For me the highlight of the South Carolina primary campaign was hearing Stephen Colbert speak to an overflow crowd on my College of Charleston campus. I think he is the most honest "politician" of the primary season, and he spoke both eloquently and humorously about what should be a critical campaign issue--the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision that paved the way for Super PACs as long as there is no coordination between the PAC and the candidate.
Colbert's coordination with Jon Stewart on the "Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC" shows how coordinated such uncoordinated Super PACs can legally be.
Sometimes the most effective way to change a corrupted system is to make fun of it. I heard more student (and faculty) laughs than during any other political visit. I also think people learned more about an issue than at most campaign events.
I almost always vote against rather than for a candidate. My vote on Saturday morning, the day after Stephen Colbert spoke, was an exception. I voted FOR Herman Cain, because Colbert endorsed and introduced Cain at the rally. I'm not sure if Cain understood that Colbert's endorsement of Cain was really an endorsement for Colbert, but that doesn't matter. Despite what I heard from the viable candidates in South Carolina, I walked out of my polling place with a smile on my face.
There is good and bad news about advancements in religious diversity. Before we ever had a Catholic president, many Protestants feared that Jack Kennedy would govern by his church's doctrine. He eased some concerns at a September 12, 1960 address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association when he said, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."
Since then, Catholic politicians haven't been grilled about their papal allegiance. Something that would have been unheard of in 1960 is for evangelical leaders to overwhelmingly endorse the two Catholic candidates in a primary.
Now for the bad news. Santorum, who received the most support from evangelicals, is no Jack Kennedy. In fact, he called JFK a radical for believing in the separation of church and state. Perhaps Santorum also endeared himself to evangelicals for his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape or incest.
Newt Gingrich, the other Catholic, won the South Carolina primary with strong evangelical support. All he seems to have in common with JFK is well-publicized, adulterous relationships. To JFK's credit, he never focused on family values. Newt sounded funnier than Colbert when he indicated that his passion for our country led him to adulterous affairs.
Newt, the pope, and evangelicals probably agree that Christianity is in grave danger by the threat of a "secular atheist" takeover of America. Just to throw in more red meat for South Carolina voters, Gingrich also worried that the country would be taken over by radical Islamists who would put us under Sharia law. Speaking as a secular atheist, I believe we want to preserve our country as one that is governed neither by Sharia nor Biblical law.
Perhaps Newt won South Carolina because of his attack on mainstream media for asking about his second ex-wife. I guess evangelicals are more opposed to liberal media than to adultery, as long as you claim God forgave you for it.
But here's the media story in South Carolina I think Newt really appreciated: key endorsements from two beauty queens, Miss Teen Powdersville and Miss Powdersville. Miss Teen said she liked Newt and would vote for him because he is a great guy, but she is only 15. Miss Powdersville liked him because he supports Christianity and he would take us back to the Bible. She couldn't think of any other issues.
And finally, my candidate, Herman (/www.thedailybeast.com/videos/2011/10/10/cain-s-ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan-comment-falls-flat.html" target="_hplink">ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan) Cain, seems to have the same command of foreign policy as a former Miss Teen South Carolina.
Stephen Colbert is intentionally funny, but not the funniest person I heard during the South Carolina primary spectacle.
Herb Silverman, professor emeritus of math at the College of Charleston, is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America and author of the forthcoming book, "Candidate Without a Prayer." If you would like to contribute as a citizen journalist to The Huffington Post's coverage of the 2012 elections, please contact us at www.offthebus.org.
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