Ken Connor

It's hard to imagine how the American public's opinion of Congress could get much worse than it is already, but last week, Representative Zoe Lofgren tested this notion when she invited Comedy Central comedian and faux pundit Stephen Colbert to testify on Capitol Hill. At a time when our nation faces many serious challenges - and our representatives face reelection - such a bizarre and inappropriate stunt leaves little doubt that many politicians in Washington are out of touch, and in serious need of a reality check.

The catalyst for these Capitol Hill hijinks was the new "Take Our Jobs" campaign launched this summer by the United Farm Workers union. The ostensible purpose of the campaign is to draw attention to the crucial role that undocumented workers play in America's food supply chain while debunking the notion that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens. When Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert caught wind of the campaign, he announced his plans to spend a day in the shoes of a migrant farm worker, and invited Representive Zoe Lofgren, Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Citizenship, Refugees, Immigration and Border Security, to make a cameo appearance on his show , which aired on September 22nd. Two days later, in a theatrical role reversal, Mr. Colbert made a cameo appearance of his own before Congress, having been invited by Chairman Lofgren to testify about his one-day experience as a migrant farm worker.

Reaction from Lofgren's colleagues was mixed. The move was roundly condemned by Republicans as an outrageous misuse of time and money, not to mention an insult to the American public. Democrats were put in the odd position of trying to justify the stunt as technically legitimate while acknowledging that it may have been perceived as inappropriate. Some, like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, threw concerns for party solidarity to the wind, making no bones about his disapproval of Colbert's testimony.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.