When The West Wing began airing in the fall of 1999, I was a freshman in high school. I found myself getting more interested in politics at this point in my life, especially as local politician John McCain would battle George W. Bush in the Republican Party’s primaries over the next year. Throughout high school and into my early college years, The West Wing and eventually The Daily Show and The Colbert Report helped give a voice to my own political identity. The complete series DVDs I own were among the first of my collection of TV and movies. It’s even from the early era of DVD’s where they printed episodes on boths sides. I’ve watched them to the point that the wear and tear on the discs renders some of the episodes simply inaccessible. Fortunately, Netflix still has me covered so I don’t have to rebuy the series just yet.
A couple months ago, my friends Quinten Hoffman from Break in Reality and Logan Wilkinson of Irrational Passions and the Input podcast, reached out to gauge my interest about a West Wing podcast, not knowing what a huge fan of the series I was. As we began talking about ideas for the project, I quickly fell into consuming the adventures of the Bartlet Administration all over again. I finished up the seven-season run for what is probably the ninth or tenth time this week. Every viewing over the years has stirred up political feelings (in the past I’ve gone so far as to apply for legislative internships at the Arizona State House). This particular viewing inspired me as Sorkin’s idyllic optimism for political discourse often does but also highlighted just how far we’ve fallen as a nation.
Re-watching The West Wing in the Trump Era makes the West Wing of 10-15 years ago seem almost absurdly naive. This is a show where the two major parties actually seem willing to work together and respect each other, despite their differing opinions on what is best for the country. The Trump Presidency has forever altered how we might look at political shows. Suddenly Selina Kyle from Veep or The Underwoods from House of Cards can’t hold a candle to the simultaneous buffoonery and ruthlessness of the current administration. The West Wing is a call back to a simpler time, when decency and high-minded discourse were what we expected of our politicians.
In our new podcast, West Winging It, I look forward to revisiting the show once again, episode by episode with Logan (a fellow West Wing fan) and Quinten (watching the show for the first time) and discussing it with them just what impact a show like this has in the modern age. Stay tuned as we hope to start rolling out this new podcast real soon.