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8 Lies The West Wing Told Us About Politics

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    TV shows are under no obligation to be realistic. Most viewers know the spacious New York apartments in shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother could never actually fall within the characters' budgets. The school board would have cracked down on the class disruptions caused by the constant singing on Glee. And neither The West Wing nor (hopefully) House of Cards is meant to be a perfect reflection of what really goes on in Washington.

    But now, ten years after the beloved Aaron Sorkin drama aired its final episode, it's hard not to yearn for the sunny, optimistic political picture it drew. As the 2016 presidential primary gets more heated and politicians spark increasingly troubling headlines, you might find yourself missing the eloquent, earnest speeches of President Josiah Bartlet.

    Bartlet and his crew weren't always on the right side of things. They made mistakes, even huge ethical missteps. But at the end of almost every episode, when the music swelled, viewers were assured that these were intelligent people trying their best, and that their good intentions would, more often than not, yield good results. And less than six months away from the 2016 presidential election, that sounds like a pretty appealing alternate reality.

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    The general public is never stupid during an election year.
    Quick recap: Charlie casually told a reporter that the president doesn't like green beans. Press Secretary C.J. Cregg gets mad because what about the green bean farmers! They won't vote for him! The Oregon farmer vote is crucial!

    Rather than going along with this particular madness, Charlie schools the press secretary about the American public's ability to see past the fluff to the substance of an election. If wishing made it so...

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    The President refuses to let a homophobe off the hook.
    This entire clip needs a slow clap throughout. When a puffed-up radio host justifies her condemnation of homosexuality by quoting the Bible, Bartlet deftly deflates her. Bartlet hates bigots, and he doesn't care who knows it.

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    The President has time to moonlight as an H&R Block employee.
    The show takes pains to establish that the president is a very, very busy man. But not too busy to help his assistant/son-figure with his taxes. And gift Charlie the DVD player he was going to buy with his non-existent tax-refund. Now that's a leader looking out for his constituents.

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    Bipartisan banter is fun and mutually edifying.
    A Democrat hires a Republican, not for political gain, but because he believes it's good to have "smart people who disagree with him" on staff.

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    'Big Block of Cheese Day' exists, and gets results.
    In spite of Leo's boring speech about Andrew Jackson, it's a noble idea to have a day where people with real power take meetings with people who have none. Inevitably, the more cynical White House staffers are won over by the nerdy enthusiasm of niche special interest groups (i.e. Cartographers for Social Justice).