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'Parks and Recreation' Politics: Ron Swanson's Take On Government

The Huffington Post   Posted: 02/17/2012 12:23 pm

Ron Swanson

Ron Swanson has never made a secret of what he thinks of the government: There's too much of it. Way too much.

As you can see in the exclusive clip above, which compiles many of Ron's politically-oriented observations, the "Parks and Recreation" character thinks the whole shebang should be abolished (including his job with the Pawnee parks department).

A lot of people are talking about how big or small government should be these days -- not just political candidates who are running for office, but characters on the NBC comedy, which has an ongoing storyline about Leslie Knope's bid to be elected to the Pawnee City Council.

Leslie clearly believes that governmental agencies can be a force for good in the community, a view she articulates in her optimistic but not always polished campaign -- and that's an outlook that doesn't exactly mesh with that of her boss. Ron's go-it-alone, Libertarian philosophy and Leslie's deeply held belief in the potential positive impact of government put the characters far apart on the political spectrum, yet they are close friends, and Leslie views Ron as an important sounding board and ally.

How has the show avoided partisan rancor while portraying their friendship and realistically (not to mention humorously) depicting the trade-offs and compromises that politicians and bureaucrats must make? I asked the show's co-creator and executive producer, Michael Schur, about those things in a recent interview.

"We have never said the words Democrat or Republican on the show, and we never will," Schur said. "We are aided by the fact that many city council elections don’t have party affiliations, so that’s one thing that’s good. We don’t try to avoid issues at all. In fact, I think we try to use them. But we use them in a way that’s hopefully equal-handed and satirical instead of preachy or soap-boxy."

Indeed, part of the reason Ron is so loved by fans of the show -- fans of all political persuasions, presumably -- is that his beliefs are integrated perfectly with other aspects of his he-man personality. As an accomplished woodworker and avid outdoorsman, Ron knows he could thrive in a government-free world because he already lives off the grid to the extent that he can. And Leslie's optimism is part and parcel of who she is as well: She always believes in her friends and herself, and that never-say-die hopefulness gives the core of the show an optimistic vibe.

The characters, who are complex and always evolving, exude both confidence and kindness, and for the past four seasons, "Parks and Recreation" has shown that Ron and Leslie don't just respect each other, they've influenced each other for the better.

"We're trying to say a person whose main personal belief is in the positive power of government can be very, very close friends and take a lot of advice from a person who believes the government should be one guy in a room with a button where he decides who to nuke," Schur noted. "Those people get along really well, and they give each other really good advice and they look out for each other. They care about each other. They’re respectful of each other’s opinions, and I don’t see why that is impossible."

For my recent piece on what's to come in Season 4 of "Parks and Recreation," look here. Also, Ryan McGee and I talked about "Parks and Recreation" (as well as "Life's Too Short," "The Walking Dead" and "Cougar Town") in this week's Talking TV podcast, which you can find here and and on iTunes. The podcast's RSS feed is here.

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