The Democrats need a Sorkin effect.
President Trump is gloating. And he does gloating exceptionally well.
The Republican’s have won each special election since President Trump took the oath in front of — by his own estimation — 100 gillion people.
Domestically, Obamacare is on life support and Medicare is being gutted. Internationally, the Atlantic alliance and the Breton woods framework appears to be unravelling in real time as trade and foreign policy is conducted by 3am tweet.
Then there’s Russia. A crisis at the point of collapsing into a full blow scandal replete with global implications that are almost too profound to grasp.
Incredibly, the Democratic Party has been incapable of capitalizing on the naked nepotism, naivety, the chaos and the sleazy shadiness of the Trump administration’s first 6 months.
More incredibly, the Democratic brand is declining, even as Trump’s approval hovers around 35% Dems can’t get out of their own way.
It’s now a pox on both parties.
What did the Democrats have during the Bush administration that they don’t have now?
They had The West Wing.
Today, culture presents US politics either with the incompetent tragic-cringe comedy of VEEP, or the craven, psycho-drama of House of Cards. Politics is a debased currency. Politics is a corrupt enterprise either by design or by dynamic. Politics and politicians embody what’s corrosive within the human condition.
The idealism of The West Wing contrasts sharply with the new cultural presentation of politics.
The Bartlet administration was a fictionalized shadow government that countered the ‘compassionate’ conservatism of W’s White House.
It was a cultural counter balance in which even adversaries and contrarian opinion were given due respect and hearing. It was a weekly civics lesson for US citizens and for international audiences, it kept the model of America as a moral leader alive for us during the dark days from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Ultimately it drew deep and revealing contrasts in political philosophies and offered a fictional reality with more resonance for young voters. And it offered a model for Democrats in the post-Clinton era. Obama couldn’t have happened without that cultural context of The West Wing (see the Santos Campaign as the prototype for Obama’08).
The US may be politically polarized. But the Dem’s are adrift without a message or a organizing principle beyond spasmodic tests and stunts of liberal ideological purity.
Democrats need an Arron Sorkin type to write a new version of The West Wing — they need a Sorkin effect — not solely as a model of resistance but to offer a version of cultural air cover for those who still believe in America as an unfinished, but, just idea that deserves so much more than the turgid decline into a reality TV existence.