Being Right: 52-Card Pick Up

Emily Butler

In its highly anticipated second season, the Netflix political thriller “House of Cards” succeeds in highlighting what matters least and most in politics. Congressman Frank Underwood, played by the masterful Kevin Spacey, is our heroic villain who steamrolls his way through Washington using every means necessary to ascend the ladder of power. Underwood manipulates and backstabs to get things done, not for the greater good, but in his own interest to gain leverage over those in his way.

With Congressional job approval ratings at an abysmal 12 percent in the last month, it is no wonder that Americans are turning to fictional politics like “House of Cards” as beacons of hope for government, regardless of the means taken to achieve goals. That being said, do we really want to become an electorate that looks up to a conniving, murdering villain (as entertaining as he may be) rather than the many representatives that continue to strive for their constituents?

“House of Cards” sheds useful light onto the gridlock we see in real-life Washington. This stems from the fact that our representatives are largely working in their own interest, as we see Frank Underwood do in the “House of Cards” series, rather than for that of their constituents. In other words, politics is getting in the way of government.

I may sound like a broken record, but I think I speak for most Americans when I say stop the bickering and partisanship, and get something done.

Unfortunately, this requires the exact opposite of what Frank Underwood prescribes: the rejection of politics and the reconciliation of opposing views in service of the greater good. “House of Cards,” as entertaining as it may be, is damaging to progress in Washington, as it suggests that power should be the ultimate goal of politicians, rather than service.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson we can learn from “House of Cards” is that Washington, D.C. is the source of corruption and greed, not the solution to it. As Ronald Reagan so forcefully warned, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” This largely derives from the temptations that push people toward public office: greed, glory, ambition and power.

This results in important issues, such as education reform and trade relations, (both addressed in the show), being manipulated for political advantage rather than managed in a manner that has citizens in its best interest. Consequently, Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with federal government, as politician’s viewpoints are noted in self-interest before concern for their constituents.

Thus, my biggest issue with the entire concept of “House of Cards” is that the voters are basically entirely absent from the picture. Perhaps that is the point. Many of the biggest players in Washington are completely out of touch with the American public. In fact, on Monday, Representative John Dingell (D-MI) announced his retirement after 58 years in office. Dingell has served in Congress since 1955, before President Barack Obama was even born. Term limits and thus greater accountability to voters is the best solution to

Washington’s gridlock.

Here’s to hoping that our representatives wake up to the sound of my head banging against the wall the next time I read about a government shutdown. Until then, at least we have the next season of “House of Cards” to look forward to.

Contact Emily Butler at [email protected]