On Thursday night, Leslie Knope will finally meet the only man on her celebrity sex list: Joe Biden. Yes, America’s happy warrior, the vice president of the United States, is making a cameo on the NBC sitcom/half hour of sheer delight, Parks and Recreation.
The show, about government workers in the small-in-population obesity-stricken town of Pawnee, Indiana has recently featured a spate of political cameos. Biden’s is likely to be the most significant given Leslie’s total obsession with him (she even put his face on a quilt in last week’s episode), but Senators Olympia Snowe, Barbara Boxer, and John McCain have also appeared this season. These public figures are likely drawn to the show (at least in part) for the way it portrays politics. According to Parks and Rec, politics can be frustrating and petty, yes, but ultimately hope, change and cooperation are possible.
Leslie (played by Amy Poehler), the show’s protagonist, wants to become president someday, sooner rather than later, and she took a step towards her goal by becoming a city councilwoman at the end of last season. During Leslie’s campaign and since her election, the show has delved into the less-than-ideal side of politics. It has shown the manipulation and the dirty tricks that occur during campaigns. Now that Leslie’s in office, she’s been forced to reconcile her idealism with reality, and sometimes has had to consider unsavory compromises. She’s even been forced to battle with a fellow council member who threatened to withhold his vote on a bill unless she gave him her office, which had its own private bathroom. Her fiancé Ben, meanwhile, who went to Washington to manage a campaign, met his fair share of unsavory characters in the political world. The man he helped to elect, for example, spent all his time in the office staring blankly at walls.
But despite this, Leslie has managed not to lose her integrity and her drive to make the world better. During the campaign, she refused to make overly negative ads. In office, she’s sticking to her principles. She still dreams of inhabiting the White House, but only if she can get there on her own terms.
Part of the show’s refreshing attitude on politics comes from its embrace of bipartisanship. Leslie is pretty clearly a liberal, given her stances on issues like gay marriage and her love for big government. Yet she idolizes ladies on both sides of the aisle, adorning her office with pictures of Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice. The conflict between liberal and conservative plays out on a small scale in the interactions between Leslie and her boss, the steadfast libertarian Ron Swanson. These two disagree on nearly everything when it comes to government — Leslie thinks the Parks Department constantly needs more funding, Ron would be thrilled if it completely disappeared — but they always have each other’s backs, and manage to work together in the end to come to the best solution.
Perhaps together they could tackle the fiscal cliff.