"Beat That With A Stick": The End of the Bartlet Era

Over the past eight years, knee-jerk nerd liberals like me have clung to two words like a lifeboat: President Obama. I’ve clung to those, believed in those, just like I’ve clung to the DVDs of The West Wing whenever I was feeling down about my country, a country I love so much it hurts, a country that it’s been so, so hard to believe in these past eight years, whose promises I thought had long since been shattered and scattered. Lost like tears in rain. That was from Blade Runner.

Sorkin’s West Wing, the four good years, has been described as a fantasy, and during the Bush years, it was. It was hard to imagine Toby or Josh or Leo or C.J. or Sam working in that White House. Even Ainsely Hayes and Bruno Gianelli probably would have said “oh, FUCK THAT” during the first debate over defining torture or seeing the leaked photos from Abu Ghriab. And it was hard to see a reality behind that in the last eight years.

It was hard, these last eight years, to believe in the nobility of public service, of giving up a good job and career and life because the President was asking you to serve, and everything else was crap.

It was hard, these last eight years, even in 2006, when it looked like we might turn a corner, to stare down a ballot and choose between the better of “who cares.” Of trying to get excited about a candidate who can speak in complete sentences.

It was hard, these last eight years, to imagine a conversation at the White House that ended with “Because I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”

It was hard, these last eight years, to imagine a President who knew that if you were smart, surrounding yourself with smart people who disagreed with you was the best move. (Even if he was stoned on back medication at the time. Like I kind of am right now.)

It was hard to believe in a nation that believed in “what’s next?” That crossed the seas and pioneered the West and took to the stars.

It was hard to believe in government as a place where people come together, and no one gets left behind.

It was hard to believe that a good man could get elected President.

And it was hard to believe in the notion of America as a place where our capacity is limitless, an America that does what is hard and achieves what is great.

That reaches, and with outstretched hands, touches the face of God.

An America that reaches for the stars.

It’s not so hard anymore.

“My President’s name is Bartlet,” read the bumper sticker, and for the last eight years, I secretly believed that. Not today. I’ve been walking around in a daze since Tuesday, not really being able to formulate it until now, because I fully expect to wake up and this will be a dream caused by watching too much West Wing to recover from a McPalin victory. (The Rahm Emmanuel thing is what’s freaking me out. Too perfect.)

Walking around in a daze, thinking…

My President’s name is Barack Hussein Obama, and he doesn’t need Aaron Sorkin to make me believe in America again.

(Although it would be really, really cool if he did.)


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