Late Night TV: The Democrats’ Ultimate SuperPAC
presidential campaigns spend millions trying to get their messages out. Television spots. Social media buys. Videos they hope, and pray, will go viral.
None of it is cheap
Next year, the Democrats can do much of that without touching their campaign coffers. Late night comics, or more accurately their respective networks, will foot the bill.
Hosts like Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and Jimmy Kimmel have spent the last three years savaging President Donald Trump, often at the expense of comedy. Night after night, monologue after monologue, the hosts carve up GOP interests with nary a slight against progressives.
Can you imagine a TV landscape where Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is never the butt of a late-night comic’s jokes?
Well, here we are, and it’s about to get worse.
Late night shows are the Democrats’ unofficial SuperPAC, designed to gin up maximize voter turnout. Programs like Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” and CBS’s “The Late Show” increasingly invite Democratic politicians on to showcase them in the best possible light.
Remember when Kimmel had Hillary Clinton open up a jar of pickles in August of 2016 to show she was in fine health? A few weeks later she famously collapsed, a serious blow to her presidential dreams.
More recently, Colbert tried to warn Sen. Elizabeth Warren her pie-in-the-sky plans couldn’t be paid off without raising taxes on the middle class.
Sen. Warren’s recent visit with “Desus & Mero” proved illuminating in more ways than one. The show hosts fawned over Warren, lobbing softball questions her way that would make Larry King blush. They also had her participate in an escape room “sketch” that highlighted her problem-solving skills.
They even refer to her as “future president.”
Her presidential campaign couldn’t have scripted it any better.
The vast majority of Democrats running for the White House have worked the late night circuit already. Imagine what will happen when that group is reduced to two or three contenders … and then one lucky candidate?
Whatever flaw he or she may exhibit on the campaign trail will be countered by late night scribes. For Clinton, it was her allegedly frail heart. For Warren, it might be her inauthentic biography.
Late night hosts will be tasked with making Biden look sharp, and gaffe-free, should his lead hold.
Best of all from the Democrats’ point of view? These late night clips often make the rounds of social media. YouTube routinely serves them up to those visiting the video portal. News outlets report on them, too, amplifying their voices in the process.
Those same reporters won’t fact check these appearances, though. They’ll regurgitate the banter as if all of the claims are true.
Imagine fact checkers racing to their keyboards if President Trump graced a late night set. That’s impossible to confirm since there’s no way a host will offer his or her couch to the President over the next 12 months, or any time after that, for the matter.
Remember how the press pilloried Jimmy Fallon for tousling Trump’s hair weeks before Election Day? He eventually apologized for treating his famous guest like … a guest.
Of course, late night TV isn’t an official SuperPAC. If it were, the networks would have to abide by a set of constricting rules.
Just like candidates and political parties, super PACs must report detailed information about their donors who contribute over $200. They must also register with the Federal Election Commission and report all of their donations and spending on a schedule set forth by the government. This information is then published online in a searchable database available to anyone.
It’s just entertainment. Yuk yuk! Move along.
There’s a political downside to the aforementioned propaganda. These shows are increasingly seen as partisan and unfair, which dents some of their ability to persuade. If Rush Limbaugh trashes a new Trump talking point, that’s newsworthy. If he praises one, that’s expected.
The same holds true for Team Late Night. Conservatives have mostly tuned out these voices, and it’s a safe bet independent voters know the comedy fix is in, too.
Still, viewers on the fence could be persuaded by the steady stream of anti-GOP messaging. It’s the reason Team Late Night abandoned all pretenses of objectivity in the Age of Trump, and why their unofficial SuperPAC could cost the GOP in 2020.