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The Stephen Colbert buzz: Does being famous equal political support?

Two weeks ago, if you would have asked me to name the most high-profile presidential candidates, I certainly would not have given you the name of a fake conservative pundit on a comedy show. However, the tides have turned and now Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” is shaping up to garner some of the biggest buzz of any candidate running for president in 2008.

On his Oct. 15 show, Colbert announced he would be running for president as both a Republican and a Democrat in his home state of South Carolina. Explaining he will get the votes of South Carolinians due to his position as a “favorite son” from the state, Colbert has begun asking voters to sign petitions to get his name on the ballot, and staff members from his show have contacted election offices in the state to help get the campaign off of the ground.

As of now, it appears Colbert’s campaign is legitimate, leading one to ask: Should and will South Carolina voters vote for Colbert if given the chance? Before saying yes, potential supporters should consider the impact of their vote for Colbert and the real reasons they would vote for him.

I should start off by saying I am a very enthusiastic fan of Colbert, so it’s strange for me to say he shouldn’t be supported. However, I believe people are forgetting one fact about Stephen Colbert: The Stephen Colbert we see on TV is not real. He is a fictional character, created by the “real” Stephen Colbert and his team of Colbert Report writers, directors, producers, etc.

He is a celebrity figure, but unlike President Reagan, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger, other actors who found political success, he would not be elected as himself; he’d be elected as a TV show character. Imagine the Kindergarten Cop or the Terminator running California. I know I don’t want to. If you vote for Colbert, you are not voting for the real Stephen Colbert, but the person he portrays on television with the help of numerous staff members (confused yet?). It’s difficult for me to see those staff members with a comedic background work as his cabinet and help him deal with foreign policy issues.

Personally, I feel Colbert is not running to win, but to turn the electoral system (at least in South Carolina) on its feet. Freshman Nicole Chase explains she would vote for Colbert if given the chance because “the entire [electoral] system is corrupt, and it would be interesting to see if he could win.” It’s an interesting experiment because he will be riding on only his celebrity status and limited funding to gain votes. This is commendable because he is attempting to gain the most powerful office in America relying only on his “truthiness” and political stances.

However, should such an experiment be performed at the cost of other qualified candidates? If given the chance, a person should not vote for Colbert over another candidate just because he is a celebrity. Unless you are committing voter fraud (let’s hope not), you only get one vote. If you believe in what a candidate such as Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani says, support them first. Don’t vote for Colbert unless you do not want to support anyone else (in this case, participating in the practice of voting is better than not voting at all), but keep in mind the “platform” he has is not necessarily reflective of what the real Stephen Colbert would do.

Then again, Colbert may, as Nicole said, “have a second-in-command who could guide him in the right direction.” On “Meet the Press,” Colbert stated he would consider former Senator Larry Craig as a running mate, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin, both of whom have political experience, but choosing them may be a public relations nightmare.

Now, I am speaking in all hypothetical language. Being a devoted viewer of “The Colbert Report,” I can see Colbert calling off his run at the last minute, due to some sort of embarrassing scandal (similar to Craig) or overlooking a key rule in the campaign process (when attempting to get a bridge in Hungary named after him, it was noted that although Colbert won, the person whom the bridge is named after must be dead).

Even if the campaign turns out to be a farce, the publicity and potential support Colbert is gaining from the announcement is fascinating enough. Either we live in a nation where celebrity influence alone can translate effectively into political support and power, or people distrust political figures to the point they will support a fictional celebrity pundit over credible candidates.

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