Democrat and a Republican, so he can “lose twice.” He only plans to run in his home state of South Carolina. Colbert is not taking this race seriously; he’s just trying to point out the absurdity candidates tend to indulge in.

But Colbert’s announcement has caused a stir among his fans; a fanbase that has proved in the past to be quite mobile. After imploring them to change entries about elephants on Wikipedia, the site’s administrators had to restrict access. He popularized the term “truthiness,” “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true,” to such an extent that it found its way into Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. And now, through social networking sites such as, Colbert is gaining support among young voters.

All of Colbert’s stunts are meant to prove a point, to make his viewers realize some absurdity of today’s society. This time, he’s tackling the electoral process. No problem there. The song and dance performed by today’s candidates does need to be scrutinized.

The scary idea is, his stunts have succeeded in the past.

Anyone who votes for Colbert instead of a legitimate candidate will be taking away votes from their second choice – their first actual choice for president. You know, the person, if pressed, you’d most like to see as the next leader of this country. The person who chooses to write in Colbert’s name on the ballot to make a statement may as well be writing in the name of their least favored candidate. By not voting for who you want to see succeed, you’re giving the opponent more leeway and less competition.

Colbert’s back to his tricks, playing a joke on democracy with his candidacy. He wants to make you laugh. He wants to make you think. We hope you do both, and don’t let the punch line be our country. Use his race — and the race of any candidate who goes into the game just wanting to shake things up — as a chance to think critically about the process.

This is not a time for “truthiness.” It’s a time for the truth.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.