By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Netflix's 'House of Cards' paints a bleak political realm but in part, a realistic one, political
d56e33196e3d7b1d6d9dd19547448094e2e333880efd85e22340f26f479cd2a8
Kevin Spacey in House of Cards (2013) - photo by Sara Jarman
WASHINGTON Televisions Rep. Francis Underwoods season one introduction to House of Cards explains his view of Americas capital city: Give and take. Welcome to Washington. But the shows portrayal of real-life D.C. politics has a far murkier side than most Capitol Hill staffers and D.C. workers say even the most power-consumed ever descend into.

Of course, 'House of Cards' isn't representative of the true situation. At its heart, it's entertainment. What makes it so entertaining is it's just close enough to real life to have real aspects, a longtime political employee in the D.C. area said. There really is a House whip who exchanges favors for votes. There are super PAC donors that try to give money through shell corporations. Politicians do leak information to journalists.

Americas political legacy has been scattered with HBO worthy moments the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Iran-Contra affair, and Watergate to name a few. However, these incidents, according to most D.C. Capitol Hill staffers and aides, are the exception and not the rule. But most D.C. staffers dont disregard the Netflix shows take on the citys siren call for those starved for power and influence. As Underwood notes, The road to power is paved with hypocrisy. And casualties. Never regret.

There are so many people who show up here jobless and drift for a long time, feeding off the potential for power without actually finding it, Madeleine Gleave, an international policy researcher at a D.C.-based think tank, said.

But mixed in with stereotypical Underwoods, with their Machiavellian cunning and eerily manipulative personas, are the philanthropists and the idealists with noble intentions for fixing the economy, alleviating poverty and changing the world.

The trick, according to some D.C. inhabitants, is keeping the inner Mother Teresa hope and vitality alive in the cut-throat city. Combating the Underwood side within each of us requires a constant battle in the hearts and minds of the D.C. political classes. In season three, the now-President Underwoods statement that You have to be a little human when you are the president is chilling, but a reminder nonetheless that the power-consumed are still driven by their unquenchable thirst for influence, while the naive and noble can lose themselves to Capital Beltway navel-gazing as well if they are not careful.

I think most politicians go into public service because they genuinely want to make their communities better and love the country we live in. But to survive in that world, there are certain behaviors you have to adopt and those behaviors are often corrupting, said Sarah Holden, a federal consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

If there is a moral lesson that "House of Cards" can present to viewers, then it is that regardless of however genuine political PR appears, the reality is seldom what it seems. The public takes in the press conferences, family photo shoots, international summits, CNN roundtables, but rarely understands how much of it is carefully scripted and calculated.

One on-screen example of this type of political maneuvering occurs in the first season of "House of Cards" when Underwood visits his South Carolina district to prevent an impending lawsuit from a constituent. Underwood spends the remainder of the episode going to great lengths to flatter the family of a recent car accident victim who died in an accident some blame on Underwoods policies. He appeals to them in their own language and on their terms drinking iced tea and making white bread turkey sandwiches, all the while inwardly patronizing them.

What you have to understand about my people is that they are a noble people. Humility is their form of pride. It is their strength; it is their weakness. And if you can humble yourself before them they will do anything you ask, Underwood explained in the episode.