A Few Good Presidents

I think we can all agree that so far this election season is the most insane in living memory. If this were a West Wing season, we would all be complaining that Sorkin was jumping the shark and creating only caricature Republicans to push his left-wing agenda. But it’s real. It’s all real. And whoever wins in November is going to get the keys to Air Force One for real.

The current political mess inspired me to reflect on some of our best political leaders – the fictional ones. Yes, before we had the catastrophic Selina Meyer and philanderer Fitz Grant, a few fake presidents were actually pretty good. I give you my favourites…

1. Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica

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Though perhaps not the most democratic leader, with only a reluctant acceptance of the set-term presidency that Lee instates, Laura Roslin leads a dwindling civilisation to a fruitful new life: the dying leader who leads her people to the promised land. That’s pretty good going.

The Secretary of Education who has the presidency thrust upon her after a nuclear attack wipes out everyone else in the line of succession, Laura Roslin navigates her new role with increasing adeptness as the series develops. She is dealt a terrible hand when she comes into power, and handles the near-total destruction of her people with grace and poise. She’s tough, though, more than proving herself capable of handling the demands of governing a race whose survival depends on her every decision (while her own survival deteriorates). As a leader, she is compassionate, she is pragmatic and she respects the people she represents. These are, in my humble opinion, the fundamental qualities of a good president.

Also – and I realise this may not seem particularly relevant but stick with me – she is an ace at flirting. Congrats to BSG for being the first narrative to get me invested in a middle-aged love story. No matter how adorable Admiral Adama is however, Roslin keeps her eyes on the prize always. She resists his charms, always focusing on her endgame: Earth. She selflessly puts her own happiness aside and endures about twenty different cruel plot twists that would make anyone else straight-up finish Gaius Baltar and comes out the other side a moral, uncompromised, revered president. Her legacy is so much bigger than her, and she always recognises that. She is single-handedly responsible for saving every life in that poignant wide-shot of a fertile land at the end of the series finale. (I guess that also makes her responsible for the Lil Wayne myspace page that’s advertised in the ‘100,000 years later’ scene, but we’ll let her off.) Without Laura, basically all the humans would have met their nasty end. Good job, Prez.

(FYI, “How long do you have to live, Karen?” was the original “What’s good?”)

2. Jed Bartlet, The West Wing

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Everyone’s favourite power-walking president with a penchant for national parks trivia and a subtle air of superiority, Bartlet has often been heralded as the liberal fantasy president. No one puts on their jacket with more flair than our man Jed. And that’s what you want in a president, right? Flair? Well, he also has the best administration of any White House narrative – a charming band of idealistic lawmakers ready to make a difference and talk fast doin’ it.

Highlights of the Bartlet administration include: appointing Bill Adama Roberto Mendoza, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, and the first female Chief Justice, seeming to successfully negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine, his not-so-secret (or real) plan to fight inflation, that one time he rocked the debate, and probably other things involving jobs and education and, hang on, did they ever follow through on that idea about making college affordable? Or curing cancer? Anyway, point is, he did a lot of good, lefty things and said a lot of good, lefty things. Perhaps most iconic was his ‘Dr.’ Jenna Jacobs smackdown on the issue of homophobia:

Martin Sheen elevated Aaron Sorkin’s writing every time he was given a speech and together they created one of the most memorable, compelling characters on television. Bartlet was a reminder of what a president could be during the bleak days of the second Bush presidency. He revived people’s interest in the political narrative. Flawed, but so charismatic and so affable that you couldn’t help but love him.

(more…)

Election Night

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In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week… no, scratch that… the past year, you may have been hearing a little about the election. The United States of America has a brand new the same President. Nice guy, funny guy, married to Michelle Obama.

Yes, despite the hopes and dreams of the most “Fair and Balanced” news network there is, President Barack Obama has four more years.

I spent Election Night (more dramatic when capitalised) producing four hours of radio coverage for my uni with my best friend, Hannah. Now, my university is in the UK, so not everyone was in the know when it came to electoral math, the candidates’ policies or, indeed, anything to do with American politics. Hannah and I quickly realised that we may well be the most informed pair on our team (little worrying). Thus, our job for the night was to make our on-air presenters sound like the most informed pair. And we did it well. A particular highlight was when we prepared an interview for Dr. Libby Lewis on women in politics, allowing us both to ask questions we truly wanted the answers to.

Libby Lewis is an academic whose research focuses on the mainstream media’s representation of women in power. We asked her about the focus on women’s issues in this election, public interest in the appearance and fashion sense of female politicians, the varying approaches to the role of First Lady, and how the media presents female politicians, with particular reference to Hillary Clinton as a potential presidential candidate for 2016. Her responses were engaging, interesting and, a lot of the time, inspiring. Just another person for us to fangirl, quite honestly.

As the night went on, the results became our focus as states started being called.  My memories from the early hours mostly involve pacing corridors muttering, “Ohio or Florida, Ohio or Florida, Ohio or Florida… they gotta get called soon…” We may well have gone all the way ‘round the bend and back again! The survival of our sanity must be credited to the one and only Nate Silver. He’s been getting a lot of credit but truly, in the words of Jon Stewart: “LORD AND GOD OF THE ALGORITHM!” We were just repeatedly going between our FiveThirtyEight tab to the HuffPo electoral map.

When it came to it, neither Ohio nor Florida mattered much. In the case of Florida, that’s a huge relief because we may still be awake and waiting for a concession speech now. Obama’s win was a strong one. The result came in at 4.20am our time, ten minutes before our radio show was due back on air (we did two two-hour shows).

Now it’s four days later. The campaigns are over, the Romney Facebook page has begun its rapid descent and Ohioans can finally leave their houses again. So what’s next?

To take a look at the next four years beyond the job of President, I turn my attention to the other landmarks of the 2012 Election: the first openly gay senator was elected, the first disabled female veteran was elected to congress, Massachusetts elected its first female senator, the first Hindu woman was elected to the Senate, the first states have legalised recreational marijuana, Akin and Mourdock both lost their senate races, Maine, Maryland and Washington all voted in favour of gay marriage with Minnesota rejecting a measure to ban it, and New Hampshire will have an all-female congressional delegation. Long list? I should hope so too. And there are more.

Keep moving FORWARD.