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What’s your favorite political book, movie or TV show?

With the year winding down, The Sacto Politico decided to take a less hard-nosed survey of a party of politics that connects us all. We asked California politicos of all stripes and types the same question: “What is your favorite book, movie or TV show about politics and why?” Here are the 15 answers received.

Fiona Ma

California State Treasurer

“My number one favorite is Veep. I loved Julia Louis Dreyfus and the cast. It was light and easy to watch. It displayed the humorous side of what we face as public servants. I’m also enjoying Queen’s Gambit. It shows the politics in the chess world, the lack of females and the challenges for women to make it to the top.”

Kevin McCarty

California State Assembly member (Sacramento)

“I loved The Wire for so many reasons. First, I think it’s the beat show ever... and Barack Obama agrees with me! Their focus on race, poverty, crime in Urban America was riveting, as was the response from Maryland politicians and policy makers. While not always flattering, they show the complexities of elected officials trying to do good in terms of political pressure, trade-offs, and sometimes irrational behavior.”

Betty Yee

California State Controller

“My favorite political movie is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Each time I see it I lament, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ My favorite political book is Founding Gardeners because of the role that horticulture, botany, and agriculture played in the political and personal lives of our founding fathers. Plus gardening my personal hobby to get away from politics.”

Rich Desmond

Sacramento County Supervisor, District 3

“I just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. What I really liked about it was the approach Nelson Mandela took in South Africa with the truth and reconciliation process after they got rid of Apartheid. He is a leader I have a tremendous amount of respect for.”

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap

National Director, Move to Amend Coalition

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It’s so important to learn the real story about how change happens (always from the bottom up) and the context for how we came to be in such an unjust system. My dad gave it to me when I was in 8th grade, and it was fundamental in shaping my understanding of the the wealthy interests that have steered the ship. It also has stories about

regular people who organized and fought for justice in every generation.”

Siri Pulipati

Rancho Cordova City Council member

“My fave TV show on politics is Madam Secretary. The protagonist ‘Elizabeth’ becomes a professor and then Secretary of State. She’s also a wife and mother. The show offers strong role modeling of a woman in power who is strong, whip smart, incredibly insightful and decisive. Watching Madam Secretary in conversations/negotiations with other serious political characters is the best part of the show.”

Chris Yatooma

Member, Folsom Area Democratic Club

“Until John Stewart on Comedy Central appeared (followed by Trevor Noah), The Simpsons was by far the best political satire on television. While it satirized much more than politics, it was and is the political humor that I love. [Series co-creator] Sam Simon was brilliant at exposing the many absurdities and blemishes in American politics.”

Martha Guerrero

Mayor, City of West Sacramento

“My favorite political show is West Wing. I enjoyed watching it with my family because it presents striking similarities to real life issues and dynamics in the White House. I recall how the episodes tracked controversial policy discussions of actual people and events. I am glad it is on Netflix now so I can binge watch a few reruns.”

Steven Maviglio

Democratic political consultant

“Hands down, The Candidate. It’s what turned me on to politics. And so much rings true today nearly a half century later – especially the dispensing of political advice from political consultants like me!”

Jennifer Wood,

Steering Committee Co-Chair, 2020 Coalition Sacramento

“My favorite media is a podcast called The Ezra Klein Show. I am interested in the problems of extreme political and cultural polarization and, more generally, how humanity can move closer toward a shared sense of common purpose. The podcast often delves into the intellectual underpinnings of liberal and conservative thought and policy, and how we might use that understanding for policies and politics that create more health and happiness for all people.”

Phyllis Cauley,

District Captain, Sister District Sacramento

“I am just starting Barack Obama’s autobiography, but I really enjoyed Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. It really personalized the whole thing, and it’s fascinating to understand what families go through. I also think everyone should watch All The President’s Men and the documentary Suppressed: The Fight to Vote on Youtube.”

John Fairbanks

Publisher, Capitol Morning Report

“My favorite book, movie or TV show about politics changes quite often. For right now, I’ll go with a movie I watched on Turner Classic Movies this weekend called The Front Page with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon playing newsmen in 1930s hanging. It’s a delicious farce, skewering media, law and politics.”

Michael Seaman

Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District & California (un)Incorporated

Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean is an extraordinarily well-researched book that exposes libertarians and the Kochs as having deep roots in racism and greed. I found it very hard to read because each chapter made me angry and angrier. It’s an exposé that makes it clear the problems with the right wing don't stop with Trump.”

Jeff Burdick

Founder & Editor, The Sacto Politico

“My all-time favorite is David Lean’s 1962 Lawrence of Arabia, the epic tale of a British soldier who dreams to help liberate a long-occupied corner of the globe. But those ambitions are tripped up by regional and international politics, as well as his own loss of self. My favorite line comes when Anthony Quinn hosts a lavish dinner in his grand tent. As his hungry tribe looks on, his character grandiosely claims to be but a humble ‘river to my people.’ ”

Kevin Spease

Elk Grove City Council member

“None. The evening news is enough political drama for me!”

Images in top collage, clockwise from upper left: VEEP, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the documentary Suppressed, Nelson Mandela, A People’s History of the United States, The Candidate, West Wing, Madam Secretary, Democracy in Chains, The Front Page (1974), Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons, The Founding Gardeners, Michelle Obama, HBO’s The Wire, and The Ezra Klein podcast.

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