Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Real-Life Imitates Fiction...

Whether by coincidence or by design, the entire 2008 presidential election has felt like a remake of the last season and a half of The West Wing. Playing Jimmy Smits (the minority populist underdog, who shoots straight and doesn't want to be a conventional candidate), we have Barack Obama. As Gary Cole, the slightly more establishment candidate who is the front-runner for much of the primary season, we have Hillary Clinton. As Alan Alda, the elder GOP congressman who seems like a liberals' wet dream of what a Republican would be like, we have John McCain (of course, McCain is for all intents and purposes, conservative Republican, but that's not the narrative at this point).

Like The West Wing, the GOP nominee scored the convention earlier than the Dems. In fact, in the thrilling season finale of season six, the Democratic primary goes all the way up to a brokered convention, where Smits and Cole fend off the surprise entry of Ed O'Neil, a popular dark horse candidate (Al Gore?). Smits wins the nomination, but only because he impresses the current president (Martin Sheen) enough to have Sheen broker a back room endorsement deal with the teachers union.

Here's the scary part... in the original storyline, Alda was supposed to defeat Smits in a general election. This was changed only after actor John Spencer died of a heart attack in December of 2005. The producers felt that the double whammy of the death of Spencer's fictional character (Smits' vice-presidential nominee) as well as the defeat of the populist liberal candidate would be too much for the show's liberal viewership (truth be told, after the stolen 2000 election, the fictional world of the West Wing became, by default, such a liberal fantasy that is was occasional painful to watch). Should Obama secure the nomination, let's hope that the narrative differs from both scenarios.

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