Under different circumstances, I might begin by complaining about how The Simpsons is putting a lot of time and effort into making some overly complex title sequences and not investing as much time in doing if not original storytelling, at least comedic storytelling. However, it’s a pleasure to say that this week, the show had all the bases covered. Episode writer Tim Long kept a pretty tight focus on the main story, which was a fairly smart and even-handed political satire that trumpets the grand quality of bi-partisanship.
During a rainy recess, Lisa ducks into the library and meets the new girl at Springfield Elementary, second grader Isabel Guiterrez (guest voice Eva Longoria). They bond over the Brontë sisters, and the fact that they’re both middle children who have to sit on the hump in the middle of the back seat, and later they decide to do a project about FDR together; Lisa from the liberal point of view, and Isabel from the conservative. Yes, Isabel confesses, she is a Republican. Not a Lincoln Republican, or even a Reagan Republican, but something else… (*cough*Tea Party*cough*)
Yes, Lisa is de-high-horsed, to coin a Skinnerian phrase, but after Marge takes her on a trip back to the 80s, complete with Super Bowl shuffle, the Thompson Twins and the revelation that Marge enthusiastically supported Reagan/Bush in ’88, Lisa decides that she and Isabel can reach across party lines and stay friends. That new spirit of friendship (and bi-partisanship) is tested though when the second grade student representative election begins, and Lisa and Isabel run against each other.
Meanwhile, in Springfield Republican HQ, the town’s leading red staters and one percenters smell opportunity. They try to make Isabel the latest Republican spokesperson, as she crosses typical ethnic, gender and age divides of the average GOP voter, but unforeseen to Mr. Burns, Dracula, Rich Texan and Co., Isabel has integrity, and refuses their help. Undeterred, the Springfield Republicans throw their money and support at Isabel, which forces Lisa to turn to the most devious political operative she knows: Bart.
Soon, Bart’s tactics of false promises and embarrassing videos wears on Lisa, and after experiencing a nightmare encounter with the great losers of modern Democratic politics – Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale and John Kerry – Lisa decided that politics is about more than winning, and once again offers the hand of friendship to Isabel. Even though Isabel won, Milhouse’s exit polls show that 53 per cent of students would have voted for a liberal candidate other than her, and to Lisa, that’s at least some kind of victory.