My roommate Pat and I recently, for some reason, watched the final season of “The West Wing” together on Netflix, which produced a number of arguments, speculations, and asides that I have compiled in an e-mail exchange for the inaugural edition of The Markley TV Club. I realize the final season of “The West Wing” in which plucky Texas congressman Matt Santos faced off against Republican straight-talker Arnold Vinick, aired like 27 years ago or something, but so what? Y’all didn’t get me and my roommate’s commentary until right now.
Markley: So it seems to me we're dealing with two primary issues here, the first of which is: was the Santos/ Vinick election the most dramatic in American history? We had a screwy electoral map, the first Latino candidate, the first pro-choice Republican of the modern era and—oh yeah, that's right: a near nuclear plant meltdown that changed the dynamic of the race and a VP candidate who died on the day of the goddamn election! Makes me yawn at 2000 and 2008.
Pat: Very true. The Santos / Vinick election borrowed the best parts of 2000 and 2008 (too close to call and minority candidate), and then used a VP candidate surprise death (we're coming back to this) and nuclear meltdown in a crucial swing state (this too) to trump the excitement of every US presidential election previous combined. I applaud Vinick for not contesting the vote in Nevada unlike Gore in 2000. In fact, I think Vinick's positive, congratulatory response was key to getting the nod as Secretary of State. It makes you think. Is Sorkin (I'm going to assume he is the mastermind behind everything even though he left after season four) trying to tell us that there could have been a cabinet seat for Gore had he not whined about a recount in Florida? We'll never know.
As you mentioned though, there were plenty of surprises along the way. A pro-choice, anti-religion Republican. A closet-creationist, anti-union Democrat. California voted for a pro-nuclear candidate two weeks after a near nuclear holocaust (How did Vinick manage to sway public opinion with just a two hour press conference?). South Carolina voted Santos despite everything we know about the history of race relations.
The biggest surprise for me, even bigger than a Democrat addressing teacher performance or the shoddy campaign signs, was the classless reaction to the death of the architect of the Bartlett presidency, VP Candidate and former Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry. Without McGarry, Bartlett doesn't run for president and go on to raise minimum wage, fix social security, and achieve a Middle East peace deal. Leo was forgotten within hours despite his enormous contribution to the country. Am I the only one that's outraged by this?
Markley: Whoa whoa whoa. First of all, bro, Vinick lost Nevada by a final count of 70,000 votes. Gore "lost" Flordia by 537 officially and had the Supreme Court allowed the recount to continue with a standard that allowed ballot counters to look for the true intent of the voter, would have won. Seeing as how Gore came out immediately against the disaster that was the Iraq war, I doubt he would have done well as SecState in the Bush administration, unlike the limp coward Colin Powell, who let Bush/Cheney march to war despite his huge reservations.
At any rate, enough re-litigating the 2000 debacle. Let's focus on two things: 1) Those Santos/McGarry signs were total garbage, topped only by the Vinick/Sullivan yard signs. It looked like the four of them were running for town council in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
2) Leo was also a major drag on the Santos ticket, and never belonged there in the first place. He was a recovering alcoholic with a bad heart who clearly would have had an affair with his campaign aide had he not dropped dead. Now Santos has a major uphill battle with the Senate to confirm Pennsylvania Governor, Baker, when he should have just put him on the ticket in the first place and locked up that state. Josh Lyman fell down on that one. Some people you run for office and some people you have run a person for office. Leo McGarry belongs behind the scenes, and I can't believe Oregon's fourth district would vote for that turd-in-glasses Will Bailey.