Liz Lemon’s Failed Liberalism
At times, 30 Rock has gone beyond gender issues and addressed electoral politics, albeit in a much more detached way than Burns and Allen or Parks. During the presidential election season in 2012, a 30 Rock episode included a literal political debate between Fey’s character Liz Lemon and her boss, Jack Donaghy. Jenna, the star of Liz’s show and a self-centered diva, learns that she can swing the election either way by telling her Twitter followers how to vote. When Liz and Jack get wind of this, they both try to convince her to vote for their own party.
This episode does not take place in a fictional world. Jack tells Jenna, “just one tweet from you to your fans, and Romney wins.” Liz insists that we need “four more years” of Obama, though she cannot articulate what he actually accomplished. The election they are commenting on is real, and the episode aired just one week before the 2012 Presidential election. Jenna is uninterested, saying “you two can talk about America all you want, but I’m not going to listen because there’s no ‘I’ or ‘me’ in America” (though, as Liz comments under her breath, “there’s both”). Jenna argues, “if I’m gonna get political, it’s gonna be to build a better country for Jenna Maroney.” She sees this as an opportunity to “finally put a pro-Jenna President in the White House." Jack and Liz realize they need to dumb down their arguments and make them personal to Jenna if they want their nominee to win.
Making Jack and Liz’s personal campaigns all the more real, Jack makes an attack ad and plays it in Jenna’s office stating “Liz Lemon: wrong for Jenna.” Jack adds that “research indicates that that ad is polling quite well with both manic and depressive Jenna.” In the ensuing campaign, Jack and Liz both insult their own parties by trying to claim Jenna as a member. Liz argues, “you know Jenna’s a liberal, Jack. She’s a slut monster and one of gay America’s top hags.” Jack counters, “don’t be so sure of Jenna’s politics. She’s aging, mean, and rich. That sounds Republican to me.” The debate continues, because as Liz replies, “Jenna is really sensitive, prone to hysteria, and having been shot and left for dead in three different deserts, pro-gun-control. She is one of us.” While neither Jack nor Liz respect Jenna, they both think she clearly belongs to their own political party.
The episode culminates with a hilariously realistic debate featuring podiums, Jenna as moderator, and even cheesy music. Jenna makes a bad joke and after an awkward silence, both Jack and Liz burst into fake laughter. Clearly they are pandering to their audience. Liz opens with, “Jenna, this election is about emotion. It’s about which candidate cares the most about the issues that truly matter to Jenna Maroney.” She introduces a family in the audience, saying, “The Alfreds are huge Jenna Maroney fans, because Jenna Maroney is so, so talented. But under Mitt Romney, the arts program at the middle school where little Shauna is a seventh grader would be gutted. Without music appreciation class, how would Shauna know how much she appreciates you?” Without a pause, Jack offers, “A world without arts programs sounds terrible. Where would young blonde girls like Shauna learn to act and sing? Why, if arts funding was cut, within a short time our schools would be producing no new actresses and Jenna Maroney would get every part. That’s my America. That’s Mitt Romney’s America.” Jenna is clearly impressed, and Liz realizes her logical arguments are no defense against Jack’s intelligent irrationality.
The debate continues with Liz trying to make real points, but getting shot down by Jack’s ability to connect ideas back to Jenna’s own personal success. Jack’s senselessness peaks with his closing statement, “when our founding fathers first set out. Time and time again. Our nation. Horizon. Prosperity. Dreams. Freedom. But, the spirit. Journey. Destiny. Mitt Romney values. Jenna values. I’ve met people. For this generation, and generations to come. Thank you, America.” His statement comically criticizes political rhetoric and emotional speeches that lack any substance but can sway audiences. Jack’s illogical statements win over Jenna and convince her to vote Republican. Liz Lemon ends up losing the debate, but makes much more logical arguments than Jack. As reiterated by Gracie and Leslie’s successful illogicality, the logic of ideas in politics is irrelevant, and how issues are related to selfish voters determines the outcome of the election.