As I watch the fast talking CJ Cregg flawlessly maneuver through a white house press conference and jump off the podium only to be bombarded with about 700 issues to deal with, I think, Why aren’t I there right now? Everyone that is reading this is probably thinking I’m crazy. I mean, why would anyone want to subject themselves to that much stress and pressure in their careers? Clearly people are interested, because political consultants and professionals are constantly filtering into Washington D.C, ready to become the next David Axelrod or Karl Rove. Or the next Josh Lyman. Where does this political fever and idealism stem from? Part of is explained by a Vanity Fair article written just about a year ago. It references the television show and speaks about how even though it’s been a good while since Aaron Sorkins political masterpiece was on television-the series finale was in 2006-individuals all around Washington continue to quote, reference, and cite the show as an inspiration of sorts. It’s true that much of the people who were in high school and college when the show was actually on air are now, as the article puts it, “have today matured into the young policy prodigies and press operatives who advise, brief, and excuse the behavior of the most powerful people in the country.”(Vanity Fair)
While I was 8 years old when the show first aired and didn’t watch the show until about a year ago, I can definitely say that it inspired me, and reinforced any doubts I had about going into the fast paced, high stress world of politics. Why? The West Wing shows that people in government PR and communications actually have the ability to make a difference in this country, more so than any other type of PR. What Josh Lyman or Sam Seaborne did in that show had real impacts on their world. What they did effected government policies, which in turn either helped or hurt the American people.
But is Sorkin’s interpretation of politics too positive, or even misleading? The new show House of Cards depicts the darker side of politics which the country seems more in tune with, where individuals deal in back rooms and only have their own self interest at heart rather than the good of the country.
Which should individuals going into politics believe? What makes other people choose to go into the political sphere? For Mike DeFilippis, President of PRSSA-who has not seen the West Wing himself-the draw of government PR comes from the fact that it is “more challenging and difficult because of the impact certain decisions have and because there are myriad groups and stakeholders involved.” He also cites a Sorkin-esque view because, in DeFilippis’ opinion, “political and government PR attracts me because it impacts real people”.
If I reflect on my own desire to get into political PR, I think the attraction comes from a melding of the Sorkin and House of Cards perspectives. I understand that self interest-which is almost present in every field and profession-is almost needed in politics for individuals to advance. But it is that self interest which drives certain individuals who have the ability to make a real impact to positions of power. I want to be the person that helps those individuals who have the ideas and the ability to make an impact advance to those positions of power, and achieve their goals of power.
Articles Referenced: Weiner, Juli. “West Wing Babies.” Vanity Fair. 4 2012: n. page. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/04/aaron-sorkin-west-wing>.
Follow me at @SassidyBissell