Oct 2010 08

By Matt Dunbar

In a depressingly pointless attempt to integrate the two activities occupying most of my time these days – Politico and Hulu (yes, I’ve excluded pin-up sites and pornography) – I’ve created a crib sheet for the political sympathies of the characters on The Office. Reflecting on the exercise, I am not only ashamed at how unnecessarily nuanced the analysis is, but also extremely disheartened that I actually spent a good hour designing a ven diagram representing Andy’s politicial socialization at Cornell.

Michael: Obama Democrat

Possibly the character with the easiest political attitudes to discern, Michael is by far the most fervent Obama supporter at Dunder Mifflin, and perhaps in all of Scranton. At lunch, he microwaves his leftover chicken alfredo on his cherished Obama “Historic Victory Plate”, which he ordered immediately after seeing it advertised during Anderson Cooper 360. Under his desk lay two framed lithographs of the iconic Shepard Ferry “HOPE” posters, which Michael had tried to mount on his wall two weeks before the election (Michael was stopped by Toby, who informed him that it was against corporate policy to make overt political statements in the office. In response, Michael called Toby a “stupid, divorced racist”).

Based on his volunteer record, Michael’s partisan loyalties should not come as much of a surprise: in ’84, Michael worked phones for the Pittsburgh office of Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid, often referring to himself as “the white part of the rainbow.” Michael also campaigned for Clinton in 1992, rekindling his passion for smooth jazz after watching the then Arkansas governor perform on the Arsenio Hall show (he still has all the shows on VHS). On election night last year, Michael was so inspired by the Hyde Park acceptance speech that he drove to what he calls the “racial” part of Scranton, hoping to share in the excitement. However, Michael immediately turned his car around after seeing three black men waving at each other from across the street, fearing he had stumbled onto rival gang turf and was wearing the wrong colors.

Dwight: Ron Paul Libertarian

A mean streak of bootstrapping self-reliance has always been the hallmark of the Schrute family; in fact, the Schrute coat of arms is literally a beet uprooting itself with a bootstrap (Moe has this image tattooed on his lower back). Thus it’s of little surprise that most Schrutes are staunch libertarians in the traditional sense, and that Dwight was an avid Ron Paul supporter throughout the Republican primaries. Even prior to Paul’s candidacy, Dwight would regularly send out mass emails to Dunder Mifflin trumpeting core libertarian principles, including a 15,000-word treatise on the unconstitutionality of Congress.

During his relationship with Angela, Dwight repeatedly urged her to refuse filing Dunder Mifflin’s corporate taxes, reassuring her that he had prepared a bulletproof legal defense should the company come into trouble with the IRS. Although he never acknowledged it to Angela, Dwight reviled the neo-conservative tilt of the Bush administration, and in both 2000 and 2004 submitted “Gandalf the Gray” as his write-in candidate for president. It should be noted, however, that within the Schrute household Dwight is considered something of a bleeding-hard federalist, as his attempted volunteer stint with the Scranton sheriff’s department betrayed a perceived dependence on the state. While he was spreading Bob Barr literature in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot, Mose often reminded Dwight that his grandfather let the original 40 acres of Schrute Farms burn to the ground for fear that the fire department would force him to collectivize the farm. Dwight is an avid Tea Party advocate, although he takes serious issue with the flippant tone with which Sarah Palin and others have embraced grizzly bears.

Phyllis: Hillary Democrat

Phyllis still hasn’t gotten over what “that man” did to Hillary last year. In her mind, Hillary had earned the nomination through years of fidelity both to her husband and to the party, and then lost it because, in her words, “Denzel Jr. over there has a metabolism like Michael Phelps and can eat whatever the hell he wants during the campaign, and Hillary retains a little bit of water and nobody wants to vote for the cankle cow.”

Identifying with Hillary in a disturbingly personal way, Phyllis has designed and stitched an entire line of pantsuits she hopes to one day sell in Lane Bryant called “Hillarywear”, once Hillary’s people get back to her with the endorsement. But unlike many Hillary supporters who after a ridiculous, illogical, and stupidly emotional overreaction ultimately did the rational thing, Phyllis actually called her own bluff and voted for McCain in the general. Although her resentment has naturally softened in recent months, she still refuses to say anything positive about the new president beyond vague comments such as “he’s very colorful” and “I hear he’s a very good athlete.” Phyllis rarely makes small talk with Stanley anymore.

Andy: Reagan Republican

Andy never entertained a single political thought until his junior year at Cornell, when he was unintentionally invited by a drunken frat brother to an exclusive country club in Ithaca. While sitting alone in the foyer smoking the wrong side of a cigar, Andy overheard a group of distinguished looking, gray-haired club members chatting about “how the country has completely gone to shit since Reagan left.” Employing his painfully well-honed gift for eavesdropping, Andy went on to learn how Reagan “truly understood what it means to do business in this country,” how, in their words, Star Wars “was a big boon to my lobbying firm”, how Iran-Contra was “a big boon to my smuggling firm,” and how the CIA-sponsored crack epidemic “was a big boon to my crack-making firm.”

Thinking it socially wise to share the political attitudes of the leisure class, Andy immediately went out and bought a poster of the 40th president, which still hangs above his bed today. Andy has supported the most stridently pro-business candidate in every election in which he has been eligible to vote, from H.W in ’92 to Forbes in ’96, to Forbes again in 2000, to write-in votes for Forbes in both ’04 and ’08.

