As a previous post covered, I've been a political junkee for a while now. I have every issue of George magazine and more pins, palm cards and bumperstickers that I know what to do with.
But, for the most part, politics on TV seemed to get no better than Benson or Spin City, neither of which were really about politics.
Then came West Wing.
September 1999 and I remember looking forward to the new show. I'd met Martin Sheen when he was filming the Mitch Snyder Story across the street from my dorm. I'd been impressed by his polite soft-speaking while being mobbed by college students as he was eating dinner very very late at night. Besides, I'm from the generation that's more impressed by him than by his sons.
But what joy the show was to watch a Democrat be a Democrat. Granted, Clinton was still in office, but Bartlett was fiction and therefor designed to be that much closer to what Democrats always dream of.
And then Selection 2000 came along and West Wing was the only escape from the nightmare we'd been dragged into.
But as much as I knew it was a TV show, it also felt like home. Home, as in, the culture of political activists. I started recognizing people in the show. There was the younger, more (or rather still) idealistic one and there was the seasoned veteran. Over there was someone who prefered to support and that one there was the one who liked being in the spotlight. Another wasn't very secure about the contribution they made although everyone around them was.
But there's a difference between reality and television dramas. There was a scene in an episode where Josh was in a room with other campaign coordinators trying to solve a problem. He was the only male in the room. That was fiction because men still outnumber women in the management of politics. Another fiction was from tonight's episode where Vinick chooses to not take the election to the courts. Besides, Vinick was really too nice to be a Republican. Really.
But what made the show more real to me was Josh's development, especially in the Santos campaign episodes. Watching him with his rose-colored-glasses mature into the manager he became was comforting and real.
Democrats who do more than just vote honestly do feel that things can be better. We believe that in this county, children should not go hungry. That people shouldn't have to choose between food, rent, or medicine. That everyone should have the opportunity to work toward their goals.
But once we're in it for long enough, we realize that those goals, while laudible, meaningful and important, really are not the goals.
Democrats aren't fighting against people who say we should have starving children in America. That side isn't saying that it's fine if people can't have food, shelter and medication. They're not saying that the American dream is only for some people.
The difference is in the HOW.
It's not enough for a candidate to propose a plan that would address a problem. If they can't show a way to put the plan into action that is effective and realistic, those rose-colored glasses don't get us far enough.
I served on the transition committee for Michael Arcuri when he was elected to District Attorney. Back then, my rose-colored glasses were thicker than my coke-bottom eye-glasses for severe near-sightedness. The idea of a new county-wide Drug Task Force made complete sense to me, as it seemed to the voters. The tint in my glasses faded some as I heard all the reasons why a program like that just couldn't work.
Just because it was a good idea wasn't good enough.
It took a lot of work, honest, sincere, and committed, to bring together all the people who said "it couldn't be done" and work together with them to make it happen. Mike Arcuri knows how to do that and has done it. That is the wisdom that we need in our Representative in Congress.
So, just as Josh grew, so too have I. I hope the same can be said for everyone who steps forth to make a bigger difference than just voting. And I hope for all of us, that the idealism that put us into motion remains as strongly as when we started.
But more importantly, I hope we have gained the wisdom to take those goals and turn them into effective action. That is the only way we will be able to make the changes so needed now.