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Feb. 8 2010 - 1:11 pm | 118 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Sarah Palin in 2012: Real Life or a ‘West Wing’ Episode?

Sarah Palin, eleventh governor of Alaska and 2...

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Much has been written about how the last season of “The West Wing” – in which a young, relatively inexperienced minority candidate beats an older Western-state GOP senator to seize the presidency – mirrored the actual presidential election of 2008.

According to a Washington Post op-ed that ran in the run-up to the 2008 election, the similarities between Obama and the fictional Matthew Santos were not coincidental:

the Santos-Vinick campaign was invented in mid-2004, about the time Barack Obama gave his acclaimed speech at the Democratic convention. David Axelrod, Attie’s friend and now Obama’s chief strategist, suggested that Obama was a “rock star” politician whose profile was perfect for Attie’s needs. Since NBC had already signed Smits to play the part, the character became Hispanic.

There were other freaky parallels too, ones that the “West Wing” creators couldn’t have predicted – for example, in a last-ditch effort to appeal to his base, Republican Arnie Vinick ditches his campaign manager in favor of a family values-preaching, sexy, outspoken woman. Or that Santos would finally pull ahead when a last-minute catastrophe made him seem more trustworthy than his opponent (on the show, it was an explosion at a nuclear power plant that Vinick had helped create; in real life, it was of course the crashing economy).

Now that Sarah Palin made clear this weekend that it would be “absurd” for her to not consider a run against Obama in 2012, it’s entirely possible that the next election could again become a repeat of a familiar “West Wing” storyline – the one in which the sitting president, a former professor and all-around smarty pants, runs against someone who is, well, less smart (I’m trying to choose my words more carefully, lest I be labeled one of those condescending liberals).

I wrote last week about how much Obama’s recent showdown with members of the GOP resembled the “West Wing” episode in which President Jed Bartlet destroys Republican candidate Bob Ritchie in a debate. Who knows whether the same thing would happen if Obama and Palin were to hold a debate (she didn’t implode, like some predicted, when pitted against Joe Biden) – there could certainly be another reference to Alaskan schoolchildren being forced to learn “Eskimo poetry” like there was on that episode.

It’s far too early to tell how 2012 will shake out. But if things do come down to Obama vs. Palin, I sure hope that real life can mimic art yet again.


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    I'm a Los Angeles-based writer and editor focusing on pop and politics, race and culture, and where Gen-Yers fit into it all. My writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, WashingtonPost.com, the San Francisco Chronicle and People magazine. Among other things, I'm Oregon-born, hip-hop-addicted, and weirdly optimistic that the journalism business will stay alive.

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