Stephen Colbert may have hated talking about the midterm elections that seemed like they would never end, but now that the election is over he has more fodder for his excellent satire on Republican politics. Now that the right wing has control over the American legislature, there are even more Republicans for him to make fun of and he is not letting that opportunity get away from him. What the GOP will do now that they supposedly have a mandate from the voters was Colbert’s main talking point, but as he explained it, they were actually elected to do nothing at all. While his show may be ending next month, there is no sign that Colbert is letting the quality slip or that he is giving a free pass to the newly elected Republican majority.
The Colbert Report started off with the trademark chanting of the host’s name, but it was soon down to business. The first bit of news was dedicated to the story of two Americans who had been imprisoned in North Korea by that country’s ailing dictator Kim Jong Un. While the supreme leader of the world’s biggest Kim Jong Un fanclub was recovering from “cheese cankle,” President Obama sent the Head of National Intelligence James Clapper with a personal letter asking for the two men’s release. The two men have since then been freed and all it took was America giving North Korea a nice personal note. This is just more proof that the art of letter writing is not a completely dead art. But as Colbert noted, not everyone is completely happy about this turn of events. He reported that FOX News was running the headline “Obama Cancels Two Americans’ Vacations.” The sad thing about this is that the headline sounds like something FOX would actually say and less like a joke.
The next segment took on the results of the midterm elections which were made possible by the lowest voter turnout since 1972 when many eligible voters were stuck in Vietnam and could not make it to the polls. According to conservative analysis, the Republicans have a mandate to “actually govern something,” but there are some who believe that mandate was actually to do nothing, a contrast that lead Colbert to reveal “The Word.” This popular segment featured the phrase, “It’s A Trap!” as its theme. The idea that the Republicans have a mandate to govern is a trap, Colbert noted, appealing to “Jabba the Rush” to support him. In a clip from Rush Limbaugh’s show, the conservative shock-jock said that the Republicans’ job was to stop Obama (or as Colbert called it “Barack Blocking”). He followed that up with the quote, “Republicans were not elected to govern.” If the new Senate was not elected to pass laws and get something (anything!) done, what mandate did they get exactly?
According to the conservative National Review Online, Republicans have to avoid falling in to “The Governing Trap,” which was also the title of a piece written by its editors. In that article are such revealing quotes as “Getting [a new president] ought to be conservatism’s main political goal over the next two years” and “outlining a governing agenda for the future is a different matter from trying to govern in 2015.” In addition, the article proclaims that any actual attempt at doing the job they were elected to do is “doomed to failure.” So much for that mandate to get work done.
Colbert was merciless in his explanation of why Republicans cannot fall into the trap of actually governing the nation and his logic is probably exactly what Republicans are thinking. It is more than a little scary when a comedian’s explanation of political strategy sounds so plausible. Colbert’s send up of the National Review Online article was hilarious, but he did not have to add too many jokes in to get a laugh. Most of the segment’s hilarity was provided verbatim from conservative pundits and writers. The satirical comedian has plenty of experience in being funny, but with material like the GOP’s analysis right now, he hardly has to try to get a laugh.
As the show pointed out, it is hard to have a mandate from the whole of America when only 37 percent of the eligible voting public voted. Republicans only have a mandate from the Republicans who voted for them. What does the rest of the country want? If anyone bothered to ask the other 63 percent, they would probably want Congress to pass a bill now and then at least. But the GOP and their do-nothing mandate are not actually going to do the job they were given. Instead, they will probably treat the next two years as an extended election campaign for whatever hardcore right-winger energizes the tea party most. The Colbert Nation has been warned about this, so they will be less surprised than most when nothing gets done in Congress for the next two years. It really is too bad that Stephen Colbert is ending his show at this time. He could have the easiest comedy job ever if he just stayed a little while longer and let the Republicans write his jokes for him.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury