May 22, 2024

What HBO's Veep Gets Right About Politics



Published June 11, 2023, 10:20 p.m. by Naomi Charles


Every television series based in the White House inevitably has to grapple with one fundamental question: what motivates politicians?

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Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Meredith Bragg.

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every television series based in the

White House inevitably has to grapple

with one fundamental question what

motivates politicians and it's HBO's hit

comedy veep now entering a sixth season

that has actually figured that out are

you trying to blow up the universe now

almost two decades ago the West Wing

presented one answer in the form of

president Jed Bartlet whom creator Aaron

Sorkin imagined as a straight-talking

statesman and public servant who

transcends partisan politics and puts

the common good of the American people

above all else I'm the president of the

United States not the president the

people who agree with me by the way if

the left has a problem with that they

should vote for somebody else if the

West Wing is idealistic White House fan

fiction Netflix's breakout series house

of cards is its dark reflection the road

to power is paved with hypocrisy

and casualties house of cards imagines

the Washington DC in which corruption

and blackmail are the murky waters

politicians swim in this world only the

Predators survive and Frank Underwood

and his wife and co-conspirator Claire

devour anything in their path but it's

deep that actually gets American

politics right robots and torn up now

and America is wiping it nasty ass with

it it doesn't fantasize that politicians

are heroic figures nor the inverse that

they're inherently sinister monsters he

proposes something far more simple yet

radical politicians aren't special what

do you think dr Selina at this point I

guess what drives her is her own

narcissism I'm gonna go show everybody

myself okay okay let's go do it beep is

one of the greatest shows ever made

about American politics precisely

because it remains unsentimental and

neutral on the moral value of any one

set of political beliefs is there a pro

I don't give a Lobby yeah you're

looking at i had posters buttons not

really cuz i don't give a

and in the process reveals to us the

deeper universal truth about what's

wrong with washington base we're not

going to be dealing with face as an

issue in the th is bold but safe at the

same time they're nervous in space

there's nothing there it isn't that we

just haven't voted the right people in

or kept the wrong people out but that

our civic institutions are run by human

beings subject to the same psychological

forces good and bad that drive the rest

of us welcome after v president

president right and you never know some

days somebody might just political

theorists call this simple insight that

self-interest is the driving force of

politics public choice theory a theory

Nobel prize-winning economist James

Buchanan called politics without romance

public choice theory explains why we see

interest groups and lobbyists dominate

Washington despite their unpopularity

amongst the electorate why government

bureaucracies grow and grow despite and

sometimes because of a lack of

meaningful result it just might be why

the median income in Washington DC is

the highest in the nation and it's why

politicians sometimes

make decisions that aren't in the public

interest but in their own interests that

is so great for me and the country yeah

yeah yeah that's what i marrying we meet

all things that the show is about every

other politician but then that is 100%

true across the board in the world of

public choice theory it matters less

whether we get a Jed Bartlet or Selina

Meyer or even a Frank Underwood running

our civic institutions and more whether

those civic institutions are

sufficiently restrained by

constitutional safeguards and robust and

self-regulating enough to withstand the

inevitable human fallibility that will

constantly challenge and undermine their

mission that was a mistake or as James

Madison put it if men were angels no

government would be necessary if angels

were to govern men neither external or

internal controls on government would be

necessary beeps characters are neither

Angels nor demons but motivated by the

same mixture of self-interest and

self-image that motivates nearly

everyone and it's that tension that

makes it hilarious and true I mean at

the end of the day you know aren't we

just all finally just you know people

have two words ma'am the crying was very

authentic and humanizing I liked your

thinking I actually found a slightly

erotic to but kinda back

[Music]

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