Americans have a long-standing distrust of government -- some trace it back to the infamous Watergate scandal of 1972, if not to earlier events. Over time, this skepticism only seems to grow. House of Cards (2013)'s portrayal of the US government as run by manipulative, arguably evil, politicians feeds directly into the public’s already cynical view of modern-day politics. Former Massachusetts representative Barney Frank laments that House of Cards reinforces the deep cynicism we feel about politics and Washington, D.C. He predicts that the show will lead to lower voter turnout among young voters, which in turn will hurt the Democratic Party. Mr. Frank asks, why vote for leaders when you feel that the system is corrupt and unchangeable? House of Cards offers no glimmer of hope in the political arena and plays into our base instincts that “they’re all a bunch of crooks.” This idea has merit but discounts the many individuals working within the government who aim to help the average American and move this country forward. After watching House of Cards, you wouldn’t believe any such person exists.
Many media members have lambasted the more outlandish plot points in House of Cards, claiming that the show paints a very unrealistic portrayal of Washington, D.C. For one, the third season’s main plot follows a Democratic president trying to fund his jobs program by convincing Americans to give up their Social Security -- this is a strange twist, given the clearly delineated policy stances of our current parties. Additionally, the subplot featuring novelist Tom Yates writing the America Works book is nonsensical. The President of the United States believes that the best way to win over the American public for his jobs program is to have a best-selling novelist/part-time video game reviewer write a book on the matter? Is it really that surprising that the Underwood administration is so unpopular? Apparently, House of Cards still thinks we live in the age of Upton Sinclair and The Jungle, wherein books have the swift ability to influence mass opinion.
The days when Americans were swayed by eloquent journalistic novels exposing the need for social change are arguably long gone. But the biggest bone of contention with the political plot of House of Cards is that the show's fictional Congress can get legislation passed -- which is such a fantastic idea that even the mere thought of it makes Washington insiders howl with side-splitting laughter. Even the Doug-killing-Rachel plot made more sense than that flight of fancy.