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US presidential elections in TV and Film

The 2020 US presidential election is less than a year away. Donald Trump is gearing up to run for his second term and the prospective Democratic candidates are campaigning for their party’s nomination. Presidential elections can throw up a lot of drama, and the 2016 vote was no different, as Trump caused an upset in defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump currently leads the way in the latest odds on the 2020 US President, and there’s sure to be plenty of twists and turns once again.

Many films and TV shows have captured the unique excitement of a US presidential election, from intense political dramas like to more light-hearted movies. If you want to get in the election mood nice and early, you can check out some of these films and shows that portray US presidential elections.

House of Cards

Netflix series House of Cards fast became a favourite among TV fanatics when the first season dropped in 2011. The show follows Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) as the pair attempt to manoeuvre their way up the political ladder through underhand tactics and dastardly schemes. 

Seasons four and five follow the events of an alternate 2016 presidential election and the Underwoods are up to their old tricks once again, staging terrorist incidents to try and cause distractions and gain control. House of Cards makes the current US political turmoil look like sunshine and rainbows.

The Ides of March (2011)

Starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, The Ides of March tells the story of Democratic presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney) and his junior campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Gosling). Meyers is a talented campaigner but soon finds himself wrapped up in the world of political conspiracies and dirty election tactics. 

One of the film’s screenplay writers, Beau Willimon, is also the creator of House of Cards. The same dark, sinister atmosphere is present in The Ides of March, making it a gripping political drama.

The West Wing

The West Wing is an all-time favourite for many fans of TV. Starring Martin Sheen, the show ran for seven seasons between 1999 and 2006. It follows the exploits of fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet (Sheen) and his staff.

The show’s storyline encompasses two presidential elections. The first depicts Bartlet’s attempts to win a second term in office, with a memorable debate helping the existing president to a landslide victory. The second follows new nominee Matt Santos’ quest to become president as well as the efforts of the Republican Party to win back the White House.

The West Wing was named in the top ten of the Writers Guild of America’s list of ‘101 Best Written TV Series’, proof of how popular the show is among industry professionals. 

Swing Vote (2008) 

Imagine if one ordinary man could decide the result of a US presidential election. That’s the premise of Swing Vote, where a bizarre turn of events leaves average American Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) with the task of casting the deciding vote after a tie in the election results.

The two presidential candidates attempt to convince Johnson to vote for them, with both forced to alter their policies in an effort to align with Johnson’s views. Johnson knows almost nothing about politics, and so you can see how the film offers more than a few laughs. 

The Simpsons

The Simpsons have mocked and satirised just about every topic imaginable, and presidential elections are no exception. In the season seven Halloween special, the show depicts an alternate 1996 election. Candidates Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are abducted by aliens, as the extra-terrestrials take on the politicians’ forms to seize control of planet Earth. 

It’s up to Homer to save the real Clinton and Dole, but after he presses the wrong button in the spaceship, the presidential hopefuls are ejected out of the ship into outer space. This leaves the American public no choice but to elect one of the aliens, despite their true identity being revealed. “It’s a two-party system,” they laugh, “you have to vote for one of us!”

While aliens are unlikely to invade the 2020 presidential election, it’s set to be a dramatic race for the White House. 


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