Discussion: The American Presidency

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Discussion: The American Presidency

Discussion: The American Presidency

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT: Discussion: The American Presidency

In the United States, the public has long had a fascination with the American presidency—a fact that’s reflected in a wide variety of films, plays, and novels, including: The American President starring Michael Douglas, Election (Reese Witherspoon), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Jimmy Stewart), 12 Angry Men (Henry Fonda), The Candidate (Robert Redford), Milk (Sean Penn), Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), and many more. Day-Lewis even won the Academy Award for best actor for his presidential role in 2012.

But Hollywood alone can’t satisfy the public’s appetite for stories about presidents. The West Wing, a political drama mainly set in the White House, is one of the most popular TV series in recent years. Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing, and Alan Alda play leading roles. The series ran from 1999 to 2006, encompassing 156 episodes. Consultants who helped ensure the accuracy of character portrayals as well as the action and atmospherics of life in the White House included former White House staffers Dee Myers, Marlin Fitzwater, Peggy Noon, and Gene Sperling. Netflix now offers viewers all seven seasons, and multiple Twitter handles for West Wing characters continue to keep the show alive.

So if your friends try to tell you that politics is boring, just say, “You might think that….” Then invite them to the movies and wait for the curtain to go up.

· Whether it’s a play by William Shakespeare or a Steven Spielberg film about politics, the characters are always flawed, the plot involves intrigue and betrayal, and the endings are seldom happy. Dramatizations of politics in Shakespeare’s day when monarchs ruled and today when democracy is well-established in many countries are not that different. What does that say about the success or failure of democratic institutions in creating a new kind of political culture, one conducive to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness“? Think about it.

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