Make-believe political pundit causes Congress to cringe


Stephen Colbert is no stranger to making fun of political figures.  On his Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report," he regularly baits his guests with questions that make them appear as foolish and uncomfortable as possible.  

Colbert's schtick is all about posing as an extreme right-wing conservative in order to mock the ideals, which the real hard-liners hold so dear.  A true professional, Colbert almost never appears on camera out of character.  So when he was asked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) to testify in front of Congress, in an effort to reform immigration policy and give undocumented farm workers access to legal status to work in the US, Colbert came in character. 

Colbert is one of only a few people who have taken the United Farm Workers up on their program called "Take Our Jobs." The UFW campaign, launched in June, intends to ease the anti-immigrant sentiment in the US by offering out of work Americans the opportunity to work labor jobs in the agriculture industry. It appears, however, Americans don't actually want these lower-tier jobs, which are almost always done by immigrants, illegal or otherwise.  According to UFW President, Arturo Rodriguez, only seven people had been placed in farm jobs at the time of the hearing.

By testifying in character, Colbert was able to do what he set out to do: Bring more attention to this important, yet under-publicized issue. Before the hearing began it was apparent, by the many photographers and media-types in attendance, that Colbert's presence has already raised interest in this issue. 

Colbert's statements managed to make some members of Congress notably uncomfortable. In his trademark deadpan style, Colbert managed a not-so-veiled "cornpacking" reference and stated, "I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way to C-SPAN 1." 

When his 5 minutes were up, Rep. Judy Chu asked, "Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues. Why are you interested in this issue?" Colbert, in rare form, broke character and responded sincerely, "I like talking about people who don't have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful peoples in the United States are migrant workers who come in and do our work, but don't have any rights as a result. And yet, we still ask them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave. And that's an interesting contradiction to me." 

I commend Stephen Colbert for standing up for the underdog and raising the awareness of this issue.  I believe that he achieved his goal in bringing this hearing to the forefront of the news. Just look at how many news networks have been running stories breaking down his every word. Without his testimony this issue would certainly have been forgotten almost immediately. 

As unfortunate as it may be most of my generation gets their news from TV shows like "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report."  Without Colbert's appearance before the House subcommittee most young people would not have even heard of this issue. 

Colbert's testimony served its purpose; it placed an unsung issue on the tongues and in the minds of Americans, and hopefully furthered an admirable cause.  If the GOP is too sententious to be in on the jokes, then they will have to continue to be the butt of them.