“If I See The Real Thing in Nashua, Should I Tell You About It?”

“The West Wing” is, without a doubt, my favorite TV show of all time.

I discovered the show near the end of its running, around 2003–2004, and it formed a key part of my political education. (In fact, I would emphatically argue that you can learn more about the real work of politics by studying The West Wing than by studying political science at most of the nation’s colleges and universities.) And throughout the show’s seven seasons, I’ve always found that I related most with the character of Josh Lyman. 

One of my favorite scenes is a flashback to how Josh first came to be a part of President Barlet’s senior staff. At the time, he’s working for Senator John Hoynes, a cunning Democratic centrist and the frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination. Josh is at the peak of his career to date, and is doing exactly what he had set out to do; he’s also profoundly unhappy and feels like he’s lost his way.

Then, a friend of his father convinces him to go to Nashua, New Hampshire to see a longshot candidate speak. On the way, he makes a pitstop in Manhattan to see an old friend, and this is the conversation that ensues.

It’s been nearly twenty years since I first watched this show, and I still find new lessons in its story. When I first watched it, I was a teenager aspiring to a career in politics. Now, I’m nearly the age Josh was in Season 1 — and basically the same age he was in this flashback. And, like Josh, I sometimes wonder what I’m doing. 

I enjoy my job day-to-day, and it’s allowed me to create a good life for my family. But deep down, I think I’m still looking for the “real thing in Nashua.”

So my ask today is this: if you’ve found that person, tell me about it. Convince me to take the train to wherever and hear them speak. Don’t keep it to yourself. Because (and I know this sounds crazy) the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential elections are right around the corner.