The Colbert presidential report

Earlier this week, former Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert returned for an appearance on the show and announced he was considering running for U.S. President in the 2008 election.

Just 15 minutes later, he announced on his own show The Colbert Report that he would be running in the primaries in his home state of South Carolina.

Colbert has said he will run both as a Democrat and a Republican just so that he “can lose twice.” In a television interview after his announcement, the satirical political pundit clarified that he didn’t want to actually win the presidency—just run for it.

Although the initial reaction to Colbert’s announcement was the anticipation of a punchline, it never came.

It’s hard to say if Colbert will significantly shake up American politics, and to what degree. It’s undeniable that just by running he makes a statement that’s generating talk about the state of American politics and the country’s electoral system.

But one has to ask how big of a mark a comedian—albeit a political savvy, well-read one—can make on the election and American politics as a whole. Colbert’s influence has evolved to notable clout in recent years, and it’s entirely possible that his campaign could noticeably sway voters.

His attempt to subvert the American political system could resound with electorates; he will not only force people to examine the status quo, he’ll raise debates, as he always has, on issues that other politicians aren’t inclined to tackle.

It’s also possible Colbert’s candidacy could impact voter turnout. Since his show’s debut in 2005, he has gathered a large following across North America and much of that crowd is the generation of oft-apathetic youth. The downside to this possibility, however, is that his absence from the following election could further increase indifference.

It’s impossible to predict the outcome of Colbert’s campaign. It could be a farce that makes a point but has little lasting value or it could raise important issues and give American politics the shake up it needs.

Colbert’s running will definitely be a source of entertainment; whether Colbert’s pop-culture status translates into significant political impact won’t be determined until the votes are in.

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