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"[T]he climactic scene of Rob Lurie’s Oscar-nominated The Contender features the film’s chief executive (played by Jeff Bridges) delivering a rousing speech before Congress in which he shames the opposition into confirming his female vice-presidential nominee … This is apparently because shaming people into realizing the blindly self-evident nature of your political predilections has a long history of success in affairs of state."

Regardless of the stereotypes attached to it, at the end of the day, politics is a job. And a boring one at that (how many of you watch the local legislative channel?) Some legislations might have the occasional fight from time to time, but for the most part it's just a bunch of people talking about boring things following rules that may take years to fully understand.

Which explains why many writers don't even bother to try.

Writers will present a simpler vision of politics for storytelling reasons. Since many stories regarding politics tend to be Wish Fulfillment, the story will show one side to be in the wrong, and the other to be the protagonist's side. And actual policy-making tends to be discarded for as much drama as can be added. The Political Strategy Game genre tends to take artistic liberties with political systems in order to reduce their overwhelming complexity to something actually playable.


Compare Artistic License – Law for other bureaucratic Acceptable Breaks from Reality.

  • 0% Approval Rating: No matter how radical or despised a public officer might be, if they got the role at all it was because someone supported them. It would be very unrealistic for any candidate to not receive any votes at all.
  • 100% Adoration Rating: As with the previous trope, no matter how mainstream and beloved a public officer might be, they will have dissidents, so it's very nearly impossible for any candidate to receive all the votes.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: In countries where suffrage isn't mandatory, few people care enough to go and vote for any office that is not the highest one.
  • Decided by One Vote: Vote counting is not an exact science. If an election ends either with a single vote win, or a perfect tie, rather than wacky hijinks what normally follows is a recount, because it's likely that some votes might have been missed.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Can happen from time to time, but in real life it tends to really anger not only the host country, but also the sending one who, if the crime is that despicable, will be happy to retire the immunity of their own diplomat.
  • Easy Evangelism: Politicians are unlikely to completely change the view of all people with a single well-rehearsed speech.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Truth in Television. The power of the president can vary a lot from country to country, from almost dictatorial powers to just a ceremonial post. Though rarely will the president be fighting directly in the front lines.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: More prominent in the past, today many people prefer that their royals do very little (those that actually remain, that is).
  • Ultimate Authority Mayor: Mayors still have to deal with higher authorities and bureaucracy for many projects, even if they will only affect their own cities.
  • We All Live in America: The laws and bodies of each country are different. As well as how powerful each of them are. So it would be wrong to show the election for president of France, Mexico, or Spain as a two-way race as in the United States.

