15 Episodes of The West Wing We Need Now More Than Ever

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5.08 Shutdown

Though the latter seasons of the show – from season 5 onward – were certainly a different pace and tone without Aaron Sorkin at the helm, there were still gems scattered here and there, including the eighth episode of season 5. When the Republican controlled House and Bartlet cannot come to an agreement regarding the budget, Bartlet stands firm on his threat to shutdown the federal government, a disastrous fiscal crisis over a mere three percent in the budget – but a three percent cut that would cut many of Bartlet’s social programs.

After days of failed attempts to sway Bartlet – both by the GOP and his team – the public grows frustrated and disdainful of both sides of the playing field. The White House is dropping in the polls, and time is running out before this is a major problem. Bartlet overhears his team discussing the issue, and decides enough is enough – he’s going over to Capitol Hill himself to finish this.

And when the motorcade stops and Josh suggests to President Bartlet that they make an iconic walk the rest of the way, the president makes his move and – with a small team in tow – marches on Capitol Hill.

By the end of the episode, House Speaker Haffley and President Bartlet are back in the White House, discussing terms for the budget. Haffley concedes a few provisions that Bartlet agrees to include the following year – and finally, finally, they come to an agreement.

Because that, my friends, is house government works. While there is a time and place to stand firm and not budge on certain aspects, at the end of the day, there needs to be negotiating – not bullying, not demeaning, and not vitriol. There needs to be compromise – it’s how democracy functions.