I binge on House of Cards every time Netflix drops a season: don’t judge me, you don’t know my life. Frank Underwood is a shrewd, evil genius that happens to be in politics. Frank rose from Congressman (Majority Whip) all the way to President in about five minutes, employing betrayal, manipulation, deceit and even murder: by any means necessary. Oddly enough, his rise to the presidency was literally prompted by nothing more than a chip on his shoulder, after not receiving a nod for Secretary of State. It was not a grand vision for the country or passion to help the oppressed that motivated Frank, simply the desire to be great and be acknowledged. Men that desire power, void of vision, are dangerous and unprincipled. Frank has proven that and I suspect Trump will also.
Joseph Kennedy was an ambitious man. He gained wealth for himself and eventually became ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1938. For a variety of reasons, Joseph’s political ambitions came to a screeching halt and as such, he envisioned his children attaining political power in ways he could not. His son, John F. Kennedy, became the youngest elected president in history. JFK is known for being assassinated while in office but can you honestly think of anything else? What was his true presidential legacy? His vision? True, he did not finish his first term but the emerging resume was still quite thin. He was reluctant to get involved in Civil Rights, not even offering support to the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He was a known adulterer and also approved wiretapping Dr. King and many of the COINTELPRO actions by the FBI against black freedom groups. Kennedy was willing to send military force into Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Castro but unwilling to do much intervention on behalf of blacks in the American South.
Great ambitions of power without genuine vision and concern for the vulnerable is dangerous. It leads to recklessness and unprincipled action. Kennedy is a shining example. With no clear, discernible vision or compassion for the oppressed, only his assassination lifted him to glory. Donald Trump is much the same, only more overtly. From day one he has bombastically spoken of his greatness and magnificence. Trump has told us about great walls he will build and incited hatred toward a variety of enemies (Mexicans and the like). Yet can anyone tell us what his larger vision is? What is his guiding light toward the greatness he promises to lead us to? Like Frank Underwood, Trump certainly desires power and to be hailed as indispensable but to what end? We have no clue and that is precisely what is so frightening.
JFK’s negligence on Civil Rights was somewhat tempered by his brother and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy’s more involved actions. Further, after his assassination, Lyndon Johnson took a more active role in passing Civil Rights legislation (although he certainly had his flaws also). Even so, too many lives were lost and negatively impacted along the way due to, in part, Kennedy’s lack of principle. In the same way, Frank Underwood has left an obvious trail of carnage in his pursuit of power, void of any guiding vision or principle. We can only wonder what President Donald Trump has in store for us.