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    Comic Books 
  • The entire premise of Civil War hinges on the notion that the United States Congress managed to pass a Super Registration Act with bipartisan support within weeks of the Stamford Incident. Even under normal circumstances, the idea of passing such large-scale legislation in a matter of weeks is unthinkable. What's more, this was back during the 109th United States Congress (2005-2006), one of the most notoriously dysfunctional sessions in recent American history.
  • Watchmen: With his increased popularity after victory in Vietnam, President Richard Nixon makes a successful push to overturn the 22nd Amendment and win a 3rd term. Amendments are notoriously difficult to pass and even harder to repeal, the latter compared to the likelihood to living to 80 and being struck by lightning. This is on top of the United States having a strong tradition of only two presidential terms ever since 1789, before the 22nd Amendment made it official in 1951.
    • The idea of Nixon doing this, the only President to ever resign from office (after much more than just Watergate), is also laughable. While Nixon is enjoying a sky-high approval rating in the book, Nixon also entered his second term was an approval rating of 66% and the largest popular vote landslide of any post-World War Two President. His constant corruption and desire to just be a massive Richard would have likely still knocked him down a few pegs.
    Fan Works 
  • Painfully blatant in Touken Danshi and The Order Of The Phoenix, alongside Artistic License – Law.
    • Most egregiously, Harry, still white and ethnically British, was adopted by the Japanese Imperial family at one point and is now a prince. Suffice to say, Japanese royalty doesn't work that way.
    • The fic also seems under the assumption that Japan, already in the Heisei era at that point, is run by the Imperial family, as seen when the British Ministry of Magic works with the Emperor about the legal status of a wizard's ancestry, even though the Emperor should only have about the same political and legal power as the Queen of the UK.
    • For most of the fic, Harry and co. – keep in mind the former is a prince – constantly treat British wizards in ways that should get them banned from Hogwarts and the country at best, incite an Anglo-Japanese wizarding war at worst. Examples include openly insulting Hogwarts and wizarding Britain, pressuring Dumbledore into giving Harry preferential treatment, rudely dismissing British wizarding history and physically assaulting people who disagree with them.
    Film-Live Action 
  • In Godzilla (1998) has a scene where a US Army is inquiring what a Frenchman is doing at the scene of the clawed freighter. The problem? It's in Tahiti, a French overseas territory. The US troops are the ones who shouldn't be there. No wonder the French sent their secret service after them.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:
    • The whole premise starts with the governor unsure of who to appoint, and when using a coin flip to choose between his two top choices, the coin rolls under a piece of furniture, so he forgets the whole thing and decides to choose Smith, an extremely inexperienced but reputable person who is (presumably) malleable to his corrupt needs. However, given the ambition for lower politicians to take opportunities to move up in the political world, the governor picking someone out of the blue with absolutely no political experience or ambition would be met with extreme uproar among the state's politicians, especially those who wanted the spot. While ambitious politicians can tolerate losing a spot to another politician, losing it to someone like Smith would not be tolerated, even among many voters.
    • Smith is able to order the entire Senate to be forced to attend his 24-hour filibuster because the entire assembly (save Smith) storms out in protest over him, making him the "majority party" and thereby able to order everyone else back inside. In reality, Senators are well-acquainted with this tactic and at least two others would stay behind and keep one from passing such singular motions.
    • Since none of the other Senators support Smith, they should be able to shut down his filibuster with a two-thirds vote (3/5ths after 1975).
    • Smith is able to sustain his filibuster by reading the entire United States Constitution. In reality, the Constitution (particularly around 1939) is not long enough to sustain 24 hours worth of reading.
  • At the end of My Fellow Americans, after President Haney resigns and former President Douglas reveals he recorded an incriminating conversation that will get Vice President Matthews thrown out of office Douglas states that under the 25th Amendment the Speaker of the House will become President. The 25th Amendment doesn't address that - it only addresses how the VP becomes President, how a President can appoint a new VP should there be a vacancy, and when the President is incapacitated or unable to discharge his duties. The Presidential Succession Act describes who becomes President if the President and Vice President die, resign or are removed.
  • In 2012, a thinly-veiled parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger appears as the Governor of California. Except his term as governor ended in 2011, and the state has a two term limit. He was already in his second term when the film was released.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Aliens of London", the Slitheens' plan involves an obscure backbench MP who chairs a minor parliamentary commission (actually their leader, who has Killed and Replaced the real MP) becoming acting Prime Minister because the entire Cabinet is stranded outside London. There is no official line of succession to the post of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and there is no such post as acting Prime Minister; in a situation where the entire cabinet was unable to be contacted, it is more likely the civil service would temporarily take control.
    • "The Sound of Drums":
      • The episode implies that the Master was directly voted in as Prime Minister following the downfall of Harriet Jones, apparently without a party. In his rant to his Cabinet before he gasses them all to death, he specifically mentions how "as soon as you saw the votes swinging MY way, you abandoned your parties and you jumped on the Saxon bandwagon!", jumping ship when it became obvious the Master was going to win. But England doesn't have a direct election of Prime Ministers, so it's hard to get exactly how mass brainwashing via the Archangel network would work in this context. It's possible that Harriet Jones' removal from office led to a massive power vacuum and a collapse of the majority party, and this allowed the Master to produce an insurgent party with a bunch of no-name candidates, used Archangel to manipulate voters into voting for these no-name candidates, ensuring that they won by landslides in the districts where he ran them (because everyone in those districts was brainwashed into voting for the Saxon candidate), winning enough seats to become the majority party in the House of Commons (thus allowing him to become Prime Minister by virtue of being the party's head). Then existing politicians then defected to his party so that they could stay in the majority (explaining the Master's remark to them). There's obvious reasons why they couldn't actually specifically name a party at any point (although the fact that the Master was endorsed by Ann Widdecombe could be seen as proof that he presented himself as a Tory), but the result was taking a concept that might have worked, and then screwing it up and ending up with a bizarre, incoherent set of politics that anyone with any knowledge of either British or American politics is going to notice makes literally no sense.
      • The same episode also introduces the US president as the "President-Elect". In US parlance, the president-elect is the title used for a candidate who has won a presidential election but not been sworn in yet (and thus would not be doing foreign diplomacy). Russell T Davies eventually admitted this was a mistake.
  • The Good Wife: In ‘Payback’, Marissa tells Eli that Eyal Naftali, Chief of Staff to Israel’s Communications Minister, wants to run for the Knesset, and later for Prime Minister, and wants him to manage his campaign. Aside from the fact that this position does not existnote , but you don’t run for Knesset—you run for the party leadership in a party that has primary elections, and then the party runs for Knesset. Becoming Prime Minister means your party is big enough and you can manage to form a coalition with enough parties to get the majority of Knesset members on your side (i.e. a Westminster-style parliamentary system, sans ridings). Also, even more egregiously, she tells him it’s his chance to get rid of Netanyahu (who is all too chummy with the Republicans in Real Life), while a person at this position would almost certainly be in Netanyahu’s coalition. And, incidentally, as of the episode’s air date, the Israeli Minister of Communications name is... Benjamin Netanyahu. The episode seems to assume the Prime Minister of Israel is equivalent to US President, with similar elections. Israel does in fact have a President, but the office works very differently, and Presidents are also chosen by the Knesset.
  • House of Cards (US) takes many liberties with the American political system.
