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Life Imitating Art ... Kinda

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From contributing blogger Alyson Klein:

So apparently it's not just my editor and fan of NBC's "The West Wing" Mark Walsh who noticed that the 2008 presidential election bares an uncanny resemblance to the final two seasons of the multi-award winning drama.

The Washington Post had a piece on the similarities this week. Apparently, it's not a total coincidence, as the TV show's writers had Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois specifically in mind when they created Rep. Matt Santos of Texas, played by Jimmy Smits.

But one major (and lamentable) difference: In the fictional campaign, education was actually a major issue. And teachers' unions' endorsements were pivotal, according to wikipedia and my (admittedly hazy) memory. Santos made his education plan - ending teacher tenure and extending the school day - a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. His Republican opponent, Sen. Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda), said he supported ending teacher tenure, but saw an expansion of the federal role in education as an overreach of authority, according to this chart comparing their positions, which appears to have been created by a fan of the show.

At a brokered Democratic convention in the sixth season finale, Santos won the nomination because of the last minute backing of the teachers' unions. They weren't crazy about the plan to end teacher tenure, but threw their support to Santos anyway, at the behest of President Jeb Bartlett.

I'm sure that would have brought the fictional NEA and AFT more than just a seat at the table for any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, although the show never waded into that. Maybe Reg Weaver and Ed McElroy should dust off their DVDs and take some notes, especially since at the end of the seventh and final season of "The West Wing," Santos won the White House.

2 Comments

I have been thinking the same thing all along! Like when pundits pundicize about the tension between Hispanics and African Americans...or like when one of Vinick's South American campaign aides resigns because he won't work against Santos. (I'm still kinda hoping McCain's former media adviser will campaign for Obama.) We are big fans of West Wing (still) around our office, and have referred to the show more than once when discussing the campaign, saying: "As history shows us..."

Not to beat a dead horse, but read these comments by Robert Novak about McCain-- it's Vinick's problems all over again! Ah (fictional) history...

Robert Novak writes:

Shortcomings by John McCain's campaign in the art of politics are alienating two organizations of Christian conservatives. James Dobson's Focus on the Family is estranged following the failure of Dobson and McCain to talk out their differences. Evangelicals who follow the Rev. John Hagee resent McCain's disavowal of him.

The evangelicals are not an isolated problem for the Arizona senator. Enthusiasm for McCain inside the Republican coalition is in short supply. During the four months since McCain clinched the nomination, he has not satisfied conservatives opposed to his positions on global warming, campaign finance reform, immigration, domestic oil drilling and how to ban same-sex marriages.

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