Not everyone hooting Herman Cain at the Stephen Colbert rally here Friday was laughing with him. But he didn’t mind being the butt of jokes, he said, if only Americans could learn how to take one. His message? “As I said in one of the debates, America needs to lighten up.” Colbert’s message, on the other hand, was as serious as its delivery was lighthearted. Politicians in both parties promise to bring Americans together, but Colbert actually does, through comedy. And this rally on the campus of the College of Charleston, the day before the state’s presidential primary, was an extended riff on the serious subject of money in politics.
With Spanish moss framing the backdrop of a campus that not only looks like an Old South movie set but has served as one many times, the Comedy Central host bounded onstage, sang “This Little Light of Mine,” with a gospel choir as backup, then gave a history lesson. Calling himself the “Martin Luther King of corporation civil rights,” Colbert said that in a time maybe not everyone in the audience could remember — two years ago — corporations were sadly limited in the amount of money they could pour into political campaigns.
But that changed, he said, when “five courageous justices” on the Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 Citizens United decision that “corporations are people,” that people are entitled to free speech, that free speech equals money and that corporations should thus be entitled to dump as much money as they like into the political water table, provided they don’t coordinate with the campaigns they’re funding.