Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Politician season 1.
The Politician takes a real turn in its finale with a three-year time jump and a much bigger campaign for Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) than his measly high school student body president race. In the finale, he decides to take on majority leader and New York state senator DeDe Standish (Judith Light) in her first challenged race in a dozen terms.
It doesn't seem like DeDe is based on any one particular politician, considering that the actual state senator for New York's 27th district is a man, Brad Hoylman, and the majority leader is a woman of color, Andrea Stewart-Cousins. But this campaign does resemble a similar one in the state political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House of Representatives member Joseph Crowley.
On the show, DeDe is a deeply entrenched politician in the democratic party. She's going on her 13th term running unopposed by either fellow democrats or republican challengers. She has a huge amount of power within the New York state senate because she's the majority leader. She's even looking at the potential that she could be Vice President of the United States in the near future.
By comparison, Payton is a nobody. He's an NYU student who came out of nowhere to challenge DeDe for the first time in years. He's going to force her to have to run an actual campaign instead of just lazily sending out flyers the month before the election. If any of this sounds familiar, it's because it's a similar dynamic between current New York 14th congressional district representative AOC and the former representative Crowley.
When AOC decided to run, no one had ever heard of her. She was a young bartender who lived in the Bronx. She was running against Crowley, who was the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and had been in power for a decade. The Netflix documentary Knock Down The House showed that Crowley didn't really take AOC seriously at first. He even sent a proxy to a debate because he seemingly couldn't be bothered to show up himself.
He'd been doing things one way in New York for so long, that it seemed like the voters wanted change. They voted AOC in to shake up the system. The same thing could happen on The Politician. Maybe young voters will want to go with Payton's fresh vision for the state instead of the same old, same old. It doesn't seem like DeDe doesn't have that same fire that Payton has. She's seemingly gotten complacent and started putting her focus elsewhere like on a VP candidacy. If the people of New York feel like she doesn't care about them anymore and Payton does, he could win the race.
To be clear, nothing Netflix has said indicates that DeDe is a stand in for Crowley (and Payton is no AOC), but the show's new campaign highlights a longtime issue in our government of complacency when one person is in power for so long and then finally gets challenged by an up-and-comer. But DeDe probably won't go down without a fight, just like Crowley didn't in his race with AOC. Both DeDe and Payton had better prepare for the state senate race of their lives.