9 Things That Happened On 'The West Wing' That We Should Aim For In Real Life
I've never been shy about sharing the fact that I think The West Wing is the best show ever, and one of the most amazing things about it is how real they make it seem. Even though I know with my whole heart and mind and body and soul that the things that happen in Jed Bartlett's White House could never happen in the real world, it doesn't stop me wishing and hoping. Aaron Sorkin created an environment that is perfect in its simplicity — if you need something done, there are only about five people in the building whom you'd need to ask, and, if worse comes to worse, you just call in the big guns and have Martin Sheen do a monologue at them. That seems to do the trick every time. If only it worked like that in real life!
The West Wing represents a microcosm where at the end of the day, everyone is working toward a common goal, and that makes it a heckuva lot easier to get things done. When you're writing to create the most possible drama in a 26-episode arc instead of to trying to get re-elected, you can play a little faster and looser with reality. But. That doesn't mean there aren't some really great ideas in the show that I think we could aim to achieve in real life.
1. True Bipartisanship
When Democrat Matt Santos defeats Republican Arnold Vinick for the Presidency, Santos nominates Vinick as his Secretary of State, even though they come from different parties. Now that's what I call bipartisan respect.
2. A Female Chief Of Staff
After Leo McGarry's heart attack and subsequent retirement, the show makes it seem like the choice for his replacement as Chief of Staff is down to Josh Lyman and Toby Ziegler, banking on the fact that their final choice, C.J. Cregg, might not even occur to us. Unfortunately, they were right in my case, probably because there has never been a single female Chief of Staff IRL. Very cool, love that. Make it happen, Washington.
3. Creative Problem-Solving
In the episode "A Good Day", from Season 6, Episode 17, the Republicans believe they have waited until many of the Democrats are out of town before calling a vote on stem cells, assuming that they'll win handily. Except that a bunch of Democrats had secretly hidden in an empty office and all came piling out when it was time to vote, putting an end to the shenanigans. That kind of creative problem solving would be great to see both sides use in the real political sphere.
4. Peace In The Middle East
Dare to dream, right? In the show's version, Bartlett helped to broker peace between Israel and Palestine by meeting with Palestinian moderates and Israeli leaders at Camp David, mediating talks that eventually led to a two-state solution. Would that it were that simple in real life.
5. Perseverance Being Rewarded
In the Season 3, Episode 7 "Indians In The Lobby," two Munsee-Stockbridge Native Americans post up in the lobby of the White House until the President and the Interior Department get on the same page and start addressing their issues. And hey, it actually works. Dare to dream, right?
6. The Government Not Shutting Down
The government almost gets shut down due to inaction from within, in Season 5, Episode 8, but then it doesn't. Because real life has now become stranger than fiction.
7. People Challenging The President In A Productive Way
Emphasis on productive. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but I can only dream that the banter between President Obama and his secretaries is anywhere near as hilarious and acerbic as between President Bartlet and Deborah Fiderer. (And Mrs. Landingham of course, rest her soul.) On the show, people are encouraged to be honest almost to a fault, and the American people always benefit from the extra voice.
8. No Personal Favors
Again, I can only hope that the real life people who run our country aren't just extending a series of favors to one another, but that isn't how it goes down on the show. You remember why Fiderer got fired, right? It was for giving the job of the President's body man to Charlie Young instead of the son of a party donor. And we all know that Charlie Young is the best, so that worked out.
9. Two People Making A Decision
In Season 6, Episode 9, entitled "Impact Winter," President Bartlet shuts himself in a room with the Chinese president, refusing to come out until they come to an agreement on bringing North Korea in for a nuclear summit. Wouldn't it be a lovely thing if life was as simple as a TV show, and two people could just chat to each other until they found common ground?
At the end of the day, I completely understand why these things don't translate to real life — mostly because there are more than five main people working in politics — but that doesn't make me any less likely to reminisce on what might have been if I'd been born into a world of Sorkin scripts and convincing speeches.
Images: Warner Bros. Television Distribution (10)