I watched an old episode of The West Wing last night. It got me wondering what the next season would look like, as I believe it will include the election of the next (pretend) President. That, in turn, had me speculating on what the show would look like if the writers decided on a Republican victor.
The current show is based on the idea that Democrats want to help people. They are kept from this at times by evil Republicans (though mostly they are shown more as political opponents rather than nasty caricatures), or by political realities, and often just by the turn of events. I think there is plenty wrong with the Democratic party, but this does seem to be a core value; at times they are spectacularly bad at it, and much too often they are distracted by politics and elections, but I think the majority are actually trying to help people.
I imagine a similar principle would apply to a Republican version, with the qualification that rather than helping people, Republicans will want to create the conditions in which people can help themselves. That’s a very reasonable viewpoint (both sides want people to do well, it’s just a question of how best to achieve that aim). But for a TV show it falls down on two counts.
1. It’s not very, erm, exciting. “Hey, we cut marginal rates on certain fixed-asset depreciation schedules by two percentage points, which should in turn free up valuable funds that should trickle down to market-based initiatives to deal with inner-city delinquency.” That may be good economics, but it’s hardly gripping TV.
2. They are staggeringly bad at it, even when compared to Democrats. A Democrat may allocate money to a program that doesn’t do what was intended, and might even do the exact opposite, but they were taking positive action to affect change. A Republican’s primary task is to add small amounts to certain key programs, while more than balancing these increases with large, even total, cuts to everything else. AND THEY DON”T DO IT! Discretionary spending goes up and up, even when they try to disguise it in military spending. It’s the principal lever they have to pull, and they’re pushing it!
And so I got to wondering what they actually do in Congress and the White House, given that they don’t seem able to do this central thing. Do they sit around hatching evil schemes to deprive people of their liberties/money/contraceptives? Do they roll around naked all day in big piles of dollar bills, prior to raining it down on their oil company buddies in secret ceremonies deep underneath the White House? Do they, in short, do what all the Democrat conspiracy-theorists think they do? And if not (and I don’t think that they do), what are they doing?