For those of you who read this headline and started shouting at your computer, “She better not say Aaron Sorkin should have told her elections were a big deal. She can’t be that stupid!” take a nice, deep breath. I know elections are a big deal. I didn’t know Washington DC was humid, but I do understand elections.
I took the lessons of West Wing election-themed episodes to heart. Don’t miss the motorcade. Make sure the truck has enough diesel. Indiana has two times zones. Sending your kids so college should just be a little bit easier. See? I was listening. And while those are very important lessons, as we approach Election Day 2012, I’m starting to realize there were some things Aaron Sorkin forgot to tell me.
1) Debate watching is an interactive activity.
On The West Wing, our heroes were usually at the debates pacing back and forth trying not to throw things at the other side. Since not all of us in DC work at the White House or on a political campaign, we are forced to resort to debate watching parties. We gather together with friends and sometimes enemies in dive bars, basement apartments and luxury condos, put on our lucky shirts, pray to whatever we believe in, bring out “Debate Bingo” or a drinking game that Gawker posted just for kicks, and hope everyone is still speaking to one another at the end of it. You know what they never showed on The West Wing? People in bars standing up and shouting, “Take that!” after their candidate made a good point. Or shouting, “You are a lying, lying, liarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” when the other side said something that might not be true. Not to mention, no one on The West Wing ever got unfriended from Facebook for posting running commentary of the debate. If only Twitter had been around. I’d have liked to hear Bartlet asking his people for a round-up of the evening’s tweets.
2) Halloween is a political statement.
I recently threw a Halloween party at my house and two people came together as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (Side note: the dude really did look like Paul Ryan. Like a lot. It was weird.) Do you know what else I witnessed over Halloween? Women dressed as binders. That’s right! A comment from a debate was a group costume. Last year, someone I know went as the One Percent and I half-expected to see someone as the Forty-Seven Percent this year (you know what I mean, beer in hand, t-shirt that reads “Look at all the @%!# I don’t give” and an unemployment or welfare check in hand…what, too soon?) I would have loved to see a very special West Wing Halloween episode where Sam and Josh are wandering around Georgetown on Halloween and keep getting accosted by “The Next Ten Words” or couples dressed as “Unfunded Mandate.”
3) Election night is… brace yourselves, I’m about to get a little verklempt.
There is actually nothing Aaron Sorkin could have done to prepare me for election night in DC. You weren’t expecting that, were you? Election night in DC is a combination for New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, and depending on who you voted for, either the best wedding reception or wake you have ever attended. On The West Wing you saw the reactions of White House Staffers, campaign staff, and pundits. But you know what you didn’t see? The people who supported the candidates. The people who canvassed, donated, and phone banked. You know those people who bother you in the middle of dinner to ask you for money? I know those guys. You should be nice before you just hang up on them. Aaron Sorkin could have never prepared me for a thousand Democrats (that’s right, a bunch of leftists apologists) standing up and singing I’m Proud to be an American when Barack Obama won the election in 2008. He could have never prepared me for actual dancing and singing in the streets of DC. And if he told me that people would greet strangers on the street with “Happy Election Night!” I would have called him a lying, lying, liar.