So, we finally joined the 21st Century and got Netflix. We are watching House of Cards (US version), an episode most nights. Based on one season per year of time passed in the show, that’s about four weeks of dystopian fantasy per night. But, when we wake up in the morning, the day’s news almost always has more and crazier stuff packed into it than that, with subplots and story arcs being passed over for lack of space ( will the emoluments clause come back to bite Trump? did he suggest that Comey should imprison journalists? Who can keep track of it all).
Looking at the main plotline of Season 1, what would it take for life to imitate art and elevate Pence to the White House? There’s clearly no likelihood that the House Repubs will impeach Trump as long as they still hope to push through a big tax cut for corporations (which apparently depends, for arcane procedural reasons, on passing some kind of repeal of Obamacare). As Liam Donovan says in Politico
The criticisms may grow louder with each unforced error by the White House, but as long as the legislative dream is still alive it’s hard to imagine any sort of full-scale break. If that dream dies, however, it’s every man for himself.
But maybe this really is a house of cards. Suppose that three Republican Senators defected to the Democrats. That would kill the dream, at which point lots of Republicans might start thinking that a fresh start with Pence would offer them a better chance of survival in 2018. And, hey, they got Gorsuch. Once a dozen or so jumped, it would indeed by sauve qui peut for the rest.
It’s easy to name two Repub Senators (McCain and Collins) for whom it would make personal and political sense to switch sides. Given two, there must surely be a third. Still, I can’t see it happening any time soon. On the other hand, every day brings a new humiliation. Perhaps someone will find a hidden reserve of decency, or just frustration, and say that enough is enough.
Coming back to the show, I found it a bit disappointing where it followed the storyline of the British original, but better once they diverged. Urquart is a more compelling villain than Underwood, and I found both Matty and Roger O’Neill more relatable than their US counterparts. But Claire Underwood is a huge improvement on Mrs Urquart (I can’t remember if her first name was ever revealed), a one-dimensional Lady Macbeth. Doug Stamper is also more interesting than his British namesake, if a bit over the top. The same is true of Underwood’s political allies and antagonists, who don’t roll over as easily as Urquart’s victims. Partly, all this reflects the fact that the US writers could plan on multiple seasons, while the British version, based on the book by Michael Dobbs, was planned to wrap up in one, with the sequels coming only when the series was a success.