House of Cards: Shakespearean Tragedy About the Political Pursuit of Power – of Democrats, that is

Netflix Political Thriller series. An amazingly written and directed series starring Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, a Democrat congressman who is withheld from a position in the new Democrat administration in Washington, and enacts revenge on those who betrayed him.

I get tired of all these series that are based on anti-heroes or worse, villains as heroes. But House of Cards is not one of them. At least not yet. It is Shakespearian in its dramatic quality and appears to me to be the set up for a tragedy on the level of Breaking Bad.

There is no bones about the storytellers showing us in the first scene that Underwood is a Machiavellian villain who is not a good man, when he breaks the neck of a dog that survived being hit by a car. Of course he tells us that he is the one who does what needs to be done, but no one wants to do it. But it doesn’t matter what his justification is; if you kill a dog you are evil. That’s movie and TV rules. ☺

And we know that we are going to be following the mind of a man whose sole ambition is power because he tells us so. He regularly “breaks the third wall” and talks to us the audience in asides to give us what is really going on in his mind. It’s a truly satisfying and clever storytelling technique that builds rich irony we could not know otherwise.

A subplot surrounds his wife’s own political ambitions mixed with humanitarian causes and the weird twisted agreement they have in their marriage that looks a lot like the Clinton arrangement, if you know what I mean.

Of course there are others whose stories we follow as well, like the young reckless congressman who is being used as his life falls apart, and the amoral journalist who spouts journalistic integrity about not revealing sources while sleeping with the congressman to get stories for her own advancement.

But here is the interesting thing —no, the fascinating thing. Though it is a series about politics, it is kind of apolitical in that it doesn’t seek to make specific political policy arguments like the West Wing or other courtroom shows these days. And it hasn’t made any political potshots at Republicans that I was aware of. It’s really more about the pursuit of power. In fact, everyone in the show is driven not by truth or justice but by different ambitions of power.


In the entire first season, it seems there was not a person who truly believed in any policy they fought for. They only fought for what was most convenient for their personal advancement or ambitions. Policies are mere means to their ends of power. Talk about the ultimate revelation of the true corruption of politics! The only one who seemed to have integrity, was a low level worry wart who was fired in the first two episodes for her moral convictions.

I make a qualification. There are two women who seem to believe in their causes moreso than others: Underwood’s wife, Claire, played with perfection by Robin Wright, and an activist she hires. But by the end of the first season, they engage in unjust immoral and illegal actions to further their own interests as well. Claire brings food from her privileged class fundraising party out to the protestors outside her event. But of course we see it is only a photo op to look compassionate and make the protestors look bad. And the activist maliciously initiates a lawsuit based on politically correct lies of “social justice” to get revenge on Claire for firing her. An ironic revelation of how social justice is revealed as a weapon of social injustice. In other words, their commitment to a cause is a self righteousness that they use as a weapon of – you guessed it, POWER. In fact, one suspects that Claire like a Lady Macbeth (or Lady Clinton), has her own diabolical purposes that drive her façade of social concern.

One might say this is a cynical show about politics. A very cynical show.

Or, one might say it is a revelation of the truth behind the Democratic Party.

Yes, I know I said that it is apolitical on the surface. And yes, I know the storytellers are all, no doubt, Democrats, and I don’t suspect that is their intent to dump on the Democrats at all. And I know the show is only beginning. But so far, if you think about it, they could have made a show about Republicans doing all this evil and corruption, which is the usual spin, but they didn’t. They chose the Democratic Party.

Which works best because it is the Democratic Party that is essentially the party of the pursuit of Power.

One could say House of Cards is the Anti-West Wing.

Think about it. Of course there are individual corrupt Republicans and big government Republicans as well. And the RNC is full of cowards who bow to political correctness and compromise their values or even seek power. These are the inescapable results of a fallen world of corrupt individuals everywhere. But the Republican Party, as a party, is philosophically founded on creating smaller government and less government for more personal freedom for people to take care of themselves and each other. The party was created to fight slavery, for God’s sake!

The Democratic Party philosophy, on the other hand, is based on building bigger government and expanding government control, and creating more dependents on government handouts to get votes, which is more power and control over people’s lives. Its very essence is Power, for gods’ sake! (That is, for the sake of being gods).

So the RNC is based on smaller government and less power, while the DNC is based on bigger government and more power. Yes, there are evil people in each party, but this series, so far, is a lens into the actual philosophy of the DNC and their corrupt systemic mindset of POWER.

Let’s see if they try to spin it around as the series goes on, but for now, it was refreshing to see a Hollywood political TV show finally speak the truth to Power.