For final confirmation that Washington, D.C. is unsalvageable, look no further than its obsession with its own deconstruction—the hit Netflix series House of Cards.
Kevin Spacey essentially plays the anti-Christ, and the ruling class just can’t get enough of seeing through its own mirror darkly. Oh, I know he technically plays Congressman-turned Vice President-turned President Underwood, but he’s really giving us the anti-Christ portrayal every Left Behind movie failed to muster.
Using a ruthless and cunning (and often entertaining) display of realpolitik, Spacey is able to elevate himself all the way to the presidency without ever winning an election. He is evil incarnate, an agent of chaos just like the devil himself, and many of the most powerful people in our nation’s capitol can’t get enough of it. One of his biggest fans is the President of these United States.
“Underwood is getting a lot of things done,” Obama said. “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient.”
Ironically, some of the things Spacey’s Underwood gets done is the breaking of the teachers’ union, and the first substantive cuts in entitlement spending since the dawn of the Welfare State. Two things Obama would never stand for, but many of his conservative opponents would cheer.
But maybe it’s not what’s Underwood is doing that Obama likes, but the way Underwood goes about doing it that attracts the president? Underwood has no regard for the rule of the law, the Constitution, common human decency, decorum, fairness, or any semblance of honesty. Sound familiar?
But unlike Obama, who actually has some ideological non-negotiables (albeit the wrong ones), Underwood has none. He will betray any constituency or any ally, no matter how loyal, in order to get what he ultimately wants—power for power’s sake. Spacey’s Underwood is the very embodiment of the anti-Christ figure many Christians believe will arise at the end of days. He has no problems working with either side to set them up to betray them later, just as many Christians believe the anti-Christ will do the same with Israel in the last days.
And his wife is almost as bad.
Played by Robin Wright Penn, Mrs. Underwood isn’t patterned after any First Lady I know of. She’s more like a black widow spider. She even uses a sexual assault from her past to cover for all the abortions she’s had, simply because she didn’t want to be a mom. The only thing that sets her slightly apart from her villainous husband is that she actually feels bad for their vicious maneuvering every now and then. Although her guilt lasts but for a fleeting moment, of course.
Along the way every amoral cliché you can imagine is vividly portrayed:
Pro-lifers are screamers and dirty bombers. A lost girl finds contentment in the lesbian lover she meets at their evangelical church. A female reporter having an affair with Underwood has sex with him while calling her dad on Father’s Day. The reputable D.C. reporter who breaks the scandal wide open has a Middle Eastern name. Republican actor Gerald McRaney basically plays the Koch Brothers. Native American tribal leaders are little more than wannabe gangsters. The Tea Party are reactionaries that stand in the way of progress. Underwood himself is a bisexual graduate of a prestigious South Carolina military academy, and so on and so on.
It’s easy to say the show leans Left, but it brutally pans the Left just the same as the Right. No one is unscathed. Conservatives are almost unfathomable to the show, but liberals are often depicted as betraying whatever cause they originally came to Washington, D.C. for. You root for no one, but rather for a giant mushroom cloud to eviscerate the whole lot of them. Sort of an apocalyptic control-alt-delete button. The show would more appropriately be titled Drain the Swamp.
I’m not sure what’s more nihilistic, the plot lines or the fact the very culture House of Cards is self-parodying seems to be loving it? I can’t imagine any other human endeavor enjoying its own broadcast media deconstruction as much Washington, D.C. seems to be enjoying theirs.
And the ruling class wonders why it’s so hated and vilified by everyday Americans.
Throughout history, ruling classes have not responded so approvingly to such biting satire of their heinous exploits. But ours is now a culture so far gone, they’d prefer to shamelessly own it and revel in their nakedness instead.
Perhaps our republic has become the real “House of Cards?”