I am not a political polling expert, I do not now nor have I ever had the power of prophecy and I am not a mechanical cyborg from the future. But I do watch TV. And there was this show on a few years back that you may have heard of called: The West Wing. Sound familiar?
I was never much of a fan of The West Wing, but my father was. He would sit down every Wednesday (I think it was on Wednesdays) night and flip the show on. Being the pre-teen that I was, I couldn't really follow the complex storylines of a Clinton-like presidential administration and their political struggles and triumphs in the new millennium. I would watch the opening credits that featured W.G Walden's absolutely brilliant, heroic score while black and white faces of the White House staff were superimposed over pleasant images of The White House and the American flag, and then I would run off to play Pokemon Blue or chat on AIM or do whatever the hell kids do when they are that age.
In 2005, however, Aaron Sorkin and the other producers of The West Wing turned the show's very paradigm on its head. For their seventh and final season, they determined that Josiah Bartlett, the current president, should be living out the last year of his final term in office and they covered two candidates attempts to replace him in the subsequent election. It was an amazing concept and very well executed and for one of the first times in my young life, my tiny adolescent mind was beginning to grasp the intricacies of politics and elections. I had been through two very unique and very bizarre elections and was learning terms like "electoral votes" and "voter demographics" so I finally had the working knowledge to follow The West Wing. And I am glad I did. But the purpose of this post isn't to convince you that Season 7 of The West Wing is one of the best artistic achievements ever aired on television, although it is (seriously, drop whatever you are doing right now and go find it: rent it, buy it, steal it; do whatever it takes). I am here to confirm my original point: Season 7 of The West Wing tells us how the 2008 election is going to end.
Let's take a look at the candidates on The West Wing for a second:
Matthew Vincente Santos
A young, attractive and charismatic Congressman of an ethnicity disparate of the majority of America who enters the Presidential election as an outsider to change the old, crusty ways of Washington politics. He has a smokin' hot wife and cute kids that he makes sure the press doesn't make too visible. This former "community organizer" beats a previously thought to be unbeatable opponent in the Democratic primary and becomes his party's rock star.
This cantankerous, yet loveable old Maverick is a staunch fiscal conservative who isn't afraid to divorce himself from his Party's beliefs on many occasions. He is a forceful personality and a popular Senator from the West Coast who is the GOP's main man in the primaries almost from the word "go". He has experienced many tragedies in his life and considers service to his country of the utmost importance. Many arch-conservatives are wary of his some of his moderate leanings but are ultimately won over by his "town hall meeting" off the cuff manner of speaking.
Do those two sound like anyone we know? In fairness, a writer and producer for The West Wing is on record as saying that Matt Santos is partially based on and inspired by Barack Obama, but there are still aspects of this election that The West Wing writers could not have seen coming three years ago. Both candidates in the show and in reality stress their record of bipartisanship, both engage in personable and respectful debates and both claim to have tried to avoid any type of character bashing of the other candidate in their campaign messages (although this creed in reality is starting to be sorely tested).
So how does this turn out on The West Wing? The Bartlett administration was Democrat and many of the main characters of that administration worked for the Santos campaign. Understandably, the show then tended to follow the Santos campaign more closely because the majority of the show's main characters worked for that campaign and those actors needed screen time befitting of their large salaries.
I was not necessarily shocked then when the underdog Congressman narrowly took the election from his Republican counterpart. That is just "the biz" I thought. The good-looking-down-on-their-luck-heroes always win. And then the almighty Wikipedia directed me to this New York Times article.
It seems that the writers initially intended for Arnold Vinick to win for while Santos was a heartwarming story, they just had to be realistic (something West Wing writers rarely are). But then, fate intervened and the incomparable John Spencer passed away. Spencer played Santos's running mate was the Bartlett administration's respected Chief of Staff and an old Party elder. The writers determined that it would not be creatively and morally satisfying for Santos to lose his running mate AND the election on the same day. So, the history of Fictional America was forever altered and Matthew Santos was elected the United State of Fictional America.
Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States of Real America. It wasn't the writers of the West Wing that deemed it so but rather fate.
So you can take your polls and your swamis and your science. I am going with fate on this one.