We all spend the majority of our time imagining we live inside of a television show, right? And then tweaking that television show slightly to turn it into our dream worlds that we want to inhabit all the time? No, just me? Oh, well. That may be the case, but I'm not even mad, because I daydream constantly about what it would be like if C.J. Cregg from The West Wing was president, and you should too. Seriously, I highly recommend it.
On The West Wing, Claudia Jean Cregg, owner of my heart, woman of my dreams, was played by Allison Janney, and was the Press Secretary for the fictional President Jed Bartlet. She later went on to hold the position of White House Chief of Staff. But what if she'd gone on to a position even higher than either of those? What if she'd gone all the way to the Oval Office and held the highest title in the land — Madame President? On the show, that wasn't possible, as President Bartlet was succeeded by President Matthew Santos. I have no beef with either of those leaders or their policies, but I can't help imagining what life would've been like with President Cregg at the helm of the country.
First of all, just in terms of the TV landscape, it would've been incredibly revolutionary. The West Wing aired from 1999 to 2006, long before the idea of a female presidency was as palpable as it is today. Even the moment when C.J. was awarded the title of Chief of Staff was huge and unexpected; the writers did an excellent job crafting the episode where her promotion was revealed, Season 6's "Third-Day Story." They made it seem like Josh Lyman and Toby Ziegler were the only candidates being considered, only to turn our expectations on their heads by announcing that C.J. was taking the job. In doing so, the writers made audiences realize that she was the only right choice all along.
And that's how it would be if she were President. I think, even in the series, the only thing that held C.J back from taking that office was her own lack of interest in it. C.J. was the kind of character who could clearly have whatever she wanted; she was incredibly dedicated, excellent at her job, witty as hell, unapologetic, respected by her peers, consistently the smartest in the room, virtually un-ruffleable, and — not that this matters, because C.J. gave zero effs what you thought — pretty universally liked. She showed no fear in taking on the kind of projects, and squaring off with the kind of people, who would make others shake in their boots, and that's exactly the kind of attitude that would serve her incredibly well as President. You just can't intimidate this woman, and you'd be crazy to try.
A universe with President Cregg as the Leader of the Free World would be a feminist paradise, where of course there would still be human rights issues, but in which we could have an open, accessible dialogue about what those issues were and how to address them. I think that's the trait of C.J.'s that stands out the most to me — her pragmatism. Above anyone else, she was the person on The West Wing that other characters would turn to for concrete, real world solutions to their problems. She had no patience for wallowing or excuses; I think that as President, she would pride herself on keeping the public exactly as informed as they needed to be, while being transparent about the things she couldn't share.
With C.J. as the leader of the country, the sentiment I think I'd feel the most was a reassuring sensation of "I've got your back." She's not someone I would ever worry about losing her nerve, but I'd also never be stressed about her making a rash decision. She was a thoughtful, self-aware character with a spine of steel and balls to match. I'd give almost anything to live in a world where she was making the policies. Cregg 2020, am I right?
Images: NBC; Giphy (3)