Stephen Colbert has done it again. He’s infiltrated the presidential race. Some Americans, however, are less than pleased with the television personality’s election plans, finding them a degrading mockery of the election.
These Americans are absolutely right.
Such derision was Colbert’s exact intent. He wanted to mock and to degrade the aspects of the election he was showcasing, notably the bizarre bodies known as super political action committees. And why? Because they deserve to be mocked and degraded.
Super PACs take all the inherent evils of mass campaigning — distraction from issues, brutal mudslinging, richer candidates trouncing better ones — and supersize them.
Even worse, they completely alienate those working at the grassroots level, particularly college students.
Candidates already spend an enormous amount of money on campaigning. Super PACs, however, allow private groups to hop aboard the sinking ship. Super PACs can raise unlimited sums from any corporation, union, interest group or individual and use them to openly support a candidate, so long as they pretend to have no connection to the candidate’s campaign.
Grassroots campaigns stand no chance against the spectacle put on by super PACs. As a result, the presidential race has become less about examining the strengths and weaknesses of candidates and their platforms and more about who can make a flashier TV commercial. Students who might sincerely care about these platforms and about the country’s future, meanwhile, get to watch all their hard work go to waste.
The Federal Election Commission places no limit on the amount a super PAC can spend on an independent campaign expenditure, provided the candidate remains unaffiliated. The absurdity of trying to determine affiliation is what motivated Jon Stewart to mockingly christen his 2012 Colbert PAC, “The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC.”
Colbert clearly isn’t fooled by such pathetic legislative runaround. And we shouldn’t be either. The super PAC is just another way to make campaigning even more exorbitant, to take even more voters’ minds off the real issues and to further crush the youth demographic beneath the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent.
Super PACs ensure that the country answers to the majority of wealth, not to the majority of people. They make individual action and grassroots campaigning impossible to carry out effectively.
In particular, super PACs hurt college students and other young people, whose primary means of getting involved in presidential campaigns are low-budget, gradual expansion initiatives. Those initiatives are where democracy lies. Lately, however, democracy has taken a backseat to the bureaucratic approach.
The FEC needs to abolish super PACs, or at least take back control of the election from their greedy hands. Only then can we hear the sincere voice of the candidates, and only then will they be obligated to listen to ours.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.