The Politics Of 'House Of Cards' Season 5 Are Way Too Familiar
It feels like an understatement to say a lot has changed in the real life American political landscape since House Of Cards Season 4 premiered in early 2016. Many are now joking that politics in the real United States feel even more intense than what's happening in the Netflix series. Yet the politics of House Of Cards Season 5 feel more relevant to our political climate than ever before. (There are SPOILERS ahead for House of Cards Season 5.) So many moments of the new season will feel weirdly familiar to its audience, from the Underwoods undermining the press to protesters chanting "not my president" outside the White House.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, most of House Of Cards Season 5 was shot before the election, in which Donald Trump was elected president in a very close race. Co-showrunner Frank Pugliese told the publication that the show did not make any changes to its plans for Season 5 once Trump was elected.
"Because of Trump, it actually seems to be relevant at the moment," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "People might think we added in things like the protests after Trump. We actually shot it way before and it was written in way before. Some of this stuff may seem new, but it’s sort of happened in the past and what we notice is it could actually happen again."
With that timing in mind, these 19 political developments from House Of Cards Season 5 may seem eerily prescient:
1. Distrust Of The Press
In the first moments of Season 5, Claire tells the audience (and a TV camera) to not believe "a noisy press that's choosing to dwell on the past." Perhaps she's referencing the White House's current rocky relationship with the media. But in House of Cards, the Underwoods see the press as their enemies, so it's consistent with the show, too.
2. Investigative Committees
Frank begins the fifth season by addressing a divided Congress, saying, "I don't care about your investigative committees." No, Russia isn't involved in this particular House Of Cards plotline (ahem), but the members of the House do want to investigate Frank's dealings. The President demands the vote to declare a "state of war" on ICO instead. Later, Doug Stamper hears that Congress will investigate the Underwoods anyway.
3. Anti-Underwood Protests
In the first episode, Frank and Claire watch a news report. In a cameo, Ann Curry describes protests in the Middle East against President Underwood. Later in the episode, Frank and Claire look out on a crowd forming outside the White House. "These people are looking for a voice," Frank tells her. "Some for, some against." Eventually, Frank addresses this crowd, tells them not to fear anything, and shakes their hands.
Later in the season, chants of "not my president" erupt outside the White House as the show's presidential election is in process, and half of the country supports Conway rather than the Underwoods.
4. The Hope For A Woman President
From James Miller's daughter to several people Claire meets with, it's clear that many House Of Cards characters are ready for a woman to have the highest office in the land. At the beginning of the sixth episode, Claire gets sworn in as acting president. The Hillary Clinton comparisons are obvious, if a little depressing.
5. Extreme Border Restriction
Frank requests restricting the American borders by expanding the no-fly list, denying visas to citizens of certain countries, and much more. In the first episode, Secretary of State Catherine Durant tells Frank, "We're virtually closing down our borders without any hard evidence to back it up. A lot of innocent people are trying to get into this country and could be hurt by this." She continues to have her doubts about the policies. Sound familiar?
6. "Fake News"
Frank tells the audience that the manhunt for domestic terrorist suspect Joshua Masterson is all smoke and mirrors, because Frank already has Joshua in custody. At that moment, viewers understand that the manhunt (which is being reported by the media) is all what you might call "fake news," as manipulated by the Underwoods.
7. Revenge Porn
As Doug Stamper brainstorms ways to blackmail the investigative committee, it comes up that he's in possession of "revenge porn" involving Bridget, the head of the committee. Seth uses it to blackmail her — and offer evidence about Stamper's illegal activities. "Revenge porn" is a hot topic in real life, with Newsweek reporting that 34 states and Washington D.C. all have laws on the books regarding the crime.
Frank declares that "Fear is un-American" at a luncheon in the second episode of the season, in a speech that swells with patriotism and asks for support in a war against ICO, a terrorist group that sounds a lot like ISIS.
