The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

House of Cards

Since the release of the second season of the Netflix series, House of Cards, my view of current events in Washingtom has been changed—possible permanently. The fictional account of the cynical, illegal, dishonest, money and power-driven world of the series protagonist, Congress Frank Underwood, is, if you can believe those inside the beltway, far to close to reality for comfort. The series depicts Washington, DC as a place were power politics morphs into political pressure and threats, secret deals driven by lobbyists whose influence shapes policy in ways that are almost never good for taxpayers and citizens. It depicts a world in which everything—and I do mean everything—is driven by political considerations, and the political considerations are themselves driven solely by the quest for power.

Did I mention that Congressman Underwood is a Democrat?

In most Hollywood depictions of Washington, say West Wing, Democrats are always depicted as the idealists, the populists, the honest brokers that want only the best for the people. Republicans? Venal, ideological, cynical, obstinate, obstructionist. It's such a common meme that viewers/readers have come to expect it.

Well, House of Cards is to Westwing, as William Landay's's Defending Jacob is to  JK Rowling's Harry Potter. True, both are fiction, but the former is a harsh view of the real world, and the latter is pure fantasy.

The politics in House of Cards is an ideological muddle—but in the end, almost every politician is a 'bad guy,' and that's probably appropriate. The heroes appear to be the media—by today's standards, that's laughable, but after all, the series originates in Hollywood.

Andrew Claven writes about the unique nature of the series:
...there is one way in which House of Cards relentlessly and continuously undermines the left-wing narrative, whether it intends to or not. In its heightened way, it shows the government as exactly what it is: a power center, inspiring all the soulless perfidy and amoral ambition that any power center is prone to inspire.

This is devastating to left-wing philosophy, because the central flaw of leftism is not its ceaseless cynicism about business, individualism, religion, or the common man—it’s that its cynicism evaporates into unicorn-and-rainbow stupidity when it comes to government ...

America’s Founders did not put check-and-balance brakes on government because they idealized the people. They knew the people all too well. But they also knew that it is in government that power tends to coalesce; that it is in power that men and women become most corrupt and abusive; and that it is corruption and abuse that eat relentlessly into the walls and rafters of the cathedral of liberty, until the entire structure collapses like . . . a house of cards.
As I watch to daily machinations that occur in Washington I worry that as the corruption accelerates, the fictional and the actual are beginning to coalesce.