Meredith: Bill Clinton Democrat

In many ways, Meredith’s loyalties to the Clinton administration are easily understood. As a single mother at one point reliant on food stamps to feed her two children, Meredith knows the importance of a social safety net firsthand, and will vigorously defend it if provoked. She often jokes that if it wasn’t for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), she likely wouldn’t have had her second child. Meredith is well-known at the Scranton Planned Parenthood, and through her contacts at AA has volunteered for both the SEIU and the Pennsylvania Teachers’ Union.

But many members of the Scranton office suspect that Meredith’s fond memories of the Clinton years date from an encounter she had with the then Arkansas governor when he was campaigning in Philadelphia in 1992. Although Meredith has never fully disclosed the details of the encounter, certain comments have roused the curiosity of her co-workers, ranging from the relatively innocuous “I still wish Bill was president” to “He just knew how to touch me.” Throughout the campaign, Meredith referred to Hillary as “that woman” and cast her primary vote for Jon Edwards.

Oscar: Log Cabin Republican

As a gay man, a Mexican-American, and a (former) Saturn driver, Oscar seems to bear many of the demographic markings of a Democrat. Indeed, he was and continues to be an unsurprisingly staunch supporter of gay rights, donating $20 to the “No on 8” campaign last year and letting out an audible “Yes! suck it Angela!” upon learning of the Iowa State Supreme Court decision. In the heat of the 2004 campaign (in which he voted for Kerry), Oscar even stealthily changed Angela’s desktop wallpaper to a photoshopped image of Barney Frank tonguing another Barney Frank, with the caption “FRANKLY my dear, I don’t give a shit about your hangups”. Angela responded by bringing in a life-size cardboard cutout of Pat Robertson to sit beside her desk, but was ultimately thwarted by Toby, who said that if he allowed her cardboard cutout he would then have to allow Kevin’s cutout of Carmen Electra.

But ever since Dunder Mifflin bought off Oscar’s pending discrimination suit and thus bumped up his tax bracket an undisclosed amount, Oscar has consistently voted Republican, doing his best to contain his gag reflex while casting a vote for Mitt Romney in the primaries. Oscar still has yet to inform anyone of his switch in party loyalties except his partner, who has taken to screaming out Mary Cheney’s name during some of their more intimate moments. The transition has not been easy: Oscar still feels the pangs of an uneasy political conscience every time Pam forwards him something from the Huffington Post about Jeff Sessions. But in those panic-inducing moments when he imagines Angela spotting him at a Tea Party rally, Oscar relieves his compunctions by going outside to the Dunder Mifflin parking lot and staring at his new Lexus for twenty minutes, before returning to check Newt’s negatives for 2012.

Angela: Bush Republican

Although Angela doesn’t waste much time reading newspapers or blogs (in fact, she finds the whole idea of web 2.0 Marxist), she is certain of her core political convictions: 1) Democrats are hell bent on forcing teenagers to have premarital sex while smoking legalized pot; 2) Pam has had at least 6 partial-birth abortions; and 3) Barack Obama is a Muslim. She used to watch Fox News, but lately finds Hannity too soft on immigration and O’Reilly too Catholic. Angela voted for Huckabee in the Republican primary, and was incredibly disappointed when McCain secured the nomination, believing that he too was likely a Muslim. Initially she considered staying home on Election Day, but ultimately was inspired by Bristol Palin’s undaunted courage in carrying her baby to term to show up at the polls. Angela went door to door for Bush in both 2000 and 2004, but was quickly relegated to back office work after repeatedly accusing registered independents of wanting to abort her unborn freedom.

Pam: Classic Latte Liberal

Before her unexpected move to the sales team, Pam employed her perch behind the reception desk to read the New York Times op-ed page online, typically while nursing a caramel macchiato and tabbing back and forth between Gawker (which she won’t admit she reads). She’s been a Maureen Dowd fan for as long as she can remember, tolerates Frank Rich but can’t stomach him everyday, and likes Paul Krugman in the abstract but typically doesn’ t understand most of what he writes unless it has “Bush” and “Antichrist” in the headline. Much like Dowd, Pam embraced Obama early in the Democratic primaries, although she briefly checked out Hillary’s website after Michael excitedly announced that he had donated a $100 Best Buy gift card to the Obama campaign. At the height of the campaign, Pam would routinely send 3 or 4 NYT and RCP links a day to Jim, with the subject line alternating between “Can you believe this?!?!?!” or “That’s what I’ve been saying this whole time!” or “I fucking hate David Brooks!”

Jim: Apolitical Democrat

Jim spent most of election season pretending to read Pam’s links while relegating them to an inbox folder entitled “Please, please God let this thing be over so I can stop getting cockblocked by Keith Olbermann every night.” Although he’s been a registered Democrat since he was 18, last November was the first time Jim voted in any election on any level, and he only did so because Pam bullied him into showing up at the polling place together. The most fun Jim had in the run-up to November was CCing Dwight on countless emails he sent Arlen Specter’s office demanding an end to protective beet tariffs while Congress was drafting the farm bill. He has archived each one of Dwight’s 37 responses, which detail the unfair market entry barriers enjoyed by Russian beet producers and the historical significance of beet farming in American cultural traditions. Now that the election is over, Jim is elated to once again be allowed two evening sporting events a month on the HD screen.


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