Basically the state of the union is so bad that I’d rather crawl into my TV set and live in a fictional presidency.
Yesterday I got an email from Chris Lydon, a former colleague at Berkman Center, and collaborator on a few interesting projects, including the first real podcasts and blogging the New Hampshire primary campaign of the 2004 election. Today, Chris has a public radio show called Open Source. Yesterday he asked me to write my own State of the Union address.
Now this may sound self-important, lots of things bloggers do sound that way to some, at first, but really my scope is limited to the world I work in. As a blogger, my budget is small, I spend several hundred dollars a month for the servers that host my blog, various sites, podcasts, software, communities, services I run and support. Yet my influence spans the globe, reaching every country that has Internet access. I have readers on every continent, you can even read my blog in China, on a good day, when the government permits.
Last night watching a re-run of The West Wing, which is still my favorite TV show, I thought of the assignment Chris gave me. I wonder if we will lose the West Wing this year, just as it’s getting interesting again. I’m pretty sure the Democrats will keep the White House, but the race is tight. And if Matt Santos wins, how will they handle the death of the actor who plays his vice-president. Will McGarry always be lurking in the shadows, walking out of the room as the camera enters? Will we hear his voice in the other room, but not see his face? The show has always been fairly creative, it’s not impossible that they would keep McGarry, but one would hope they would never hire another actor to play his role. No one gives that theory much credence.
But the show has been cancelled, and if this were any year before 2006, that would be the end of that, but this is the year that Apple has shown the entertainment industry that they could sell TV shows for $1.99 per episode, and that enough money is generated this way to, dare I say it, fund the production of a show like The West Wing, which doesn’t use very elaborate sets, or go on location very often, for a few million people like myself who have the time and money and interest to fund such a show.
Which leads to an obvious question — why are people like myself so anxious to continue a fictional presidency, even willing to consider a fictional Republican presidency, as an alternative to the real President of the United States? Well, perhaps its because we can see into the machinations of the fictional one and like what we see. Sure, they’re human beings, but they labor over the big quesitons, make the thoughtful compromises we’d like to see our leaders make, hell, they’re actually leaders. Even if I didn’t agree with something Bartlet did, I’d still support the president, because I know he’s doing the best he can. In contrast with the current president, and the country that stands behind him, I can’t believe this is the country I grew up in. If I could I choose the make-believe world of the West Wing over the real one we live in, I would, in a heartbeat. And having the TV show to compare against reality gives me hope that at least some Americans share a hope for the greatness of our country.