Stephen Colbert Doesn’t Understand Democracy

CLAY: I was listening to some of the monologues from all the different late-night comedians. By the way, Greg Gutfeld, Buck was on his show last night. Buck out sick today. But he was out last night doing the show with Gutfeld and Gutfeld is overwhelmingly dominating Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, everybody out there who has a late-night talk show.

And one reason why I think Greg Gutfeld is dominating is because he’s still trying to make you laugh in the same sort of old-school set-up as existed with David Letterman and as existed with Johnny Carson. And as I listen to this monologue from Stephen Colbert on abortion… First of all, Stephen Colbert is not very smart in terms of analyzing politics. He’s also not that funny anymore.

It’s a very strident, morally focused late-night talk show. And I’m 42. And I grew up loving David Letterman. I grew up watching Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, all those people late at night. You remember when you were a kid, and you got to stay up a little bit late past your bedtime. You got to watch the late-night comedians. What’s so great about them was they were equal opportunity bomb throwers.


They really legitimately tried, whether they did it perfectly or not — of course not — they tried to equally take shots at the excesses and stupidities of Republicans and the excesses and stupidities of Democrats. Imagine Bill Clinton. He was a consistent punch line for these guys, even though he’s a Democratic politician. George W. Bush, similarly, was a consistent punch line. But he was a Republican. But they treated the two guys, at least in my experience, fairly similar.

Ronald Reagan not a lot different. Even Barack Obama they would make fun of a little bit. But with Trump, they went off the deep end, and now without Trump, Stephen Colbert made his entire show an anti-Trump screed, and it worked. There were sheep out there that desperately wanted their late-night comedians to only make fun of Donald Trump,m and then everybody followed.

And the reason that Greg Gutfeld is dominating, I think, is because he just kind of focuses on the humor and these other guys have become so strident politically, and they’re all coming from the same angle that there’s a huge opportunity for Greg Gutfeld. But I listened to this clip from Stephen Colbert on abortion, and I thought to myself, “One, this guy’s not very smart in terms of even what he’s trying to say. But, two, how do we get to a place where a late-night comedian walks out on to the stage and this is the ‘jokes,’ in quotation marks, jokes that he’s making?”

COLBERT: Last month an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 60% support uphold upholding Roe compared to 20% who want to overturn it. If it’s this unpopular, why is everyone saying it’s going to happen? I don’t want to get technical, but we, what’s the word, don’t live in a democracy. Five of the nine justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

The last three confirmed by a Republican Senate who now represent 41 million fewer Americans than the Democrats. In fact, Republican senators haven’t represented the majority of the U.S. population since 1996. A lot has changed since 1996. Back then, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor went to Kevin Spacey, and the best director was Mel Gibson.

CLAY: All right. So the Spacey and the Gibson line, maybe that’s the attempted joke there. But what he’s really saying is if Roe v. Wade gets overturned it’s going to be a sign that our democracy doesn’t work. To me it’s the exact opposite. See, the judges are not elected. They are appointed for life. The idea that a judicial system should determine a fundamental political question is what I believe has made abortion such an incredibly contentious issue in this country.

We actually would have more of a democracy, Stephen Colbert, if the justices overturned Roe v. Wade and gave back the decision to determine whether or not abortion should be legal to all of the democratically elected representatives in every state. If there is this great groundswell for abortion to be legal in your individual state, then the politicians who represent the people will allow abortion to be legal.

If there is a great groundswell of abortion not to be legal in your state, then the politicians will be elected who will vote against abortion being legal. What happened — that Stephen Colbert is defending — is the very antithesis of democracy. Instead of our political system making a choice, hard as it may be, about what we want the law to be on abortion, we allowed our politicians to punt the issue to a court of unelected judges to determine what the law of abortion is in the land.

That has created a great deal of antagonism and poisoned our judicial system because it has turned the appointment of justices into a political proxy war over abortion. If individual elected politicians have to make their choices on abortion public and readily viewable for everyone, that’s the very essence of what a democracy is because then all of us can decide whether to vote for or against those elected officials who are letting their voice on abortion be determined.

It’s frustrating to me that the court would be attacked here for potentially making the choice to overrule a precedent that was never supported by basic American democracy in the first place. What they would be exercising is not judicial activism; it’s judicial restraint. What Colbert doesn’t understand is that is what’s supposed to happen in our American democracy, where we allow all of you to have your voices heard directly when it comes to an issue such as this.

And, again, I want to reiterate, a lot of people out there don’t understand what’s at stake with this Mississippi abortion law. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, every individual state would decide whether or not abortion was legal. It would not end abortion in America. It would end abortion in terms of the Supreme Court deciding it, and then all 50 states would get to make a determination about what the law is.

That is ultimately far more democratic than allowing nine unelected justices to determine a fundamentally, in my opinion, political question. It’s probably not a surprise that Stephen Colbert is an idiot when it comes to analyzing an issue such as this, but it’s kind of disappointing with all the writers that he has that nobody would have pointed that out to him.


CLAY: What an idiot Colbert is. Imagine sitting around saying, “Hey, we get an opportunity to do a show to make Americans laugh.” That’s a pretty good job, right? You’ve got an entire staff of people that sit around and just try to come up with things that they think are funny. That’s basically what their monologue is. I’m not going to claim that this job is wildly difficult to do when it comes to making people laugh, but it would be a fun job.

Certainly get great guests. Get to sit down, interview them for a few minutes. They give you a note card with the questions already prepared. Something, by the way, that Buck and I never do. Sit around and like have people give us questions to ask, things like that. And you’re sitting around, “Hey, what could we talk about today? What could we kind of have some fun with?”

Somebody is like, “You should open your monologue on a late-night comedy show talking about abortion, and then we’ll throw in the fact that it’s anti-democratic, and that our democracy is not going to survive if Roe v. Wade is overturned!” It’s all such BS, and it’s all such propaganda, and it’s not even disguised anymore, and it’s frustrating to see.

What does Stephen Colbert make, $20 million a year, some insane salary, and he can’t even understand the basic roles of government? If you’re at least going to be going out and leading your monologue talking about Roe v. Wade, maybe understand the basic precepts under which Roe v. Wade would be decided, and that it would actually be more democratic of the Supreme Court if they overturned Roe v. Wade.

Because it would mean the direct political process would be involved in determining whether abortion was going to be legal in your state. He’s arguing as part of his comedic monologue absolute untruths, and also demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the most elemental bases of separation powers and what the role of the court is under our Constitution.

It’s actually far more democratic if Roe v. Wade is overturned because instead of unelected judges determining the law of the land, your state legislators and your governors, who you decide whether or not to elect every couple of years, would make the choice instead. That’s the very foundation of our democratic process, and you’ve got people running around out there arguing that somehow the judges are being anti-democratic by allowing the American political process to make determinations when it comes to issues such as abortion.

It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of separation of powers and what the role of our judiciary is in our country. It’s got me all fired up. Whether you believe that the right of Roe v. Wade, the ruling of Roe v. Wade, supplemented by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, is correct or not, it is anti-democratic to allow nine judges to determine what the standard is for whether abortion should occur across the entire nation.

I think that’s what’s made abortion politics particularly toxic, because instead of 50 individual states making their own decisions, and you — all of you out there — deciding whether to vote for or against people partly based on their decisions there, we’ve allowed the courts to take this case away from the American public and we’ve made the courts more toxic, and we’ve made American politics more toxic. The answer is actually more democracy.

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