We’re finally crawling out of our political hangovers, albeit slowly, but for years to come, many Americans will ask, “What happened? You can’t write that stuff!” But you can, in fact!
While the stars of Veep chummily addressed the similarities between their show and the election earlier this year, we actually saw much of this election’s politics play out on TV years ago, thanks to the glorious six-year run of Parks and Recreation. In the show’s fourth season, aired in 2012, the scrappy Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, ran for a city council seat in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. (Indiana!) Several plot lines—and even individual characters—from that season and others foreshadowed this year’s election to a disturbingly uncanny degree. For example, in the episode “Ann and Chris,” Ann, played by Rashida Jones, and Knope are referred to as “pains in the ass” for being proactive—kind of like that time Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman.
Let’s face it: Knope is Clinton. Like Knope, Clinton is a hopeful warrior in a sea of ridiculousness, striving to be liked, devoted to public service and fighting like hell for political promotion. Maybe Clinton even has a “celebrity sex” list, like Knope does, with Joe Biden on it. And given Donald Trump’s lack of political experience, he probably just binge-watched season four of Parks and Rec before deciding to run, wherein the doofy heir apparent of a candy empire decides to run against Knope for public office to cure his daddy issues.
In its ficitonal pitting of an inexperienced man-child against a qualified, educated woman, though, Parks and Recreation allowed the female politician to be good at what she does, even when people don’t like her, and ultimately prevail. Unfortunately, Americans have yet to do the same. But as Knope said herself just last week, we can’t give up. In the meantime, here are 10 times when Parks and Recreation foreshadowed the 2016 election.
QUALIFIED CANDIDATE RUNS AGAINST AN INEXPERIENCED WEALTHY MAN-CHILD
In season four, Knope runs for City Council against Bobby Newport, a wealthy, inexperienced goon who throws temper tantrums and who is known for his hair, much like Trump.
THE SICK DAY
In the episode “Sick Day,” Knope catches the flu but still insists on giving a public presentation, reminiscent of when Clinton continued to campaign while battling pneumonia.
DITCHING CAMPAIGN MANAGERS FOR FEISTIER WOMEN
When Newport’s polls drop, he fires his campaign manager and hires the sassy and wealthy Jen Barkley (Kathryn Hahn). Trump dumped his campaign manager and hired the fiery Kellyanne Conway and Katrina Pierson. Like Barkley, Trump’s surrogates tried to spin whatever random thing Trump was whining about into something that sounded somewhat rational.
In the season four finale, Knope finds out Newport installed voting machines that give voters candy-bar coupons if they vote for him and an error message if they vote for her. A hacked election was all the talk in 2016.
LESLIE KNOPE DEFIES GENDER ROLES
Unlike most politicians’ wives, Clinton entered the spotlight with a successful and advancing career of her own, once telling Arkansas press, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had tea, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.” In the “Pie-Mary” episode, Knope is expected to play traditional gender roles by competing in a pie-baking contest to support her husband’s congressional campaign, only to have her husband, played by Adam Scott, be in charge of the pie-baking.
APPLYING FOR A JOB YOU DON’T REALLY WANT
Like Newport, Trump seemingly doesn’t really want the responsibilities that accompany public service. Aside from sharing the mentality of a bratty 10-year-old, both want to remain in a cushy bubble of public applause and media attention. Newport isn’t really from Pawnee, while Knope tirelessly cares about the city saying, “Pawnee deserves a city counselor that stays in the city, like I do.“ Ever since Trump was elected, there’s been talk that he’ll split time between his gilded Manhattan penthouse and the White House instead of fully committing.
THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE WATER
Clinton made a point to address Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water crisis. Pawnee had a similar grievance that, like the situation in Flint, was largely ignored.
THE ONLY POLICY IS NO POLICY
Trump is infamously vague about his plans of action, trumpeting a “secret” strategy to defeat ISIS. Like Trump, Newport failed to reveal his plans on the campaign trail—but at least Newport owned up to that fact when asked what he’d do if he were elected: “Um, I’m pretty sure I’ll figure it out,” he said.
AN UNEVEN DEBATE
Like most women, Clinton and Knope have a long checklist for winning debates: be assertive without being hawkish, knowledgeable without being a wise-ass and funny without looking like you’re trying too hard. Newport and Trump had the bar set below sea-level. Trump basically had to just not call Hillary the C word or shoot the moderator in the face.
Clinton and Knope share the critique of seeming “unlikable.” Throughout the series, Knope’s agenda in Pawnee gets thwarted again and again. Knope gets mocked and her efforts often go unappreciated. But just like Clinton, Knope keeps soldiering on and working her butt off, because she loves what she does.