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West Wing Weirdness

I stopped watching The West Wing sometime in the middle of season five and tuned in for the first time since then just tonight. The show's gotten pretty good again. But -- though I'm sure others have pointed this out -- the idea of a pro-choice atheist securing the Republican nomination is absurd. Beyond that, the idea that such a nominee would be an unusually strong candidate posing serious problems for the Democratic Party is double absurd, some kind of Christie Todd Whitman fantasy universe. You know how liberals are always wondering why it's not possible to get working class white people to vote pocketbook issues instead of culture war concerns? Well, it's because Republicans don't nominate pro-choice atheists. Give it a shot, and the GOP is fucked. To be sure, such a candidate would help Republicans make some inroads among the white professional wanker crowd, but it would do absolutely nothing to help the party with the African-Americans, Hispanics, or union families who together comprise a majority of the Democratic base. Indeed, it would manage to drive Democratic margins among the latter two categories even higher. Simultaneously, Republican support among its largest base group would flatline.

The election wouldn't even be close. That aside, I want to stridently endorse the proposition that Democrats would do better if they elected more highly-assimilated persons of Latin American origin with the first name "Matthew" to run for national office. My plan was always to make my political career in Florida at the head of a mighty Jew/Cuban coalition, but since I've built ties with the Texas Mafia that lives with me here on 10th Street, I could give that a shot, too. Capps is even hitting the bigtime in the bizarre universe of cable news shows covering blogs. Incidentally, what's the deal with cable news shows featuring blogs? This has got to be the single craziest programming decision ever. In the wake of Eason Jordan I guess everyone's panicked, but if CNN wants to gain 'sphere credibility they should just give me a prime time talk show (or perhaps the long-awaited Matt Yglesias / Matt Continetti Gen Y smackdown debate program) and leave this crap off the air. Do I think if I bait the cable blog pickers enough they'll put the site on again? Here's hoping!

April 6, 2005 | Permalink

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Tracked on Apr 7, 2005 3:04:43 PM

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» Right West Wingers from i'm just waiting for the robot invasion
I'd have to say I disagree with Matthew Yglesias's assertion that nominating a pro-choice atheist would be the end of the GOP's influence. Yes, we're talking Sen. Arnold Vinick (R-The West Wing). Sure, it's fiction, but so is most "real" politics. Vini... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 7, 2005 4:12:45 PM

Comments

Matthew, don't use the word "wanker". It makes you sounds like Atrios, and that does nothing to improve anyone's credibility.

Posted by: ronb | Apr 6, 2005 11:31:12 PM

Actually, I think Atrios borrowed 'wanker' from The Poorman, who launched a daring campaign (and by campaign I mean one blog entry) to make 'wanker' the preferred term of opprobrium for right-wing airheadery.

Posted by: George | Apr 6, 2005 11:40:30 PM

The premise is that he is a moderate Republican who has California in his pocket.

Such a candidate would be hard to beat.


Even if some RRs stay home, so what ? Do the Democrats sudenly win in the South and sweep the Rust Belt ?


Posted by: Sal | Apr 6, 2005 11:44:18 PM

If you started watching this season tonight, I'm assuming someone filled you in on everything you say about Vinick, since it was all mentioned in the past couple of weeks, and not once tonight. The easy answer to your question is: West Wing world diverged from the world we live in at least eight years ago, and possibly longer (they've never said who was President prior to Bartlett, I'm not even sure who the last previous President to have been acknowledged was. So the coalitions behind the various parties may be somewhat different, though not that much, since that world's Republicans still oppose stem cell research. Vinick is also a tax cutter who is quite strong on foreign policy. His atheism wasn't really on the table until after he got the nomination (and even still isn't something he's clear about with the press), though I suppose it strains plausibility that none of his opponents would have found a way to bring it out and use it against him. Also, I think your reaction is partially because you haven't seen how Vinick was developed throughout the season, before the campaigns even started Leo was praising Vinick's speaking ability and charisma to Donna. Finally, one could argue based on the events of the show that partisan rancor isn't quite as big a problem in their world as ours.

