Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Post-West Wing World

I'm sitting down looking for intellectual television drama to watch on Netflix and I come accross The West Wing. I like it. It's a good show, but that's beside the point. There is a moment in the show when after blowing his election chances a campaign manager raises a shoe at a senator in the second episode. I find it funny, but I can't help but thinking that in a post-9/11 world her brains would be splattered across the parking lot via secret service snipers.

The show also features a lot of White House Press Briefings. All of this comes together making me realize how much politics has changed in my lifetime. I'm not talking about societal mores, or issues we deem important. I mean the process of running a political office.  Here is my list of how politics has changed since The West Wing started airing.

5. The Tea Party/Government Spending
You can argue how relevant they are after the 2012 election, but the point is that they are a faction that has to be dealt with. Even if they don't have the clout they did two years ago it's hard to forget that before 2010 nobody was really focusing on the deficit and spending. The economy and the Iraq war seemed to be the major issues of the 2008 election, but the stimulus package, seemed unfair to many taxpayers, creating outrage at how the government spends money. Ever since every government program and spending decision the government makes is suspect. They don't just have to past the does it help someone test, but the does John Smith mind giving the cash test.

4. The Vice-Presidency
Okay this one is about a concept most people can't rap their heads around. Traditionally the Vice-President has very little power. John Nance Garner, one of FDR's Vice-Presidents, said of the office it was "not worth a bucket of warm piss" The President is often viewed as the most powerful man in the world, the Vice-President, not so much.

Dick Cheney changed all of that. It's debated how true it was, but during the Bush administration, people viewed him as the man behind the man. I don't think Biden has as much power as Cheney did, but he is undoubtedly one of the most powerful VPOTUS's we've had. I've lost count of how many news articles I've read where he was a major player at the negotiating table. 

3. Mobile Video and Photographic Technology
You know when I was a kid my folks would tell me I was always being watched. When I was ten I didn't believe them. Now I do. Most phones come with a camera. Even when they don't almost every other device does, laptops, tablets, I wouldn't be surprised if the next watch swatched Ipod nano came with one.  Not taking cheap verbal shots for a few hours can be a chore, but now for politicians that's life. Out of fear of the infamous Youtube video, they can't be glib, goofy, or grumpy EVER. My head would explode if I could never whistle while walking down the street, shoot a quick comeback or admit that I liked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Related is the...

2. The Internet
Twitter, YouTube, blogs. Point is we know more, faster, and farther, or at least have the capacity to. I have access to the same media outlets, the Chinese, Egyptians and Mexicans have, or at least some version of them. After the election we knew the results 6 hours later. From my desk I can get video of the House debates regarding the fiscal cliff archived a week after they were filmed or live if I wanted. The internet is one great big information gathering and archival system. Stuff that used to fall the gaps is all of a sudden finding it's way to the front page because of the internet. 

1. 9/11 and the Decade of War
In my lifetime my country has been at war for nearly more years than it has been at peace. Sometimes, most times, I forget that.  The war feels so much like peace, that I forget that I grew up in a time when all of the security didn't exist. I grew up in an age where nobody cared about foreign policy, an age where if I asked someone to name a dictator in power they probably couldn't.

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