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Is American Politics About to Repeat a West Wing Plot?

12/15/2014 01:27 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. speaks to the Center for American Progress’s Second Annual Policy Conference in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In the West Wing, if you've never seen it or need a refresher, Marin Sheen played President Jed Bartlett. Bartlett, a former two-term governor was best described as an idealistic pragmatist. He believed in the basic goodness of Americans and did his best to solve problems but was politically savvy and willing to compromise and picked his battles carefully.

Late in the series we met Matt Santos, a three-term congressman and relative newcomer to politics. Santos, played by Jimmy Smitz, was smart but less pragmatic. He wasn't unrealistic but was a member of the "if you're not playing to win, you might as well go home" camp. Santos did, in fact, go home before long time Bartlett aid Josh Lyman showed up to drag Santos back to Washington as a dark horse candidate for the Presidency.

Today more than 330 former Obama staffers sent a letter asking Elizabeth Warren to run for the Presidency.  The letter begins with "we believed in an unlikely candidate who no one thought had a chance. We organized like no campaign had organized before -- and won the Democratic primary. We built a movement," referring to the early days of the Obama candidacy.

It's not quite the same thing. Obama was hardly a "Washington insider" when he ran for office. He was a State Senator in Illinois before running for the US Senate where he served for one term before running for president. However, his presidency has been similar to Bartlett's. Obama has picked his battles, he has compromised when possible and allowed his enemies to win a few.

Elizabeth Warren is, however, much more of an outsider than Obama. Warren was a university professor and advocate for consumer protection, especially in financial matters, before being elected to the Senate in 2012 and is now considering a run for the White House. Warren also seems to be in the  "if you're not playing to win, you might as well go home" camp.

Currently the favorite for the White House is Hillary Clinton. The Republican favorite to challenge Clinton seems to change with the direction of the wind but, according to polling, most of them won't stand much of a chance against Clinton. Unfortunately, Hillary's campaign seems largely centered around the idea that it is her turn. Hillary has her fans but doesn't seem to generate the kind of enthusiasm that Obama did.

Warren on the other hand seems to have some rabid fans and is, as the letter from Obama staffers suggests, capable of building a movement.

We don't know what happened after Matt Santos was elected, because the series ended. Warren would have to start ad libbing shortly after taking office but I find the similarities interesting and something about repeating television plots instead of history seems so very, very American.

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