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The Sopranos in D.C.

The second season of “House of Cards” has been released by Netflix with the usual ballyhoo of Hollywood releases - the talk show appearances, the radio and TV interviews, the “commentary” about the show’s apparent, or lack of realism. Sometimes the line between Hollywood and DC is elastic ….but sometimes it is a mile wide and its erosion does have real deleterious impacts Network .

In case one hasn’t caught the cavalcade of stars, writers and producers parading across all media this last week (second season was released 2/14/14), the show is about the corrupt, selfish, “do whatever it takes”, criminal (no, really, actually murderous) Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and his demonic wife and consigliere staff.

The first season featured Kevin Spacey’s character going from the jilted Secretary of State nominee, to the conniving and treacherous Whip, to the season ending nominee to become Vice President. It took him 10 episodes to perform his first murder. The second season opens with his second one.

The actors do a fine job, albeit often morose, never smiling, completely unlikable and often devilishly amoral. The show, released a season at a time as a Netflix Original, portrays our nation’s capital not so much as a den of iniquity, but rather a playground for the rapacious, violent and corrupt - a sort of Mob headquarters.

As Congress’ approval rating has hit all time lows, the dysfunction, outright vindictiveness and pettiness are rampant. As the do-nothing Congress of 2012-1014 “four corner’s” and limps its way to November there is plenty of condemnation to go around. That they are a national embarrassment and a debasement of the model Democracy to the world is without question.

There was another TV depiction of Capitol Hill a few years back. The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin took a very different approach in his award winning show. Inspiration, hopefulness and the power of possibility were its meme. With actual D.C. insiders as consultants to the show it did not shy away from the very real shallowness and self interest present there, but it also conveyed the altruism many possess. Post Hope Politics

Therein lays the difference between the two shows: not so much twin shows of different mothers (times) but instead one show both accurate and avoiding of simplistic and melodramatic stereotypes and the other, well, really a show about a mob family which its writers tragically and lazily misplaced in Washington, D.C.

The star Spacey said last week that the show is “99% true” and represents much more of D.C. then we would like to admit. Washington Post. Come on Kevin, go ahead and sell your show build up the buzz but there is a difference between the typical meaningless publicity pablum you and the studios spew when releasing another mindless special effects orgy and quite another when you perpetuate silly over-the-top stereotypes at the expense of the Republic.

For our democracy to work, actually to flourish, citizens must have faith and confidence in its institutions. There is plenty to lambaste (see Jon Stewart virtually every night) but when compared with governing bodies around the world the U.S. is incredibly resilient and successful. The cheap shots “The House of Cards” makes at the expense of our Congress actually woefully distract from the real legalized corruption which take places there every day.

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