How good is the West Wing at predicting the future?

I loved the West Wing. It’s one of the few shows I got into a few seasons in (around about season 4 I think) and liked so much I went back and watched it all from the beginning as I waited for the next season to start. I loved the characters, I loved the writing (I don’t care if Sorkin was off his tits on cocaine – no one does diatribe quite like him) and I loved the political fairyland he created. I wanted to live in a world where Jed Bartlett was president and he beat his political opposition off with a stick because he was cleverer, wiser, more engaged and had more integrity. “In the future, if you’re wondering, “Crime. Boy I don’t know.” is when I decided to kick your ass.” Come ON people!

But one of the things that always confused me was the prequel to series 7, where they basically tell you who wins the election at the season climax. They may have had a good reason to do this, but I never got around to looking it up on the internet to see if there was some rational. Contrary to appearances I don’t spend all my time watching TV shows and then thinking about them.

Anyway, despite my confusion as to the reasoning behind it, I found the massive spoiler at the start actually quite reassuring. It turns out I don’t handle suspense that well. As the season progressed the election stuff gets pretty fraught, and by the end it’s basically a really close run thing. Knowing the eventual outcome took a lot of the stress out of watching Santos and Vinnick fight for political immortality.

Sadly real life is spoiler-free unless we find some cool way of mucking about with the space-time continuum. And so I don’t know who is going to win the US Presidential Election in just a few hours’ time. Tantilisingly, as the show was coming to its end bits started coming true. I’m sure other people have covered this in tremendous detail, so here are just a few of my highlights. The character of Congressman Matthew Santos was based in part on the political career of one Barak Obama. So when Barak Obama actually became president 4 years ago the climax of Season 7 seemed like it had been a fabulous harbinger. Shortly after taking office Obama appointed his great political rival Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State. True, in the TV series Santos appoints the republican candidate, but that kind of cross party politics really does seem terribly far-fetched in reality and John McCain is no Arnie Vinnick.

Jed Bartlett himself wins his second term with a margin which is tolerable, if not comfortable (think sleeping on a lilo rather than a four poster bed.) Clearly that’s not going to happen this time. I suppose I shoud be grateful that at least the GOP won’t win by a landslide, and perhaps if Romney wins it will be by such a narrow margin he’ll wish he lost. After all, if the decline and fall of Nick Clegg is anything to go by, it’s much easier to garner popularity if you’re not actually in charge of anything. Being the opposition and getting to snark at everything the ruling party does seems like a doddle compared to shouldering the responsibility of actually running a country.

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