The Most Important Lessons Our Next Government Can Learn From Political TV Shows

All hail Frank Underwood and his knowledge.

By Seija Rankin Nov 08, 2016 12:00 PMTags
Political TV Shows, House of Cards, Homeland, ScandalE! Illustration

Regardless of how today's big election turns out, there is one thing that will ring true: There's going to be someone brand new to the presidency in the White House. 

Taking on our country's highest honor comes with a lot of perks. You get a free mansion. You get a free private jet. You always have someone available if you want to eat a grilled cheese sandwich at two in the morning. But it also comes with a lot of stress and potential problems that we really hope we don't have to list of for you. Being POTUS is freaking hard—just look at what happened to Barack Obama's hair. 

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But it doesn't have to be something that a person tackles all by themselves. There are all kinds of resources available to the president: A cabinet, hordes of advisers, books. (Shoutout to The Audacity of Hope, right?). And also television. TV enriches all of our lives, and this year the small screen landscape is particularly rife with political insight. 

From the long-running Homeland and Scandal and House of Cards to newcomers like Designated Survivor and Quantico, Washington, D.C. is super hot right now. America can't get enough of that Washington insider drama, and in turn the shows are doling out content as fast as humanly possible. 

Some of these plotlines aren't the most realistic and/or applicable to the future POTUS. Take Olivia Pope's inane back-and-forth (and back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth-some-more) love triangle, or that secret robot terrorist voice in last season of Quantico; there's little chance that whoever wins the election tonight will be dealing with those kinds of problems.

But behind all the overwritten romances and the melodramatic speeches are some pretty useful tips for a person in charge of governing an entire country, and since people with actual political jobs don't have time to watch a large handful of hour-long programs, we're relaying that advice for them.

Wine fixes everything.

We can't legally tell our next President to pound as much grape as Olivia Pope, but we will point out that it seems to offer her some salvation from her daily stresses—and she has a father who's basically trying to kill everyone she knows.

If you want to convince everyone around you, most importantly yourself, that you're one of the good guys, wear white.

If you want to metaphorically wear a white hat, you should try literally wearing one first.

Definitely never give your out-of-wedlock lover a shoutout during a debate.

Actually, make that never do anything in your romantic life that Fitzgerald Grant does. Not mentioning lovers during nationally televised speech is a good start, but probably also don't have lovers at all.

When in doubt, there's always jam in Vermont.

You're never going to quit your job and move to Vermont and make jam to sell at local farmers markets. But it sure helps a lot to pretend like maybe you could.

Power is a lot like real estate: It's all about location, location, location. The closer to the source, the higher the property value.

Okay, so this is a word-for-word tip straight from the mouth on one Frank Underwood. But the guy's always doling out wisdom! It's best to sit down, shut up, and take out a pad and paper to write down everything he says. 

Find someone who loves to cook you ribs.

Just because you're never going to make that jam in Vermont doesn't mean you can't have some sort of food-related hobby. Get thee a favorite restaurant, stat, and head there whenever the stress of the Oval Office gets too much.

Your cell phone is essential both for keeping abreast of the day's goings-on as well as a pretend excuse to be employed to escape society parties.

Again, you should be writing down everything Frank says. 

Never choose money over power.

It's a grave mistake that many in Washington make, according to every character on House of Cards. Take the presidency, for example: You'll make less than the assistants on Wall Street, but damn if that power won't feel good.

Never get comfortable—especially if you're the only one staying home watching TV during the State of the Union.

Hasn't Kiefer Sutherland a.k.a. Designated Survivor's Tom Kirkman, ever seen a suspenseful television show? The second you put your feet up and sip your beer is the second that someone bombs the Capital building. Remember this the first time you want to throw on sweatpants and reach for a frosty one, future president. 

Hunting terrorists? You need Kiefer Sutherland.

We've learned a lot of things over our years of television program consumption, but first and foremost is the lesson that no one can fight terrorists like Kiefer. He can take on some extra duties during his hiatus, right?

The secret to a smart president is an even smarter first lady.

We won't even watch a political drama where this isn't the case.

A cabinet (and a Congress, and a House of Representatives) are, like, super important.

You know when you're all, like, hey, why did I bother hiring you, Secretary of Transportation? And what do you even do, Secretary of the Interior? Just know that it's been really hard for Kiefer Sutherland to govern the country all by himself, so you'd do best to appreciate them a little more.

If you want to tool around D.C. undetected, simply don a hood. They make great disguises.

All hail Queen Priyanka Chopra, a.k.a. Alex Parrish, the queen of Wearing a Hoodie in Public and Having No One Recognize Her, Despite the Fact That Her Face Is Plastered on Every News Channel.

Nobody is who they say they are...seriously, not a one.

If you can't trust the most background checked FBI recruits, who can ya trust?

Romantic relationships in Washington never last.

So don't even bother...

If you think pantsuits are unflattering, just know it could always be worse.

You appreciate those dress slacks and tacky jeans. 

Having a mentor can save your sanity, and probably even your life. Get thee a Saul, stat.

Forgive us, Saul Berenson, for we have sinned. We have been forgetting to kneel at our alter of you daily, and to recite the Saul Incantation upon every nightfall. Future POTUS, make sure you do not make these same grave mistakes.

Hackers are not to be f-ed with.

Seriously, watch any political TV show: Quantico, Homeland...there were probably even hackers on The West Wing. They aren't messing around.

No one is dead when you think they are.

Even if you watch your enemies be buried in the ground, do not trust it.

Never underestimate the necessity of the lost art of crazy walls.

Have a problem? Make a crazy wall. Trying to find someone? Make a crazy wall. The cabinet can't decide what to order on PostMates for lunch? Make a crazy wall.