Last season was awful, good choice on that front.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Apr 6, 2005 11:44:38 PM

In other Florida political news, it turns out that Schiavo memo was written by a staffer of Sen. Mel Martinez.

Ha ha.

Posted by: SamAm | Apr 6, 2005 11:48:35 PM

Wikipedia says Nixon was the last president who existed in the WW universe. It's implied that the two presidents before Bartlett were a Carter (played by James Cromwell) knockoff and a Reagan knockoff. When one considers that the West Wing's universe was hashed out during a time where the Democrats were, if not dominant, at least in a stronger position than they are now, things look more plausible.

And we may yet see the Rove machine get behind a GOP candidate who offers moderation a la GWB's compassionate conservatism in hope of picking off industrial blue states. A candidate who can be interpreted by the Beltway as a mild rebuke to the Southern conservative excesses of the Bush administration.

I'm looking at you, Pawlenty.

Posted by: SamAm | Apr 7, 2005 12:00:27 AM

Sam- Pawlenty won't even win re-election in MN. He's gonna' tank.

Matt- Unfortunately, without the beard, you look like the next host of Blues Clues rather than a CNN strategerist. Spend more time in the sun. Get some leathery wrinkles.

Posted by: def | Apr 7, 2005 12:09:46 AM

Jewish Cubans named Matt?

Naw, Cubans named Armando.

You'll have a place in my Administration though.

Posted by: Armando | Apr 7, 2005 12:22:02 AM

Atheism is a bit of a jump for the Vinnick/Alda character. A man who stayed away from a church after his wife's death is is hardly proof that the man is an atheist.

Matt, you are right that the show has gotten good again, you should catch the re-runs before further comments like 'Vinnick is an atheist Republican.' Sal has a good handle on the season's tone.

Posted by: Publius Rex | Apr 7, 2005 12:50:20 AM

"wanker" is just a standard british school-boy term. Not trademark of atrios, or poorman, or anyone. No reason why you shouldn't use it, Matt, as long as you don't mind importing british slang.

Posted by: Tad Brennan | Apr 7, 2005 12:50:59 AM

Will the "White Professional Wanker Class" be the new "Soccer Moms"?

(No.)

Posted by: Ethical Werewolf | Apr 7, 2005 1:09:32 AM

His discussion with Bartlett in the "staying out of church since his wife's death" ep. makes him either very agnostic or an atheist.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Apr 7, 2005 1:11:38 AM

DebtSlavery.org

Bush just publicly committed an impeachable offense

Posted by: ////// | Apr 7, 2005 2:12:13 AM

Not to be overly precise, but I'm fairly confident that the Republican Party has nominated and will nominate and elect lots of atheists to high level positions, including the Presidency. I just doubt any of them will admit that's what they are.

Posted by: MDtoMN | Apr 7, 2005 2:18:35 AM

Well, or it makes Vinick doubting, or questioning, or angry, or non-practicing, or any of a variety of other positions. Bush doesn't go to church in DC regularly (I believe the official explanation was that his presence and security needs would be disruptive), but I certainly wouldn't say that makes him an agnostic or atheist.

Posted by: Jade | Apr 7, 2005 2:28:30 AM

West Wing is still atrocious, and I'm not sure that one episode can really edify how bad the situation has become. That former ER writer is a sprawl-artist. CNN's programming, however, better by the day.

Posted by: Kriston Capps | Apr 7, 2005 2:30:23 AM

Yes, that's why I referred to his discussion with Jed, not the bare fact of his non-attendance of church.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Apr 7, 2005 2:31:26 AM

The West Wing is a perfect example of why it is sometimes (or, rather, often) best to check one's politics at the door when attempting to make art. An idealized Democratic administration may make a certain swath of the blue state TV viewing audience feel warm and fuzzy inside (in much the same way that Father Knows Best made a certain swath of suburban America feel warm and fuzzy inside), but give me the tragicomedy of the real Clinton administration behind closed doors (the slavishness to polls and focus groups, his lecherousness, swearing and tantrums) or the genuine tragedy of a Nixon-esque Republican slowly destroying himself. *That* would be must-see TV.

