SPOILER ALERT: There is a fad sweeping the nation in streaming content that I want to formally endorse.
I've dropped suggestions that I am a fan, and that if I could show this in class I would. (Alas, I am keenly aware of the fact that there are some scenes that are violent, suggestive, etc.)
Here is why.
1. Superb teachable moments There are lots of things about HoC that are a bit off. For instance, you'd be hard pressed finding the House Majority Whip running the show to the degree Frank did in S1. Think about it, he has the Speaker and the Majority Leader before him... and as much as Congressman Kevin McCarthy may desire to be like Frank, he's not. (yet)
That aside, I love scenes in the whips office with the white board, counting up the members and deciding which members were key to passing (or not passing) a vote. There was the short but sweet bill signing ceremony in Season 1 Episode 7. You can highlight how much political theater is involved in ceremonies, right down to the use of pens as mementos. (To bring it back into the real world, you can supplement with this WH.gov video)
Possibly the greatest example of parliamentary procedures and the role of informal senate/house rules over the formal guidelines in the Constitution... the stunning Frank Underwood takeover as President of the Senate in Season 2 Episode 3. I watched that with bated breath because it reminded me of Clay and Cannon's iron fist in the House... and turns out it is based on a historical event from 1988!!
2. A more accurate than not depiction of power and money in DC. I know, Frank has killed people. To make the leap that all, or even some, members of Congress have killed people is insulting. So, I will chalk that up to artistic license. What I won't is the consistent portrayal of power and influence at all levels of the government. HoC simplifies issues so that they are easy for us to understand... and makes it appear as if there are only ever one major problem happening at a time... caused by these politicians vying for power. If only.
However, the discussion of the role of SuperPACs in campaign finance is accurate in the 2012 (and 2014) cycles... and until something is done, will only continue. They haven't talked about 501s, which is another layer that may be harder to portray because of the issue advocacy. When you are watching S2:E6, you should be disgusted as Frank pressures contributors. (If it were a perfect world, the FEC would be involved because foreign contributions are ILLEGAL!!!)
I watch it and pray for Frank, et. al., to become more nefarious, more manipulative, more deprived... Why? Because what HoC does that other movies (Mr. Smith) and shows (West Wing) do not is get a lot of the feel of D.C. right.
Go to Season 2, and you have Curtis Haas (a.k.a. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee) of the Tea Party coalition (true) blowing up the legislative deals of Senate Majority Leader Mendoza (a.k.a. Speaker Boehner). You have Raymond Tusk single-handedly funding all of Congress for his energy company's benefit (Hi, Koch brothers. Nice to see you.)
Yes, if I were a member of the Tea Party I would be insulted by the liberal media's portrayal of Conservatives in America. But, then I'd ask... am I really, truly, a member of a grassroots movement, or am I nothing more than a pawn in a larger game?
3. Real politicians love this series. Keep loving this series, keep talking this show up on social media, keep doing cute little vignettes of the show on youtube.
I am going to keep asking these guys and gals why we haven't looked to restructure campaign finance so that special interest doesn't rule D.C. I watch this show and see that is the name of the game.
Unfortunately, I already know the answer to all of my questions. So I will just sit back and watch, and wish that this wasn't so real.
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan