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A return to ‘The West Wing’ urges individuals to vote—whereas evoking idealism from a extra regular time

Not all “normals” are good, nevertheless. Part of what marks Black Lives Matter as a motion is the truth that the “normal” African-Americans reside with, which most white Americans have accepted for many years, is something society only confronts when there’s horrifiying video footage. The dynamic between a want for issues to suit expectations and failing to face change and develop from it has been an ongoing drawback inside American tradition—expressed by way of things like pink hats, slogans like “Making America Great Again,” and the denial of a painful present. Because whether or not or not it’s a big group of idiots partying with out masks in the course of a pandemic, or hostility to protesters and explaining away racism to oppressed teams, “normal” turns into extra about attaining consolation whereas discounting another person’s struggling.

Pontification about what all of it means results in phrases like “the new normal,” with the phrase relationship again to at least the end of World War I however surging into widespread parlance following the Sept. 11 attacks. In apply, saying everyone seems to be experiencing a “new normal” serves to, properly, normalize issues we might by no means often settle for however do now—for causes which can be legitimate or silly. In the years after the destruction of the World Trade Center, when the general public was primed to be vigilant for the overseas terrorists who may very well be lurking amongst us as our neighbors, bracing for the following assault on American soil grew to become the fearful justification for launching assaults across the planet. Daily life existed under a color-coded threat system, and Americans accepted Patriot Acts and secret prisons, all within the identify of freedom. All of this was heralded as a brand new regular for a society which must accede to compromises in order to be safe. Almost 20 years faraway from the occasion, worldwide terrorism has receded as a priority for many voters, since there’s a better chance of being killed by home-grown white supremacists than Islamic extremists, and conservatives are extra apprehensive about politically handy boogeymen like antifa. Plenty of instances the incongruity of the prices we’ve endured and the stupidity inherent to it’s pushed to the back of the mind with a South Park-esque cynicism that provides in to despair, so why care in any respect.

But sometimes there comes a second the place the excessive beliefs which got here earlier than the painful current bleed by way of, and the distinction of what was and what’s makes us take into consideration what may very well be … which brings us again to The West Wing.

Aaron Sorkin has warned towards calling A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote a “reunion,” likening a tv reunion to something The Brady Bunch cast would do. Instead, West Wing actors returned to their roles for a theatrical staging of the season three episode “Hartsfield’s Landing,” which was filmed on the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles (with COVID-19 protocols in place). The particular debuted Oct. 15 on HBO Max, and options Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, Rob Lowe, and Janel Maloney returning to their previous roles. Sterling Okay. Brown (This is Us) changed the late John Spencer as Leo McGarry, and Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) briefly turns into Zoey Bartlet yet one more time, together with appearances from Michelle Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Samuel L. Jackson, and even former President Bill Clinton.

During a Sept. 27, 2000 interview on PBS’ News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Sorkin defined what may very well be thought of the central theme of the sequence.

SORKIN: “[The characters] are fairly heroic … That’s unusual in American popular culture, by and large. Our leaders, government people are portrayed either as dolts or as Machiavellian somehow. The characters in this show are neither. They are flawed, to be sure, because you need characters in drama to have flaws. But they, all of them, have set aside probably more lucrative lives for public service. They are dedicated not just to this president, but to doing good, rather than doing well. The show is kind of a valentine to public service. It celebrates our institutions. It celebrates education often. These characters are very well educated, and while sometimes playfully snobby about it, there is, in all of them, a love of learning and appreciation of education.”

Looking at it now, the sequence can appear naive in its beliefs about establishments, however as talked about above, The West Wing, together with its religious predecessor The American President, proceeds from an idealistic, Capra-esque imaginative and prescient of American politics—one which believes within the optimistic features of presidency and, extra importantly, the optimistic features of the individuals in authorities. In 2011, officers in Myanmar informed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they were watching episodes of the show in order to learn about the mechanics of democracy. During the 2012 election, articles have been written which argued Sorkin had been influential in shaping not solely a technology of public servants, however had inspired many young people to believe in a politician who told them “yes we can.” In quick, if one thing like South Park drips in cynicism and apathy, The West Wing asks individuals to provide a rattling about their nation and the world.