9. Voter Suppression & Fraud
In the second episode, Frank breaks the fourth wall to explain his plan: he wants to create "voting centers" so "people feel safe to come out and vote." He says he's focusing on five key states so he and Claire can win the election. Later, Doug holds a meeting regarding "threats" in certain voting centers in Republican counties, which is a clear manipulation. Someone eventually calls him on it.
During the show's 2016 Election, terrorism fears (and Underwood manipulation) cause states to close some voting centers and then refuse to certify their votes, causing neither Conway nor Underwood to obtain the 270 votes.
In real life, voter suppression is a key issue in many states, including North Carolina.
10. A Polar-Opposite Political Opponent
Since Season 4, Frank Underwood has had a certain disdain for Will Conway, who is also running for president. Conway and his wife are the opposite of the Underwoods in almost every way and Frank continues to fixate on his personal dislike of him. Sounds a lot like some recent opponents, doesn't it?
Aiden Macallan tells Frank that he needs hackers to combat some NSA auditors and to cover his tracks. The hackers attack D.C. area cell phones with Flash Flood warnings and other cellular disruptions in what Frank later declares as an "ICO cyber attack" and to advance his fear-mongering.
Last fall, Wikileaks released thousands of DNC e-mails, and Donald Trump publicly urged Russians to hack into Clinton's private server.
12. White House Leaks
In the second episode, Frank and Claire are displeased when they find out that their speechwriter Tom talked to the press. Tom later apologizes, saying he's tired of being so careful all the time about his and Claire's affair. In the sixth episode, Macallan runs off to Russia and leaks start reaching the news media with information about the Underwood White House. It's reminiscent of the leaks that have been coming from the Trump administration.
13. Low Voter Turnout
During the election, Frank becomes tense when LeAnn and Doug realize voter turnout was overestimated in Pennsylvania by 30 percent, as well as Ohio. The crucial states threaten the Underwoods' ability to hold onto the presidency.
This was also an issue in last year's election: CNN reported that voter turnout was at a 20-year low in 2016.
14. The 12th Amendment
The election between the Underwoods and Conway erupts in lawsuits and the refusal to certify votes, so the 12th Amendment is invoked and the House Of Representatives is set to decide the outcome. This development parallels the talk last fall about the amendment from people who hoped Clinton could still become president.
15. Who Is Really President?
Throughout the fifth episode, Conway asserts that he was elected president and expresses frustration about the 12th Amendment vote. The question of validity mirrors the real 2016 election, when Trump won the electoral college, yet Clinton won the popular vote.
16. A Russian Influence
In the sixth episode, Frank and Claire have a tense phone call with Russian President Viktor Petrov. "The Cold War isn’t over, Mrs. Acting President,” he says. Later, Petrov reveals that he has Macallan in custody — and remember: Macallan has top-secret Underwood information. In the eighth episode, Claire is drawn into a situation involving the Chinese government and a Russian boat.
At this moment, the country is still dealing with allegations involving Russian, including the country potentially influencing last year's election.
17. Congressional Black Caucus
In the sixth episode, Conway has a tense meeting with the CBC as he tries to win their support in the upcoming vote and fails. Trump was criticized for comments made to a reporter earlier this year regarding obtaining a meeting with the CBC.
18. Hot Mic Comments
Trump's infamous comments about women were captured by a hot mic during an Access Hollywood appearance, and House of Cards utilizes leaked recordings to take down Conway and his running mate. In Conway's case though, it actually causes him to lose the election.
19. Uniting A Divided Country
After being officially reelected president, Frank tries to unite the political parties, hiring Republican operative Mark Usher as a top adviser (much to Doug's chagrin). In his inauguration speech, Frank pledges to "reaching across party lines" to help unite the country. At his inauguration, Trump also promised unity, though he and his staff have been criticized for prioritizing party over country.
As you can see, the politics of House of Cards Season 5 may have been drawn out before the 2016 election, yet mirror much of what's happening in the news.