I confess, I disappeared into Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing series for much of the past year. Thanks to Netflix, I could come home at night and watch an episode, trade in the day’s political reality for an evening’s political fantasy. I didn’t watch it every night, but I knew that I could. I fell in love with Josh Lyman all over again. Cried when Leo McGarry died. But I really cried when the seasons came to an end, and I watched CJ Cregg go off with Danny Kincannon and Matt Santos take over the Oval Office. I wanted to crawl into my TV set and live in that world.
My depression lasted for several days, until around the time that Speaker Boehner resigned after a prayer with Pope Francis. But then I looked at the picture of Trump on the cover the New York Times magazine and slumped back into political disgust.
We have no charismatic political figures right now. Hillary Clinton has lost the allure she magnified eight years ago, and I don’t sense that either President Obama or today’s West Wing staff can carry out the miracles that I relished in reruns. One of the many ironies is that Gene Sperling, who wrote the West Wing episode where Social Security is fixed, is now working in the real West Wing as a chief economist. Last I checked, Sperling hasn’t figured out how to make Social Security fiscally responsible.
I loved the episode when President Bartlet walks the final mile to the Capitol to meet with the Speaker of the House after the government has shut down. He outwits the Speaker in a chess-move maneuver, and the government reopens. There were no Dr. Seuss filibusters or internal party squabbles.
Another irony: Ted Cruz, who delivered that 21-hour stall tactic that mingled Green Eggs and Ham with Obamacare to prevent passage of a spending bill to keep the government running, is now running for president. Cruz is no Santos.
Beam me back. I want to be able to applaud politics and politicians again. I want to feel something other than disgust.