Posted by: Robin the Hood | Apr 7, 2005 3:47:47 AM

"Naw, Cubans named Armando. You'll have a place in my Administration though."

I thought Cuba already had a dictator.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 7, 2005 4:58:13 AM

"wondering why it's not possible to get working class white people to vote pocketbook issues instead of culture war concerns? Well, it's because Republicans don't nominate pro-choice atheists."


You know, that really doesn't follow. Assuming for the moment that you mean by "voting their pocketbook issues", voting for somebody who's leftish on economics, I'm just a little puzzled about why you'd think that any Republican who shared your economic views would have to be a pro-choice atheist. It IS possible to be leftish on economic issues, AND rightish on social issues, even if the present lineup of coallitions making up the major parties cause such people to feel out of place in either party. In fact, it's a not uncommon combination of views.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Apr 7, 2005 5:48:28 AM

"It IS possible to be leftish on economic issues, AND rightish on social issues, even if the present lineup of coalitions making up the major parties cause such people to feel out of place in either party. In fact, it's a not uncommon combination of views."

Exactly right, Brent; I couldn't have said it better myself. There's a lot more "left traditionalists," as MY once called us, than people think. (Bob Casey, Jr., for Senator!)

Posted by: Russell Arben Fox | Apr 7, 2005 7:52:22 AM

Could a blogger ever be elected to major office? With all those embarassing off-the-cuff statements to live down? Like Matt "Communism Someday" Yglesias?

Posted by: Mithras | Apr 7, 2005 8:01:53 AM

I stopped watching 'cause the idea that there would even be a known athiest, pro-environment, pro-choice in today's Republican party -- let alone that he could even CONSIDER running for president -- just too absurd.

And they have Bartlet doing all the things Bush does -- running record deficits, editing EPA reports to help industry, etc. The show not only jumped the shark, it landed, pre-chewed, into the shark's mouth.

Viva "Arrested Development" -- more realistic than WW!

Posted by: MattB | Apr 7, 2005 8:20:18 AM

give me . . . the genuine tragedy of a Nixon-esque Republican slowly destroying himself. *That* would be must-see TV.

Didn't Robert Altman already make that movie?

Posted by: mark | Apr 7, 2005 9:05:02 AM

"wondering why it's not possible to get working class white people to vote pocketbook issues instead of culture war concerns? Well, it's because Republicans don't nominate pro-choice atheists."

You know, that really doesn't follow. Assuming for the moment that you mean by "voting their pocketbook issues", voting for somebody who's leftish on economics, I'm just a little puzzled about why you'd think that any Republican who shared your economic views would have to be a pro-choice atheist.

Well, looking at the current flock of party leaders, I think any Republican Presidential candidate who shared his economic views would have to be a purple unicorn. It seemed to me that Mr. Yglesias might be saying that the current Republican party wouldn't have the same strength with their favorite set of wedge issues off the table (hence the mention of "culture wars"). The radical right-wing church contingent that they rely on so much these days would never support a pro-choice atheist. How could they be putting God in the White House by voting for an atheist baby killer? Or even someone who openly expresses doubts about his faith?

Certainly it's possible to be economically liberal and socially conservative, and there are Democratic politicians who fit that definition. The thing is, for the Republican base, the few magic wedge issues trump everything else. So as a Republican candidate, why bother being an economic liberal, when plundering the federal treasury for the rich gets you support from big business too? (If the candidate were actually economically conservative, that would be yet another matter, but I don't see many of those in the Republican leadership these days.)
The core strength of the party is no longer with socially moderate, fiscally conservative Republicans who might actually vote for someone who so strongly resembles Alan Alda. Unless he's meant to represent Governor Reagan, who gave no real indication of devout religious belief or anti-choice rhetoric until he realized what a goldmine the radical religious right provided.

Posted by: mds | Apr 7, 2005 9:52:26 AM

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