Strange, that in this current era of bigger government… a popular TV show that tried its darndest to portray public service in a positive light, found an unlikely hero in a small government libertarian. The Obama years have coexisted with the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” The show’s protagonist, Leslie Knope, is a life-long bureaucrat and tireless supporter of the public sector. It seemed a perfect fit for the Obama administration’s push for “shovel ready” projects and private sector regulatory control. But, something strange happened as the show continued to feature cameos from Joe Biden and the First Lady, its viewers were connecting with staunch libertarian character, Ron Swanson- easily the show’s best creation.
Similar to the attempts of Norman Lear… to make Archie Bunker the foil of “All in the Family”, producers of “Parks and Rec” wanted Swanson to play the role of buffoon- Bunker triumphed in the end, as does the burly presence brought to life by Nick Offerman. Audiences couldn’t get enough of Swanson’s meat eating, government hating, mustachioed persona. The show worked best when Ron provided real world advice to the lofty, illogical whims of Leslie’s public servant. A woodworking, whiskey drinking, outdoorsman providing the reality check on a show about the benefits of government action- a strange coexistence in an age of government activism. The irony of a libertarian running a government agency he feels shouldn’t exist- not lost on the diverse audience that kept the show alive for seven seasons.