    • Peter Russo's storyline in Season 1 revolves around running in a special election for governor of Pennsylvania, triggered by the election of Jim Matthews as Vice President. In real life, Pennsylvania and most other states elect the governor and lieutenant governor on the same gubernational ticket, with the lieutenant governor becoming governor in case of a vacancy (as happened in 2001 when then-Governor Tom Ridge was appointed Homeland Security Advisor note ). There would not be an election until the next regularly scheduled one. It's possible that what we're seeing is a recall election (which requires proponents to file a petition, then gather a certain number of signatures from registered voters within a certain time period), but there's no mention of that, and that would have to explain how Pennsylvania enacted recall provisions for elected officials, as they are one of those states that doesn't have them.
    • Early in Season 3, we see the Democratic congressional leadership meeting with Frank to tell him that they do not want him to run for reelection and that they will be backing someone else, whom they will choose later. This is a form of presidential nomination that went out of style in the 1820s. While the congressional leaders may be influential in these sorts of decisionsnote , they are just a handful of the hundreds or even thousands of party insiders involved at this stage.
    • Frank would never be able to appoint Claire as a US Ambassador to the United Nations in season 3 or later put her on the ticket for VP in season 4 because in response to the controversy that resulted when John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General, Congress passed the Postal Revenue and Federal Salary Act of 1967, also known as the "Bobby Kennedy Act". This anti-nepotism act made it illegal under 5 U.S. Code § 3110 for a sitting president to "employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement" a relative to any political or bureaucratic office. At the same time, though, Donald Trump's 2017 appointment of two family members as White House staff (his daughter Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner) has made Claire's appointment to the UN seem a bit more plausible in retrospect. Trump's lawyers argued the nepotism statute was not technically being violated if the appointee agreed to take no pay, which Claire presumably could have done.
    • In Season 3, Frank is doing debate prep to prepare to face Heather Dunbar in the Iowa Caucus debates. However, the stand-in for Dunbar is a man, in this case, his Vice President Donald Blythe, rather than a woman. Generally, the debate prep team will usually have a female stand-in represent Dunbar, preferably a female senator, congressional representative, or governor, who could provide a more realistic representation of Dunbar and prepare Frank for the nuances of having a female debate partner (example: in 2008, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm stood-in for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during then-Senator Joe Biden's debate prep prior to the vice presidential debate). This isn't a requirement, though, since Donald Trump used New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as a stand-in for Hillary Clinton prior to the 2016 presidential debates.
    • In season 3, Frank is convinced that the Democratic leadership has a secret shortlist of potential presidential candidates, and he’s willing to pay an extremely high price to get his hands on that list so he can short-circuit those people’s career ambitions. In real life, there is no secret list of presidential candidates. If you want an idea of which candidates a party is considering for the next presidential election, start with current or recent U.S. senators, governors and vice presidents. Cross off those who are over 75, have life-threatening illnesses or criminal records, or are clinically insane. Award bonus points to those from populous, competitive states. That’s your list. The last time the Republican Party nominated someone for president who didn’t fit the above description was Donald Trump in 2016, and the time before that was Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. So, a party may grant an exemption in some cases with special circumstances, but beyond that, it’s just a long parade of senators, governors and veeps for the better part of a century.
    • A Solicitor General like Heather Dunbar would probably not make a good presidential candidate. As pointed out by The Washington Post, not many people know the name of the Solicitor General in real lifenote . A relatively unknown politician would probably never be nominated as a Presidential candidate for good reasons: when someone is being nominated for President, part of the process involves entails determining if the person actually functions well as a candidate and wins votes, and if this person will advance the policies the public will approve of and not cave the moment public opinion starts to shift. In other words, parties tend to nominate people with some history of behaving as a public official and running in multiple elections.
    • If Heather Dunbar was a long-shot candidate for the presidency, Claire Underwood being on the presidential ticket as her husband's choice for VP is political suicide. On the one hand, you have the huge legal problems that comes from the obvious conflict of interest, not to mention that, as with Claire's ambassadorship, Frank would be forbidden from making a spouse or family member his running mate. Furthermore, every pundit should be asking, what does Claire offer for the ticket? She has no political experience that comes from an elected office. She has no military or business service. Her brief stint as UN ambassador was a disaster (to put it nicely) and a black eye for Frank's presidency. She might help with the women's vote, but Catherine Durant could have done that and still brought her experience from her time as a senator and Secretary of State. Claire has a good public image, but only as a First Lady. The focus groups even point out that no one trusts or believes in her abilities beyond that role.
      • It could be debated here whether or not Frank's subsequent decision to appoint Claire as his vice presidential running-mate violates undermines anti-nepotism law, particularly since in the show it was the Democratic National Convention that technically made the selection, not the president himself (as publicly, Frank would have been acting in his capacity as a candidate, and not president anyway).
    • During the Vice Presidential selection negotiations in Season 4, one of Catherine Durant's political pluses is that she has supposedly never expressed an opinion on gun control one way or another. This is extraordinarily unlikely given Durant was previously a Democratic senator from the South. Most southern Democrats tend to be quite openly conservative on gun rights in order to dispel allegations that they are too liberal or out-of-touch with the "cultural values" of the region.
    • The flashback in "Chapter 46" going back to the New Year's party in season 1 establishes that Will Conway was elected Governor in 2012, the same time Walker was elected President. New York elects Governors on the midterm cycles (2010, 2014, 2018, etc), not Presidential election cycles. In reality, Conway would have been halfway through his first term when that scene happened, and the same would be true if he wins the 2016 race, in which case, he'd be resigning his post and his lieutenant governor would fill the position until the next electionnote .
    • The Underwoods' proposed gun bill would be considered quite redundant. All of the provisions of the bill already exist. There are no internet sales or vendor sales at gun shows without a background check. And some states allow individuals to sell to individuals without a background check and these can take place at a gun show or a parking lot.
    • If Claire's becoming Frank's VP candidate in Season 4 stretched credibility, then Mark Usher becoming Claire's own VP in Season 6 absolutely tears it to shreds. There is no way that a political analyst with no meaningful experience of electoral politics would be considered for even one moment to occupy a role that would see him one step away from the Oval Office, especially considering Claire's own lack of experience holding electoral office.note  And that's before you get to the fact that Usher was a major player in Will Conway's presidential campaign. If anything, Usher would be both more useful as and far more likely to be given the role of White House Chief of Staff, a role he effectively seems to be filling anyway for most of the season.
  • Madam Secretary: The election arc in season three takes some liberties with the American election system. The Story Arc correctly portrays President Dalton running for reelection as a third-party candidate—after losing a primary challenge to Governor Sam Evans—and forcing a no-majority draw in the electoral college, which punts the election to the House of Representatives to decide, which it does in favor of Dalton. However, the next episode has Sam Evans sue in Ohio in hopes of getting Dalton's win there overturned under an obscure anti-lobbying law, which if successful would theoretically give Evans an electoral college majority. There is in fact no process for overturning electoral college votes except under faithless elector laws, which are not at issue here—Evans is effectively trying to have the courts invalidate all votes for Dalton in Ohio on the grounds that he should not have been allowed on the ballot to begin with (Ohio's state legislature had voted to waive a sore loser law after Evans won the primary), thereby retroactively overturning Ohio's electoral college vote entirely, and thereby invalidate the punt to the House, which is uncharted legal territory to say the least.note 

