The parallels between the current US presidential election and the last season of The West Wing are staggering. In the Guardian last week, Andrew Mueller draws up some useful lessons that Obama (and presuamably McCain) could learn from the TV series.
Some of my favourites from Mueller's list ...
- Allow the eccentric to be heard
In the past eight years, many voices have been ignored during the tenure of surely the least intellectually curious president in US history. A couple of episodes of The West Wing revolve around an initiative called Big Block of Cheese Day, in which White House staff take meetings with representatives of fringe interests, from map reformers to proponents of highways for wolves. "By the end of the day, there's always one or two converts, right?" notes Bartlet.
- Use America's power to prevent tragedy
In season four, genocide is perpetrated in a fictional African country clearly based on Rwanda. Where Clinton did nothing while a million people were hacked to death in 1994, Bartlet declares a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention, and sends in the army: "I got this intelligence summary this afternoon. Mothers are standing in front of tanks. And we're going to go get their backs."
- Be yourself
Probably the most emblematic episode of the seven-season run is the one entitled Let Bartlet Be Bartlet, which is to say: let a smart, educated, thoughtful, even "elitist" man play to those strengths, rather than pretending he has anything in common with any Joe the Plumber beyond a regard for their country's constitution and an interest in its future. Which is all he need have.