West Winging

Last night I tuned into The West Wing, a fictional tele-communication that, for the past few (Republican) years, shows what it might be like if a smart, hard-nosed Democrat ran the Oval Office and the Oval Nation. It’s a pretty enjoyable show and it has its flaws but overall, it’s a wonderful fantasy.
Others have written about The West Wing, but I keep thinking that the Hollywood television industry has been out to lunch since 2000. In the show last night, which was the season finale, it depicted the inimitable Jimmy Smits (as Matthew Santos) announcing his candidacy and winning the Democratic nomination. I was excited to watch him pronounce, at the convention, his allegiance to democracy with a small “d,” to Democrats with a large “D,” and to veracity, leadership, and popular honor. It was a slightly impressive little speech he gave, better than any Kerry had given in retrospect, perhaps, and it made me want to vote.
The U.S. one day will look to a candidate like Santos, but it’s a long ways away right now. Santos is too good-hearted, too clean, too minority, too composed, too smart, too strong, and too good-looking for 2005 or 2006. He is the other-Bush, the one who probably should be in office and who would be in office of Hollywood writers had their say.
For me, the questions mount: Is this just wishful thinking on the part of Hollywood? Is this entertainment a fantasy based on our collective real desires? Is The West Wing literally out on a wing or does it reflect a secondary reality that liberals inhabit on their better days? Will there one day be a minority candidate? Most importantly, when does the new season begin?

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