Bartlet (and therefore Clinton) for America

There is an episode of the television show “The West Wing” in which viewers are treated to flashbacks showing how the fictional President Josiah Bartlet’s campaign got started. In one such flashback, then-New Hampshire Governor Bartlet is visited by his old friend and political operative Leo McGarry. McGarry tells the future president, “I’ve been walking around in a kind of daze for two weeks, and everywhere I go… planes, trains, restaurants, meetings… I find myself scribbling something down.” That something is the phrase “Bartlet for America.”
Being the “West Wing fanatic I am, I loved this scene. It was a moment of hope and idealism that we rarely see in politics. In recent months, I’ve often found myself daydreaming about that phrase, wishing that America could have a presidential candidate like Bartlet: a well-rounded politician who has a great deal of experience with various aspects of the government, a passion for providing help to those who need it, and unapologetic attention to detail in terms of policy. Too bad, I thought to myself, that this election isn’t like the ones on TV. If only Bartlet weren’t just a Sorkin invention and had a real place in politics. I’ve been too consumed with cynicism in this election to notice a truth staring me in the face this whole time. Josiah Bartlet is a candidate in this election. That candidate’s name is Hillary Clinton.
Like Bartlet, Clinton has experience—loads of it. She served for eight years in the Senate (comparable to Bartlet’s fictional tenure in Congress), and was Secretary of State for four years. Additionally, as First Lady during Bill Clinton’s two terms in office, Clinton was a powerful advocate for and advisor to the administration. Like Bartlet, Hillary Clinton is well educated, with Bartlet holding a Ph.D in economics and Clinton a J.D. from Yale. Both Bartlet and Clinton are considered mainstream Democrats, and both are known for having long careers in public service.
To the less loyal “West Wing watcher, a difference separating Bartlet and Clinton emerges fairly easily. Bartlet is presented in many regards as the idealized version of the president: a wise, thoughtful person who puts country above politics and always strives to do what is right. Clinton, on the other hand, appears prone to scandal, and many mainstream media sources would have you believe that Clinton also engages in morally questionable tactics in order to get her way. This simple analysis ignores one of the most important aspects of “The West Wing,” however; Bartlet and his administration have many flaws, some bigger than others. Take, for example, the story arc of Sam Seaborn, which begins in the very first episode of the show. In this arc, Deputy White House Communications Director Sam Seaborn sleeps with a female escort, and proceeds to see her several times as the show progresses (can someone say Weiner?). Another parallel: most people who have been paying attention to the election thus far will remember a certain jab Clinton made about Trump supporters, referring to them as a “basket of deplorables.” This claim is reminiscent in my mind of a particular scene in which the Bartlet Administration humorously announces it has a “secret plan to fight inflation,” a joke many in the White House Press Corps see as offensive to American consumers.
All these scandals are small. Surely this seemingly perfect television president never was involved in something as momentous or shocking as Email-gate or Benghazi, right? Wrong. In season two, Bartlet reveals to his staff (and subsequently, the country) that for the past several years, he has been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that causes degeneration of the central nervous system and can eventually lead to blindness, paralysis, and a host of other maladies. As with Clinton’s email and Benghazi scandals, Bartlet’s MS is thoroughly investigated by Congress and others, eventually emerging unindicted.
Hillary Clinton may not have the same charisma or presence as Josiah Bartlet of “The West Wing,” but she has similarities in the ways that really matter—she is smart, she has experience, and she cares about the right things. She has encountered similar obstacles in her life and has conquered them impressively, just as her on-screen counterpart has. Bradley Whitford, an actor on the show, has even mentioned that Bartlet would be supporting Clinton in this election if he were real. With that in mind, as a longtime Bartlet supporter, the only candidate I can feel right about supporting is the one who echoes him in so many ways. Therefore, I say with all my heart, “Hillary for America.”

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