The West Wing Is Still Teaching People About Democracy

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 20 2012 11:32 AM

The West Wing Is Still Teaching People About Democracy

westwingad
A still from "Walk and Talk the Vote"

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Aung San Suu Kyi, the former political prisoner who is now a leader of an opposition party in Myanmar, with the Congressional Gold Medal. At the the ceremony, Clinton mentioned a conversation with the speaker of the lower House of Parliament. The speaker, she said, asked her to “help us learn how to be a democratic Congress. He went on to tell me that they were trying to teach themselves by watching old segments of The West Wing. I said, ‘I think we can do better than that, Mr. Speaker.’ ”

Can they? The West Wing, almost certainly the best thing that Aaron Sorkin has ever done, was actually pretty good at dramatizing the nuts and bolts of American democracy. Indeed, the cast learned the show’s tricks so well that they can recreate them with ease—just take a look at the ad below for Bridget Mary McCormack, sister of former West Wing cast member Mary McCormack. (Sorkin, though aware of the video, had no part in it. A campaign staffer for McCormack told Slate that the video was shot last month in Los Angeles and got a few hopes up in the process. “People thought it was a West Wing movie set and got all excited,” he said.)

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McCormack is running for State Supreme Court in Michigan, an election that appears on a nonpartisan part of the ballot that many voters apparently don’t notice. So the ad doubles as a PSA, alerting Michigan voters to consider the whole ballot when they perform their civic duty this fall. It’s not the first PSA the cast has made, but it’s probably the most helpful.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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