And today in my self-appointed mission to glean any remotely positive piece of hypothetical news from the grim march of my Twitter feed, another small ray of nostalgic light, reminding us of who and what we once were: Writer extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin, in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, has mused that perhaps the time is right for a reboot of his seminal White House drama The West Wing (rumor has it that such a project has a standing order at its former home of NBC.)
Didn’t I say this was good news? Don’t worry. Any future administration would be a Trump-free zone. Trump, as per Sorkin, “a really dumb guy with an observable psychiatric disorder,” isn’t truly psychologically complex enough, nor articulate or facile enough with the English language, for even a zhuzhed up stand-in to believably execute the writer’s famously tricky dialogue, and besides, the reality of the Sorkin alternate universe, with its elaborate Gilbert and Sullivan parodies and pro-choice Republican presidential candidates, is that no one as vulgar, stupid, and patently self-serving and unqualified would ever be approved for entry. No, Sorkin has, if not quite a story, then an actor in mind for the POTUS of our escapist imaginings: This is Us and The People vs. OJ Simpson star, Sterling K. Brown. Brown, for his part, responded to Sorkin on Twitter that “if you are serious, sir, I would be honored,” and Sorkin, who doesn’t tweet, asked the actor Joshua Malina, who does, to follow up with his response: “Dead serious and honored by your interest. Now, an idea, I’m going to need one of those.”
Well, look, Aaron, I’m a TV writer and I’ve got an idea. Don’t do it with Sterling K. Brown as the President. Brown is a great actor. He’s a nice person. He’s comes off as someone smart and capable with a lot of gravitas and integrity, at this point, I would happily support him to be the actual president. But a TV president? Look. Let’s be honest about why The West Wing—besides being a truly great show with an astonishing cast and amazing production values—remains such a touchstone for so many of us: It’s because for Democrats during the second Bush administration, it was an escape, a parallel universe full of hyper educated, deeply moral, brave, incorruptible, and brilliant liberals who were making the world a better place. (The big lie of the show, of course, is that this is what the American people actually want, rather than a vindictive and mean-spirited politics mainly based on the comforting inherited trauma of paternalistic punishment, but that’s a story for another time.) It achieved this, chiefly, by giving us a look at a Democratic administration we never had, a kind of cherry-picked amalgamation of previous left-leaning presidents’ greatest hits: The courage and sense of justice of FDR, the charisma of JFK, the hard-headed effectiveness of Lyndon Johnson, the just-folks charm and common touch of Bill Clinton, combined with the intellect, the intellectualism, and the sterling personal integrity we would not see until Obama. (Although I remember President Bartlet having a speech about a female “fanny” he could “pat any time I want to, the voters have spoken,” which probably wouldn’t play quite the same way today.)
The point is, it comforted us and inspired us by giving us something we’ve never seen. And all due respect to Sterling K. Brown, and for the matter, Aaron Sorkin, what the liberal TV viewing audience of America today, which is primarily made up of women, wants to see in their escapism is not necessarily yet another White House run by men, not even a brilliant, capable, and deeply moral and inspiring African-American one (which, lest we forget, we’ve already seen.) What we want is the Hillary Clinton presidency that never was and never will be. We want to see a woman in charge: Not a sensationalist one like on Scandal, or a hilariously incompetent one like on Veep, but a brilliant, incorruptible, inspiring woman. Bartlet for America: Only this time, it’s Abby. And if Sterling K. Brown is available, I’m sure she’ll need someone to be her communications director.