Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What a tangled web we weave

The biggest appeal of House of Cards is that it reduces politics to its basest level, even to the point of murder to cover a messy trail.  This is how most people see politics, which is why it is so easy to invent conspiracy theories and have so many persons believe in them.

It's nice to see that in the third season of House of Cards, Claire Underwood appears to have discovered her moral center and no longer is playing the game as set by her husband Francis.  The all too obvious allusions to the Clinton White House abound in this television series, right down to the mysterious death of Vince Foster, which was played out in the first season in the death of Peter Russo.  With Francis having wormed his way into the oval office, Claire is no longer content to play second fiddle, demanding the position of US Ambassador to the United Nations, echoing to some degree Hillary's rise to Secretary of State.  Things didn't turn out too well for Claire, much as was the case with Hillary, who still has the cloud of Benghazi hanging over her.  But, Claire was able to find solace, and seems to have decided that honesty is the best policy so we think that Hillary too is a changed woman and will pursue the Presidency with noble minded intentions.

Our society has become a two-way mirror of reality and artifice, each reflecting the other in the form of television.  This is where we see fact and fiction played out, often seamlessly woven into each other so that it becomes increasingly harder to separate the two.  You have the all too obvious Fox News, but the other leading television news channels aren't much better, which is why many of us turned to The Colbert Report and The Daily Show for our "news."  Best to have it filtered through the screen of satirical television where at least we can enjoy a good laugh.

House of Cards is of course fiction, based on a British television show from the immediate post-Thatcher era by the same name.  During the first two seasons, the Netflix series pretty much followed the same script, but given its success found it had to expand on the story and so we see a more philosophical Francis Underwood trying to make something good out of the office he gained by every hook and crook imaginable.  He's become a Machiavellian Mr. Smith, holding his fractured personality together by a force of will only Kevin Spacey can pull off.  Claire is still the ice queen but if there is any good to come out of this tangled web of deceit it is through her, not Francis.

That was much the way I felt about Bill and Hillary, which I guess is why I find myself hoping that Hillary has learned something from all these years in Washington that puts her in a position to do something positive the next four years that none of the other candidates, including the venerable Bernie Sanders, could never hope to achieve.  The only problem is that her past may come back to haunt her during the campaign, as she will be under much more scrutiny than she ever was before.

Washington is a cynical world and if you want to get anything done you have to be willing to horse trade, engage in parlor tricks and make some unsavory compromises you will most definitely later regret.  No one is above it, not even Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, which the liberal wing of the Democratic Party now views as its patron saints.

Hillary will never achieve this kind of sainthood, because her past has been dredged up over and over again.  The best she can hope for is a political form of absolution in which her electorate is willing to forgive her and will see her as the only one available who can actually carry out the reforms it so badly wants in Washington.  It's going to be a long road, but if Hillary is any bit like Claire she will find a way to make it.

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