A Shocking Statement About 'HoC' & Politics Today

by Seth Millstein

At an event in Paris, Kevin Spacey said that House of Cards, contrary to popular belief, is actually less over-the-top and absurd than real-life politics. Two years ago, that would have been a ridiculous claim, but you know what? He's right. House of Cards is now more believable than actual American politics, despite being fictional. And it's all thanks to Donald Trump.

"We'll have a storyline that we'll be attacking, and I wonder, have we gone too far?" Spacey said. "Have we crossed the Rubicon? Is this unbelievable or kind of crazy? Then I turn on the television and watch the news — and we haven't gone far enough."

During the early years of House of Cards, this would have sounded nuts. The first three seasons of the show feature [spoiler alert] among other things, a congressman murdering another congressman, the vice president carrying out a coup against the president, the president raiding FEMA funds to pay for a jobs program, the vice president murdering a reporter, and more. The show has always been loads of fun, but it's not exactly going for realism.

But things have changed. House of Cards' fourth season centers on President Frank Underwood's reelection campaign, and like past seasons, it tackles this subject by drawing from real-life headlines. A lot of it rings true: Underwood's Republican opponent is a pitch-perfect combination of Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and the epitome of politicians who become "rising stars" simply by being marginally less boring than their peers. Likewise, the show accurately predicted that rising fears of terrorism and the possibility of a brokered convention would play major roles in the 2016 campaign.

And yet, crucially, the show didn't foresee one thing: the rise of Donald Trump. Plenty of absurd things happen in Season 4 of House of Cards, but none of them are as unbelievable as the fact that a person like Trump is now a major political party's frontrunner for the presidential nomination. And yet that's where we are.

This actually works in the show's favor. Season 4 practically begs you compare it to the real-life election, but because it lacks a Trump-like character, this comparison makes the show look relatively tame and believable. And that's quite the accomplishment, given how gleefully silly House of Cards is. Spacey says that some politicians have told him that the show is "closer to the truth than anyone would like to know." That used to mean it was just a little crazier than real life. Now the opposite is true.