Stephen Colbert is a satirist.
Through the TV persona he uses on his comedy show, The Colbert Report, he lampoons the stereotypes of the White Right Male - angry, ignorant, superior, flippant, antagonistic, bigoted, functionally fixed. He is Rush Limbaugh, he is Glenn Beck, only with a sense of irony.
As in the best tradition of parody, Colbert's intent is to show how ridiculous these tropes become when faced with reality. Case in point:
"Tomorrow you're all going to wake up in a brave new world, a world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones, created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags. Where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard-earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio, and teach evolution to illegal immigrants. Oh, and everybody's high!"
There's gotta be part of Colbert that thinks he's been one-upped by Rob Ford; what Colbert has done in measure to right-wing media pundits, Ford has done in spades to actual right-wing politicians.
I know what I did was wrong, and admitting it was the most difficult and embarrassing thing I have ever had to do. Folk, I have nothing left to hide. (Which didn't quite prove to be true...)
We live in a democracy and on October 27 of 2014, I want the people of this great city to decide whether they want Rob Ford to be their mayor. Again, I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely apologize. God bless the people of Toronto. Thank you very much.
Rob Ford has abused the people's trust, but still talks about accountability. He maintains his "tough on crime, don't hug a thug" positioning even after he's confessed to consorting with criminals and patronized the sort of illegal activity that ruins and ends lives. No matter how many times Ford apologizes, he keeps on keeping on in his own variant of Reservoir Dogs' Commode Story.
Ford's assuming that if he just sounds and looks confident enough he won't get caught in his bad behaviour, can spin his way out if he does get caught or that people simply don't care, so long as their taxes are low and someone's sticking it to The Man. He's an extreme, but hardly alone in this approach.
DUIs? We've got pols at every level who've been caught in the act, gotten away with it and continue to talk tough when it comes to judging the behaviour of others. Wasting taxpayer dollars for partisan gain? Same thing. How about sanctioning criminal behaviour, abusing public trust, abusing public dollars, bald-faced lying and sticking to carefully-crafted talking points that they clearly don't believe themselves?
We are rightly disgusted by the extremes of Ford's behaviour; other politicians, even some of his former allies have called Ford's actions out as unacceptable. The fact is, though, Ford had a point when he said his political colleagues live in glass houses.
While we and our political representatives are rightly outraged at the extremes of Rob Ford's behaviour, we tend to look the other way at misdeeds of our own that rest on the same spectrum, so long as the consequences to us personally aren't that dire. That, after all, is one of the key reasons Rob Ford won in the first place - he was deemed to be a closer reflection of the common man and therefore more likely to behave as any of us would behave should we hold high office.
Rob Ford isn't an unprecedented political anomaly; if anything, he's a caricature of modern politics on the whole.
We are constantly told not to question the political sausage-making process, to pay no attention to the cynical political manoeuvres behind the curtain. As bits and pieces of the behind-the-scenes reality of politics emerges, it's not hard to see why. The partisan factories where spin and policy get squeezed into sound bites are festering with dirt and harmful bacteria.
Case in point? At this very moment, there are politicians and political operatives positioning themselves for the next election, pulling from the exact same divide-and-conquer playbook that landed us with Ford in the first place. Worse, they do this at the same time as deriding the cynical techniques they themselves are using.
They clearly don't care if they're pouring oil on our burning political platform - why should they? We clearly don't care, either.
"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.
Stephen Colbert is a satirist. Rob Ford is a parody. In both cases, it's the collective, selfish and short-sighted us that's the punchline.
God bless the people of Toronto, indeed.