Monday, April 10, 2006

The West Wing Election and A Lession For Real Candidates

Santos and Vinick

Ever since November 2000 many of us have thought something was wrong–sort of like a being on an alternative time line on Star Trek–in which the wrong man was made President leading to disasterous results until Kirk or Picard corrected the time line restoring the rightful President. Despite winning the popular vote, and the electoral college if there had been a complete recount in Florida, Al Gore was denied the Presidency and it was given to an incompetent and morally bankrupt man who will likely always be known as the worst President in history.

While in real life the Presidency can quickly go to the wrong person, in fiction writers can even more easily change the outcome of elections. Now that Matt Santos has been elected President on The West Wing, it has been revealed that earlier in the season the writers had planned on having socially liberal Republican Arnold Vinick win. Accroding to Media Life, “Writers said over the weekend that they’d originally intended to make Vinick the winner. But after Spencer’s unexpected passing, they felt it would be too sad to make Santos lose both the election and his running mate.” (Related article at The New York Times).

I wonder if this decision was really made before or after it was known that this would be the final season. Once the writers realized this would be the final season, having a Republican replace Bartlett as President would be a fitting final ending point as the entire cast leaves the White House. Being a liberal fantasy, the incoming Republican would be someone who could not exist in the real world Republican Party. However, if the show was to continue, I would expect they would prefer a Santos victory which would allow many of the old cast to remain.

The West Wing had another message I suspect was addressed to some partisans. Despite the election being close, both Vinick and Santos planned to concede if they lost and spare the country a court fight for the Presidency encouraged by their supporters. Both fictional candidates showed a sense of honor also shared by John Kerry in his loss in 2004. As much as we hated to lose, a protracted court fight would not have changed the results, and would have been bad for the party and the country.


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