Real Life Mirroring Fiction

The New York Times has an interesting article posted today about a number of startling similarities between the current presidential race and the fictional Santos/Vinick race in the television show The West Wing. When I first saw the entire series of the West Wing, I was drawn in by its realism and dialog. While it’s not a perfect show, I’ve been told that it really captures what goes on in the White House.

What’s interesting is the last two seasons, where President Bartlett‘s second term in office is coming to a close, and a new presidential race is coming up. In the race is Senator Matt Santos, a Hispanic Democratic senator from Texas, who enters the race wanting to change things up, bring a new perspective on Washington and goes from a relatively unknown contender, to a nationally known one after the first couple of races.

Sound familiar?

Similarly, the Republican candidate is Senator Arnold Vinick, who is a moderate conservative, who is direct and wants to control the spending in Washington. He’s somewhat anti-religion in government, and was a member of the Senate for a long time.

The similarities are deliberate, to a point. Santos was directly based off of Senator Barack Obama, when the show’s creators were looking for material. Sen. Obama had just given the speech that gave him wide recognition around the nation during the 2004 presidential election, and he was incorporated into the show. What’s interesting is how similar this presidential race has become to the fictional one.I don’t know to what extent McCain was used for Vinick, but I’m sure that there is some basis in his character, at least superficially.

A couple crisis’ come forth at the tail end of the election – a nuclear power plant goes critical, while a major confrontation between Russia and China puts US troops in action in Asia, which puts both candidates in a tough spot when it comes to their own plans for office. Here, we’ve got the Iraq war, while longer, it is going to cause some problems for the candidates, and the current financial crisis that has exploded in the past couple of months, which will further crimp some plans. Interestingly, I haven’t heard Obama talk a whole lot about education lately since the crisis has come out, but that could just be because I haven’t been following the news lately.

I will be very interested to see just how well this race follows the West Wing race. In that one, Santos narrowly defeats Vinick. Vermont turns to be a red state (which was odd, although not unsurprising, considering the state’s fiscal conservatism, which honestly makes me wonder a little just which way VT will go. I forsee Obama taking the state, but McCain making some good showing), and the vice presidencial candidate for Santos, Leo McGarry, dies of a heart attack. Hopefully, we’ll have one of those three actually happening next week.

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