You may wonder why I am bothering to write this as The West Wing seems to be a universally accepted piece of quality TV that, in the UK at least, tends to draw together people from Left and Right with regards to their shared love of politics.
So it was that I was a bit taken aback by this piece from Shana Pearlman on Iain Dale's blog. I don't know why I should be because she does state that she once worked for Fox News ;-) (oh and btw many of us lefties are aware that it was Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live that coined the "Russia from my house" phrase, but attributed quotes float around as much as the real ones).
Sorkin's West Wing is not what was or is, but what it can be! One could argue that it was the idealism of the West Wing that reminded many of the ideals of the social policies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and helped propel Obama into the White House. There will never be a perfect West Wing but we can sure aim for it and after the cruel cynicism of the Bush era with stinkbombs of lack of moral judgement and loss of prestige abroad (Rendition and Guantamano for starters) it has been a refreshing change to see an administration (of which I am proud to have helped campaign for), bring in Healthcare that will benefit millions of Americans who have failed to go to the Doctors over ailments that could save their lives because they could not afford to do so. It helps increase insurance and more generous subsidies to lower income groups among many other things.There are also many other policies that the Obama administration have put forward which will improve the lot of not just the US, but many other countries as well due to their links with the US. That is not ruining politics, that is invigorating politics.
As for debating with others, how can we do anything else! The 2008 election campaign was hard fought and with much negative campaigning. I saw first hand the rebuttals made to some of the accusations made and that involved discussing policy. Smugness and superiority and not debating properly are not the preserve of the left. There are many on the Right who could be accused of being the same and who like to shut down debate by being insulting and cruel, take Rush Limbaugh's recent attack on Sandra Fluke! Equally there are many on the Right who are not like that just as there are many on the Left who are not like that. The scene in The West Wing where President Bartlett takes on Dr Jacobs in The Midterms episode was not trashing an opponent with facts it was exposing her bigotry and/or anxiety and cowardice. Incidentally Dr Jacobs could have turned back with facts about cowhide but that was not the point, the point was that there are some Old Testament rules forbidding various things that are not kosher that many conservatives practice. She could even have mentioned Romans Ch 1 vs 26-28, President Bartlett could have responded with the sexual norms and practices of the time, of the actual translations, and most importantly, the need to Love ones neighbour as oneself.
What I love about the West Wing is that while we live in a society that is sick of politicians, they see those who lie, are cynical, greedy, manipulative, and corrupt, The West Wing gives an antidote, not showing the lead characters as saints, but shows the toughness of the job and yet the determination to put ideals into practice. It has probably done a great deal to bring young people into politics on both Right and Left on both sides of the Atlantic and that must not be ignored. It's fresh, it's innovative and works at appealing to people's intelligence and sense of moral values, of not what is but of what can be! For that Aaron Sorkin deserves a medal