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A House Divided

Cross-posted at TPMCafe. The version here has been updated.

This was posted on Ain’t It Cool News back in February, but I just came across it yesterday. ABC is working on the pilot episode for a series that may air in the Fall, called “A House Divided:”

In the near-future, the unthinkable has happened. A Liberal President is back in power. How liberal? Well, he’s raised taxes to the point where Middle America has had just about enough. A small group of farmers have decided “Hell No!” They’re not paying anymore. One of these farmers, a good-natured retired Gulf War II vet, just trying to get by and raise his family, through a series of highly believable government mishaps, and the manipulations of a well-stocked Kansas militia, ends up becoming the head of this escalating conflict. As the pilot ends, Northern Kansas succeeds [sic] from the United States.

Yes, the red-blooded, patriotic farmers must save us from the evil, tax-and-spend Democrats! Hollywood liberal bias anyone? Nevermind that there are more acts of terrorism commited in the US every year by radical right extremists and hate groups than by international terrorists. It seems that 9/11 has made folks forget the Oklahoma City bombing. Hopefully the show is more careful about glorifying militia groups than this summary suggests.

I’ve got another idea for a series – it’s a little crazy and completely unbelievable, but hey, it’s just TV: a “compassionate conservative” Presidential candidate is in an election that’s so close it must be decided by the Supreme Court. In a decision relying on bizarre legal reasoning, the Court awards him the Presidency. With his allies in Congress, he then governs from the far-right, slashing taxes for the wealthy and massively increasing pork-barrel spending, leading to a staggering increase in the federal debt our children will inherit. In the wake of dramatic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11/01, he invades Afghanistan and topples the Taliban regime (which is now resurgent). Then he secretly decides to invade Iraq too, even though it wasn’t involved with 9/11, but publicly pretends he’s hoping diplomacy will work. Then – using intelligence known at the time to be dubious for justification – he launches the invasion. A short time later he declares victory, but with no plan to secure and rebuild the country, it turns out the war isn’t really over. The US military – ill-prepared for counter-insurgency warfare – is unable to stop an insurgency that grows out of control. Secret policies lead to the torture of Iraqi prisoners, and no one in authority is held accountable. Meanwhile, on the domestic side of the war on terror, he declares an American citizen an “enemy combatant,” locking him up in solitary confinement for three years without charge.

With a campaign that owes much of its success to good-ol’ boy hucksterism, homophobia, and fear-mongering, he narrowly wins re-election. In his second term, emblematic of widespread cronyism and the de-professionalization of many federal agencies, FEMA responds abysmally to a predicted hurricane disaster in New Orleans. Waste, fraud, and abuse become almost impossible to detect across federal agencies, due to the virtual elimination of Federal whistleblower protections, Congress’ abdication of its oversight responsibilities, and the White House’s obsession with secrecy.

And then, after all this, in the climax of the story, when it’s revealed he’s been secretly violating the law by directing the NSA to eavesdrop without warrants, and when he declares he is not bound by the new anti-torture law, nothing much happens. Only one senator condemns his actions, incisive blog posts are written, and the President’s popularity drops, but not much else comes of it.

I know some of the plot twists seem really far-fetched when you stop and think about them for a minute. But like most TV shows, the key to its success is the audience’s willingness to go along for the ride.

2 thoughts on “A House Divided

  1. Edward Nelson says:

    Michael, although I generally support you, your idea for a TV series as set out in your April 17 blog is really, I hate to use the term, just stupid, it’s off the scale.

  2. Larry says:

    Now tell us what you really think

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