House of Cards: Watching White Guys Have All the Fun

Coming back for season 2, the political drama offers a glimpse of the racial divide on Capitol Hill.

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But the reality of House of Cards—the main reason you should watch it—is in its delicious portrayals of racial politics and how that plays out in political process. Although it lacks stronger casting of color, Mahershala Ali does a nice turn playing nefarious lobbyist and former Underwood staffer Remy Denton, bringing to light the dirty little secret of marginalism suffered by politicos of color who muddle through a competitive campaign, media and advocacy industry landscape.

Hundreds of black and Latino elected officials, operatives, staffers, associates and managers scrape after political glory and influence in city halls, state capitols and on Capitol Hill. Yet few truly make it to the pinnacles of real power like their white peers. Even longtime Congressional Black Caucus dean, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), had to settle for “assistant to the leader” in the House Democratic hierarchy, despite his years of party loyalty. Former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele still got canned even after he engineered the 2010 GOP blitzkrieg that took over Congress and dozens of state legislatures. 

House of Cards offers viewers a heavy glimpse into that world. It’s the great racial paradox of our politics: Even in the age of a black president, is what it is.

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and frequent contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. You can reach him via Twitter.