Politics as warfare

by Shihang

I love the West Wing. I know that the characters are too good to be true, but God I love the West Wing. The drama, the characters, the visuals, the script.

One thing that struck me about the show is how tribal politics is portrayed to be. For example, in this hilarious clip, Josh Lyman performs a little victory dance after convincing a potential rival senator to table a bill in committee (or something like that):

Well, to me, the surprising word is “victory”. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes, but it seems that what’s important is choosing the right political master. Mandy, for example, left the senator after Josh’s victory. In the season 2 episode 1 flashback, Josh similarly jumps ship from Hoynes to Bartlett. All these people are (probably) brilliant. Yet, if they offer their services to the wrong senator, they can only expect to fade into obscurity.

Point? Well, it’s strikingly similar to the politics in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where many talented people had to choose the right lord to serve. Tian Feng, an advisor to warlord Yuan Shao, committed suicide after his well-meaning and, more importantly, correct advice was rejected by his master to disastrous consequence, leading to the famous lament that “An able person born into this world who does not recognize and serve the right lord is ignorant. Today I die, but I am not deserving of pity.”

Huh. That’s a bit depressing.