There’s a cultural meme or cultural suggestion that Washington is boring, that policy is boring, but it’s important stuff,” says Ezra Klein, 27, another policy savant, who launched a blog when he was 19 and whose meritocratic rise—he is now a writer for The Washington Post and a contributor on MSNBC and Bloomberg View—has made him a wonk-world folk hero. In his view, The West Wing served an important cultural function by dramatizing “the immediacy and urgency and concern that people in this town feel about the issues they’re working on.”
Or as Kurt Bardella puts it, “This was a show that made even the census compelling!” It’s true: the census episode, despite its being the census episode, presented an affecting argument about institutionalized racial inequity and postmortem marital obligation. (You can imagine the lessons reaped from, say, the attempted-assassination plotline.) Bardella, 28, served as a spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa, Republican from California, for about two years. Like other West Wing devotees, he found that the actual Washington didn’t always measure up to the Sorkinian version: “It’s funny because I ended up working on the Oversight Committee—which has jurisdiction over the census—and I can tell you, the census is not the most exciting topic in the world.”
Harold & Kumar star Kal Penn braved similar disillusionment when he took a break from acting to work in the White House Office of Public Engagement. As he told The New York Times last year, “I was there my first night until 11 P.M. and I was like, ‘Sweet, let’s order Chinese food.’ And everybody was like, ‘You can’t actually order delivery to the White House.’ I was like, ‘But they do it on West Wing!’ ”"