    Video Games 
  • Republic: The Revolution is a Political Strategy Game that reduces democratic process to a Three-Stat System that represents both ideology and resources of each political party and voting group: Wealth, Influence, and Force. The fourth parameter, representing the general support by the populace, is derived from the first three and from the success or failure of about a dozen different political operations your faction performs before the elections.
    Web Original 
    Western Animation 
  • In Amphibia, the episode "Hop Popular" included Hopadiah Plantar running for Mayor in the town of Wartwood, challenging Mayor Toadstool. At the end of the episode, Hopadiah loses the election because, even though the entire town voted for him, the rest of the valley also had a vote.
  • George of the Jungle's episode, "Kings Back To Back", a wealthy narcissist Seymour Nudnik challenges George of the Jungle for his title, King of the Jungle. While Seymour had enough capital to buy the votes of the natives, George let loose his Signature Roar, which summoned a legion of hippies (George intended to summon hippos, but erred). Somehow, these newcomers that outnumbered the natives were allowed to vote, swinging the election in George's favor.
  • Played for laughs in Gravity Falls. Quentin Trembly, the 8th-and-a-half President of the United States, is said to have declared war on pancakes and appointed 4 babies to the Supreme Court, although it is stated that he was taken out of office due to this (among other things) the fact that he was actually able to implement them in the first place would be impossible.
  • In Rick and Morty, the President of the United States actively dismisses Brazil's sovereignty when he learns of first contact with an alien species that set up a settlement in the Amazon rainforest. He orders his forces to proceed to the site and activate their deficit-tripling portal technology just so that he can get the credit for making first contact. He openly touts that the United States is the dominant superpower and essentially rules the world, which gives him the clout to ignore other countries completely.


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