As the nation shifted after the Sept. 11 assaults, which occurred throughout the present’s third season, the sequence’ signature walk-and-talk preachiness, with wonky anecdotes and obscure info, grew to become a response to the presidency of George W. Bush. In a rustic that generally appears to equate intelligence with condescension and elevates ignorance to a advantage, the distinction of a fictional, well-educated Democratic president, surrounded by characters united in an idea of patriotic responsibility, was an entertaining refuge for some who have been weary of an actual Republican president who took the nation to warfare by way of fear and Freedom Fries.

In Sorkin’s political universe, most of these in authorities are respectable people who find themselves attempting their greatest to make a distinction. Those with ideas are victorious over those that unfold lies and distortions. And all that’s obligatory for the perfect political coverage to hold the day—irrespective of how controversial it is likely to be—is the heart to say what you imply and imply what you say.

Where The West Wing praises responsibility, data, and sacrifice, the previous 4 years of American life have been outlined by self-importance, self-delusions, and stoked resentments writ giant. Significant sectors of the tradition have been invested in reliving a brand new model of a darkish previous by embracing lies concerning the current. Instead of inspiring individuals to serve their authorities, the presidency has been used to spread hate and violence. The overseas governments and peoples which as soon as seemed to the United States for management now both pity us, or laugh at us.

All of it is because what we referred to as regular has been underneath fixed assault throughout the Trump years. It has been pushed by way of a perpetual coddling of 1 fool and his legion with comforting “alternative facts” trying to bend actuality to his superficial whims. The drawback, although, is that one can’t spin a contagious disease into nothing. And a president—who nobody believes says what he means or believes what he says—can’t be trusted to steer or encourage the general public to trust in a greater future.

Sterling Okay. Brown as Leo McGarry, taking on for the late John Spencer, who originated the position

In a letter Sorkin famously wrote to his daughter the day after the 2016 election, lots of the themes of The West Wing spring to mind, whereas being very prescient concerning the path the nation was about to be dragged down, in denouncing Donald Trump and every part he represents.

The Klan gained final night time. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry younger white males who assume rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a menace to their lifestyle (or are the explanation for his or her lifestyle) have been given trigger to have fun. Men who haven’t any proper to name themselves that and who assume that girls who aspire to greater than wanting scorching are shrill, ugly, and in any other case worthy of our scorn reasonably than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads in every single place.

Hate was given hope.

Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anybody trouble to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs within the Roosevelt Room?) For the following 4 years, the President of the United States, the identical workplace held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.Okay. and Barack Obama, will probably be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance towards all who criticize him (and people numbers will probably be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in entrance of our youngsters and the world.

The battle isn’t over, it’s simply begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he got here residence this nation handed him a chance to make an ideal life for his household. I cannot hand his granddaughter a rustic formed by hateful and silly males. Your tears final night time woke me up, and I’ll by no means fall asleep on you once more.



On Nov. 3, the individuals of this nation will select a imaginative and prescient and the individual they wish to preside over a brand new regular. But this election is a warfare for what “normal” even means. It’s a referendum on whether or not the greater than 200,000 people who have died, and the untold others which have suffered underneath this administration, did so over “hoaxes” and “fake news,” or whether or not the lack of these lives and all that ache was a tragic mistake that by no means ought to have occurred. Election Day will probably be a crucible over whether or not the traditional individuals want to have is one which’s involved with the police murders of individuals like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

We all wish to be again to regular as quickly as doable. But, if we wish the traditional the world wants, a traditional that’ll endure and assist individuals, we’ll should battle for it. And that’s one thing I realized from watching The West Wing. Cynical individuals would possibly view the outlook of the sequence as naive, or even wrong. But there’s energy in voting, which is the complete level of this reunion. A vote is a selection and that selection comes with accountability and penalties. The world we reside in is the brand new regular we select and tolerate. The pleasure of our collective will expressed is what that is all about. Maybe it’s going to quantity to nothing. Maybe it’ll all turn into a multitude. But in that place between hope and ballots there’s an opportunity, an actual probability, to vary the world for the higher.

And therein lies the message of The West Wing: People who consider in a candidate, a philosophy, or the beliefs of a rustic can construct their very own future … in the event that they solely present up and take a look at.

Are you ready to show up and try? With Nov. 3 just days away, there’s no time like right now to help get out the vote. Sign up with the Biden-Harris campaign to make phone calls to swing state voters from the comfort of your own home, no matter where you live. All you need is a personal computer, a quiet place in your home where you can make phone calls, and a desire to kick Donald Trump out of office.

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