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Why ‘The West Wing’ Is the Show Americans Need To Be Watching Right Now

Casey Duby ’21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

We’re living in a time when the thought of talking about politics tends to make people either sad or angry. In fact, when I recommend this show to people, I usually get something along the lines of: “I can’t watch political shows, they make me too sad.” But that’s why The West Wing is exactly the show America needs to binge right now.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, it’s hard to deny that we can do better. And no matter where you are on the political spectrum, it’s hard to deny that Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), the show’s president, would be an incredible step in that direction. The show depicts a Democratic administration, but it’s about communication and intelligence and kindness; everything we can be if we just try our hardest to put our best foot forward.

Everyone in this fictional administration believes so much in the country and the government, and they show us how much more is out there. There’s plenty of inspiring one liners like “decisions are made by those who show up,” “never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world,” and “every time we think we’ve measured our capacity to meet a challenge,  we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless,” which are all things we need to be reminded of every now and then.

Every episode is riddled with inspiring lines like these and impassioned speeches calling for action, asking us to hold ourselves to a higher standard. The show represents America’s potential and is a warm, wholesome example of what we should be pursuing in who to elect to office and how to communicate with each other. It welcomes everyone, even (and especially) those who disagree with the policies of the Bartlet administration. The show makes plenty of commentary about the issues, many of them still relevant today, but above all, it’s about good people trying to make a difference.

The West Wing also highlights the need for bipartisanship, and the priority of intelligence, capability, and respectability over party affiliations. Bartlet hires a Republican into the counsel’s office, and his Chief of Staff convinces her to take the job by telling her that “the President likes smart people who disagree with him.” This sentence should be applicable to every president, and seeing that on television reminds us what we can and should aspire to.

The characters get angry, frustrated, and disappointed, but they are always willing to debate with an open mind. There is an entire episode dedicated to Toby (Richard Schiff), the President’s speechwriter, detesting the thought of meeting with a group of Republicans and not discussing the issues. He would rather debate and disagree than avoid the subject, which is often not the preferred choice between the two.

The Bartlet administration is one that fails often and acknowledges the faults within the country, but it does so under the strong and persistent idea that we can do so much better. They are aspiring to do good, and that is the image of government that Americans need to envision. People like these characters are out there, and they are the ones who should captivate our attention. With the attitudes of settling and giving up becoming more and more prevalent, a show that reignites hope and belief in government truly has the power to influence the future.

The West Wing is a show that doesn’t reflect the White House today, but it makes us say, “Wouldn’t it be great if it did?” And we can get there.

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