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Prem Panicker: Video: NBC’s The West Wing: Why is Liberal a Bad Word?

October 26, 2014

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This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Matthew Santos played by Jimmy Smits, a great actor, doing a solid job of defending liberalism against Arnold Vinick played by the great actor and comedian Alan Alda. This of course was part of the last season of The West Wing with a lot of focus on who was going to be next President after Jeb Bartlett played by the great Martin Sheen. And the Democratic nominee was Representative Matthew Santos played again by Jimmy Smits and the Republican nominee was Senator Arnold Vinick played by Alan Alda.

I wouldn’t consider Matt Santos to be the liberal in this election, but the candidate who was furthest left at least among the major party presidential candidates on this show. He advocated for eliminating school tenure for public school teachers, which is something I support as a Liberal. Not the point of this post, but then he advocates for nationalizing public education in America and putting the Federal Government in charge of schools in America. That was from the early days of this campaign, which was on season 6.

No real Liberal would advocate for nationalizing public schools in this country. I’m not sure I can come up with a more anti-liberal position than nationalizing the school system. I mean talk about top-down over-bureaucratic government agencies, nationalize the school system where Washington tells Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas and Atlanta and everyone else in the country how to educate their kids and you’ll see exactly what I mean. With a school system worth trillions of dollars and a huge part of the American economy.

I said Matt Santos did a solid job of defending liberalism. And I meant that and I just laid out where this fictional character came up short as a Liberal and looks more like a Socialist. But where he did a good job was talking about expanding rights and freedom in this country, which is the main point of liberalism and the main reason for being a Liberal. Not expanding governmental power, but expanding the power of individuals over their own lives. And he gave great examples including ending slavery, women’s right to vote, Medicare and Social Security.
SMITS ALDA

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