West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Continuity * A Presidential Election in 1998

There is good reason why this series shouldn't have had to deal with an election in its first season: 1) It wanted to show these people as they were just learning their jobs, 2) It didn't want to interfere with the real world election, etc. It is possible that Sorkin tried to leave the date open as to when the series was taking place. For instance, although dates are often shown on the screen, no year is ever given with them. But wanting to comment on the millennium stopped that possibility. So now we wonder exactly when things changed. It is unlikely that both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson would have been Presidents (both are mentioned, although Kennedy is only mentioned as an aircraft carrier) if that election had been held any year but 1960. The Gulf War has been mentioned; but it could have been presided over by a President who wasn't George Bush. We are still patroling Iraq's "No Fly Zones" so someone ordered the stop of that war at just the point Bush and the senior military officers in Washington stopped the one we know. Still, that could have been done by someone else.
Shawn did some research:
  • "I realize it's only fiction, but doing some research on the whole succession issue brought up the season premiere I stumbled across this passage that may offer a possible (or plausible) reason for there being a two year gap in the election cycle in the West Wing's world..."
      "The resignations of Nixon and Agnew gave rise to proposals for further changes in the system of presidential succession. They range from abolition of the vice presidency to modification of the 25th Amendment to provide for a presidential election whenever a vice president succeeds to the presidency. These proposals are designed to minimize the time a person not actually elected to the presidency could occupy that office. They are objected to on the ground that they would change important principles--stability and continuity--that have operated throughout the history of American presidential succession."
  • "Maybe that's what happened. Maybe they tried this and there was an election in 1974 after Ford took over thus resulting in the "two year offset" from reality."
  • "The whole page - dealing with the succession issue can be found here: http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/succsion.html"

Or maybe somebody later.

Note: in the third season Sorkin tried to confuse the issue of what year it is in the West Wing's World. So if the broadcast year is not the year in the series, then Bartlet was elected during some normal election year.
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