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Let’s Talk About Why the Hatch Act Was Trending Last Night

Yes, I will talk about that episode of Parks and Recreation.

Leslie knope dealing with the Hatch act on parks and recreation

I’m not going to lie: I never liked politics, which is contradicted by the fact that my favorite television show is Parks and Recreation. But that means that a lot of what I do know comes from plot points on the show—like the fact that Leslie Knope is probably having a lot of thoughts right now about the fact that Joe Biden is running for president.

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But, more importantly, there is an entire cold open of the show dedicated to the fact that Leslie Knope is a government employee running for office, so that means she can’t do campaign things inside a government building. While that particular aspect of the Hatch Act doesn’t apply to the president or vice president, there are segments of this particular law that do apply to the White House. And last night, the White House technically broke the law, which did not escape the notice of many people online.

Right now, the problem is that every bit of “normal” campaigning the president and vice president would be doing is limited by the coronavirus pandemic—not that either of them are taking it seriously, but it is offering them the option to do a lot of the Republican National Convention at the White House.

That does, however, come with caveats. If they recorded footage of a naturalization ceremony filmed at the White House without previous knowledge (meaning, while they were filming it) that it was going to be used at the RNC, then it would have been fine, but that’s not what happened. In fact, the opposite happened and they actively filmed stuff for the RNC there.

To make matters worse, the White House chief of staff doesn’t seem to think that anyone outside of the Washington D.C. beltway cares about any potential violations of the Hatch Act. Well, buddy, you’re wrong there, because if my love of Leslie Knope taught me anything, it’s to hold those doing the wrong thing accountable.

Look, I understand why unprecedented things may be happening right now, but the White House should still be held to a certain standard. And if other government employees are tried for violating the Hatch Act, then the White House’s potential violations also need to be addressed.

So yes, is it sad that my civics class in high school didn’t really get into this and why it’s a problem, and instead, I had to learn about it from a Mike Schur/Greg Daniels television show? Absolutely, but the point is, I know about it, and the American people also deserve the right to know that the president is violating the law for his own political gain.


A proud Leslie Knope.

(image: NBC)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh.

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