11 'West Wing' Episodes to Watch That'll Make You Want to Run for Office
These days, watching The West Wing always brings comfort, letting you wonder what would happen if we had a capable, inspiring president like President Bartlet and his hardworking staff in office. Despite not being on air for over a decade, The West Wing is timeless, featuring a pitch-perfect combination of humor and seriousness as it tackles the challenges that come within the world of politics. President Bartlet was not perfect, but he was a relatable figure as he learned from his mistakes and lifted up his team during difficult situations. And when you watch these West Wing episodes, you might be inspired to run for office yourself.
Right now, more people than ever are deciding to run for office and trying to make a change. The West Wing’s characters are a great reminder of how working together in an administration focused on showing compassion towards others and fighting hard to denounce bigotry can be powerful. Each person is charming in his or her own way, and they're all trying their hardest to succeed without putting each other down.
And their political efforts are truly motivating. There’s something so inspiring about President Bartlet's speeches, whether it’s the one denouncing homophobia while citing the Bible, or his iconic “10 words” speech during the presidential debate. If you need inspiration to become involved in the world of politics and run for office yourself, you’re going to want to watch these West Wing episodes.
1. "Game On" (Season 4, Episode 6)
"Game On," otherwise known as “The Debate,” has Bartlet making an important point in his rebuttal against Republican candidate Governor Robert Ritchie, who gives a simple 10-word response as to why he believes taxes should be cut. Bartlet urges him to give another 10-word response on how this will be accomplished. Instead of coming up with sound bites like his staff wants him to do, Bartlet challenges the use of clean, short answers and points out that presidential decisions are often a lot more complex than that.
2. "Two Cathedrals" (Season 2, Episode 22)
This episode stands out to fans with its cliffhanger, when President Bartlet is asked if he’s seeking re-election in the midst of grieving Mrs. Landingham’s death. We all know that he will, considering his imagined conversation with Mrs. Landingham, where she tells him that if he doesn’t run, he’d be letting her down. "Two Cathedrals" shows that even when life throws challenges at you, you can’t give up your goals.
3. "Election Night" (Season 4, Episode 7)
In “Election Night,” Bartlet wins the presidency, bringing a sigh of relief to his staff, but he has to find a way to handle the role while dealing with Multiple Sclerosis. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in California wins, which would be great if the guy hadn’t died three weeks before the election. This inspires Sam to run for Congress in his home district.
4. "The Midterms" (Season 2, Episode 3)
This episode has an iconic scene that shows the importance of having a president who fights against bigotry. In a press conference, Bartlet immediately spots Dr. Jacobs, who has a radio show that promotes homophobia. He schools her on how hiding behind the Bible to promote that is abhorrent, and the whole room stands in silence as Bartlet ends his speech by saying, “Toby, that’s how I beat him.”
5. "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" (Season 1, Episode 19)
This episode shows the importance of not letting obstacles get in the way and working as a team to fight through them. After a memo pointing out Bartlet's weaknesses is leaked, the staff questions how to handle it. Leo decides to not let it stop them, coming up with the "Let Bartlet be Bartlet" plan. The staff decides to stand by the president and do everything in their power to help him, saying, "I serve with the pleasure of the President of the United States."
6. "20 Hours In America" (Season 4, Episode 1 & 2)
Josh, Toby, and Donna learn how to deal with being completely out of their element while being stranded in Indiana after missing their flight back home. This becomes a learning experience for them, as they socialize with townsfolk who represent a different worldview.
7. "Election Day Part II" (Season 7, Episode 17)
This is one of West Wing's most heartbreaking episodes, dealing with Leo's death. Much like other episodes, it's one that shows perseverance during tough times and a bittersweet moment for Josh as he leads Santos to victory, reaching a career milestone while battling through grief after losing his mentor.
8. "Isaac And Ishmael" (Season 3, Episode 1)
This is a very powerful episode that aired shortly after 9/11. The West Wing often tackled issues of prejudice and in this one, they showed the importance of respecting American citizens who practice Islam and grouping them together with terrorists. Josh and Donna speak to a group of high schoolers, prompting a very important conversation.
9. "Noël" (Season 2, Episode 10)
As Josh comes to terms with having PTSD after the shooting, he grows worried that he won't be able to fulfill his role at the White House. Leo, who has experienced similar trauma, offers advice and assures him everything will be fine with a touching speech, saying, "as long as I got a job, you got a job."
10. "Bartlet For America" (Season 3, Episode 10)
In another touching Leo moment, this episode looks into his past and the challenges he had to overcome to achieve his position as Chief of Staff, as well as the role he played in motivating Bartlet to run for president.
11. "In the Shadow Of Two Gunmen" (Season 2, Episode 1& 2)
After President Bartlet and Josh are shot, the episode focuses on flashbacks of the staff's beginnings and how they all reached this point in their careers that brought them together as an unstoppable team.
These episodes — and the show overall — would make anyone consider running for office.