"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


stephen colbert: polisci hero

Add this to the list of things I never expected to do: teach about American elections with reference to Stephen Colbert's presidential race.

It just so happens that Colbert's decision to run (in South Carolina) nicely coincided with the point in the semester when we're covering what it takes to get elected. I do an "in the news" segment at the beginning of each class when they can ask questions about stories they've seen or heard, and, well, the kids are really into Colbert. I mean really into Stephen Colbert.

And as it turns out, he's a pretty good teaching tool. So far, we've touched on how candidates file for the primaries, how you get on the ballot through petition drives, how he can get away with running as both a Democrat and a Republican, what it means that South Carolina proportionally distributes its electoral votes, Colbert's problems with campaign finance laws (the Doritos sponsorship), how his campaign may split Ron Paul's supporters, how his use of his show to campaign may violate equal time laws, and how polls (like the one that tell us that Colbert is in double digits nationally) work to give fairly accurate predictions by only surveying a few thousand voters. And I'm also thinking of using this Facebook group (which will almost certainly reach 1,000,000 members before morning) as an example of an interest group.

Normally, most students could care less about primary filing, petition drives, porportional distribution of electoral votes, campaign finance, equal time, polling, and interest groups.

So thank-you, Stephen Colbert. You've given those of us in political science classrooms a way to engage our students in learning more about American democracy. God bless you, and God bless America.


Blogger mark said...

i don't watch colbert too often, but if this "campaign" does go anywhere, it will be interesting to see what kinds of votes he gets. (anyone over 30?)

among the many flaws of a 2 party system, quite often people don't vote for their preferred candidate because they don't want to "help" their least favorite candidate. (ross perot, anyone?) could colbert have a similar (but, certainly, smaller) impact?

Friday, October 26, 2007 9:49:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Hey, Mark, right. The under-30 set is notorious for not actually voting when push comes to shove, so I have real doubts as to whether it would actually affect the campaign. It does have the potential to hurt Ron Paul in S.C. because Colbert's supporting demographic overlaps with Paul's, but that's not a big deal since Paul doesn't have a realistic chance of winning the nomination, with or without South Carolinian votes.

Friday, October 26, 2007 10:05:00 AM

Blogger Angela said...

What a wonderful world we live in ... this is fabulous.

Friday, October 26, 2007 11:12:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Prof. D, agreed. Agreed.

Friday, October 26, 2007 2:53:00 PM

Blogger Jess said...

i want to be in your class!!!!!!!!!!1

Monday, October 29, 2007 11:11:00 PM


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