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

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2.17 The Stackhouse Filibuster

In high school, my AP American Government and Politics teacher showed us the seventeenth episode of season 2 as a example of what a filibuster is, how it works, and the rarity of it. When an elderly Senator Stackhouse stages his own marathon of a filibuster over a family wellness Act, Bartlet’s team watches on (while, of course, simultaneously juggling everything else in their day). Josh’s assistant, Donna, happens to stumble upon the real reason Stackhouse is filibustering – he’s holding out for more money for autism research, an issue near and dear to his heart as his grandson is autistic, and a fact he did not want to use as a political tool.

When Bartlet’s team learns of this, they decide to help the Senator out – and see what they can do to work with him. In the end, they learn that the Senator may yield for a question during the filibuster without yielding the floor, and find another senator willing to ask a question so as to give Stackhouse a break that he needs.

They care, and they want to find a way to make this work.

Because at the end of the day, despite stubbornness and disagreements, the administration on this fictional television show heard out their opponents, their friends and their foes, and they were empathetic. Even when Congress frustrated them, they heard them out – and they worked to find a way to move forward, not beat their chests.

Or, say, cut each other off with antiquated and outdated “rules” while speaking on the floor.