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.