I've said it before and I'll say it again: West Wing ruins me for real politics.
It's not the dream of a lefty administration, or the romance of young savvy go-getters getting their say in what happens in our government. It's not even the sense of fair play and diplomacy portrayed through fictitional President Bartlett. It's the preservation of respect for intelligence. There are frequent references to the Presidential figure being an intellectual snob in the series...it is, in fact, the thing that threatens his ratings and alienates less educated polticians and supporters. Yet there is always an amount of pride and faith that this very intellect and education, that this respect for logic and awareness is what makes him a worthwhile leader. His pragmatic balancing of ideology and acuity always wins out.
This is in no way meant as a swipe at our President's intellect. It is probably more dangerous than silly to consider the man who runs our country or a simpering idiot. Though it's the popular joke, the most recognizable swipe that W gets, I think it's also the most ill-conceived...the simplest insult from the simplest people.
And best abandoned: if these people are so dumb, how did they get the best of you?
But I digress, the point of this post has more to do with respect for education, knowledge and progress, especially as a trait for those who rule our country.
The dark ages were heralded in by the dismissal or progress and science. For pity's sake: knowledge of concrete was lost. There was an embrace of ideology before literacy, and chaos ruled as warring factions fought to have their beliefs acknowledged at the truth. Literacy was lost, progress halted.
I see elements of this today. A rejection of scientific progress,a fear of ideas that are too complicated, too based in logic and pragmatism.
It is only natural that people want to see, in their leaders, someone they can relate to. But shouldn't they also want someone more capable then themselves to lead? Someone who can balance the contrasting ideals of many to find a solution for all?
This slow heralding in of values, first, awareness and capability second, or the "common man" as a leader, scares me. I see us embracing slowly, something even below mediocrity. A lowest common denominator that a select few wish we would just agree on. A love to blind acquiescence instead of spirited debate and productive political intercourse.
This part of our political climate scares me far more than anything I can think of. Not the notion that our leaders might be dumb. Not a ruling party whose beliefs are wildly inconsistent with my own. But the notion that it matters more that our leaders be foolishly consistent and dogmatically pure than open and inquisitive, flexible and bright. And so I watch West Wing and fantasize about an administration that champions a society and thinks hard and a leader that thinks even harder. And a country which, in the end, respects him for the thought he puts into solving the world's problems so that we can move forward and things can get better.