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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.

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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Creator's Culture Carryover: The laws and bodies of each country are different, as well as how powerful each of them are and how their political system operates.
  • Decided by One Vote: Specifically for election votes, counting them 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. However, it is not unusual for legislative or judicial votes to be decided by such tiny margins.
  • 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 (especially to keep their good relations).
  • Easily Elected: A character manages to get into a leadership position without fulfilling the basic qualifications and/or the due process typically required to take the office.
  • 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.
  • Universally Beloved Leader: 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.



    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. Ronald Reagan, who was much more popular than Nixon ever was, even threw around the idea of doing this near the end of his second term—and the administration quickly stopped pushing it because, even ignoring how much of a power grab it could easily look, doing so would take more political capital than one man could ever have. 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 the fictional Nixon is enjoying a sky-high approval rating in the book, the real Nixon also entered his second term with 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.
    • After winning the war, the US ratifies Vietnam into the 51st American state. It's more likely that, had the US annexed Vietnam, that it would have become a territory like Guam or Puerto Rico, rather than a state. In the real world there has been significant opposition to making US territories into states, most notably by conservatives who argue that the regions' more liberal bents would give more Congressional votes to the left, something Nixon, a right-wing Republican President, would not want. All the more so because Vietnam would become the most populous state by a huge margin, with more than double the population of California, causing a massive upset to the US's political balance.

    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 monarch of the United Kingdom, if not less (at least Elizabeth II's rights and limitations were never strictly defined in a codified document).
    • 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.

    Films — 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 is only 18 pages long, not long enough to sustain 24 hours worth of reading, particularly in 1939.
  • 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.

  • The Jack Ryan novel The Teeth Of The Tiger revolves around a private counterterrorism hit squad established by former President Jack Ryan, and supplied by him with a stack of pre-signed fill-form presidential pardons. Even ignoring the constitutionality of such a pardon (blanket pardons have been ruled to be unconstitutional), the President can only pardon US federal offenses: they would do nothing for an operative charged by either a US state prosecutor or a foreign government, to say nothing of the political shitstorm that would ensue regardless of the pardon.
  • Left Behind: The novel series vastly overstates the political power of the General Secretary of the United Nations, to the point of portraying the reasonably influential diplomatic position as the de facto president of Earth.

    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 — apparently without a party — following the downfall of Harriet Jones, and the Master himself states that his cabinet defected to his side once it looked like he was going to win. However, the UK doesn't directly elect prime ministers: it elects the party in charge of Parliament, and the party elects the prime minister.
      • 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 later admitted he didn't know what the term actually meant, and had wrongly assumed it to be a longer ceremonial title of the POTUS.
  • 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); although the Prime Minister was elected directly by the public in the 1990s, this reform was abandoned after only three election cycles due to not actually giving the promised government stability. 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, or at least be to a member of Netanyahu’s coalition what Sir Humphrey is to Jim Hacker.note  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, who is a ceremonial figurehead 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; the Democrats generally follow the same guidelines, although the 2020 primaries had former Vice President and eventual victor Joe Biden (just shy of 78 on Election Day) and Senator Bernie Sanders (79 on Election Day) as the front-runners. 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 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. Not that this has ever stopped anti-gun politicians from attempting to pass completely redundant bills or scaremongering over laws that already exist.
    • 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 season 2 premiere "The Show Must Go On" requires an extremely Contrived Coincidence for protagonist Elizabeth McCord to be sworn in as acting President, because of the sheer length of the line of succession established by the Presidential Succession Act. As is often noted in the series, the Secretary of State is fourth in the line of succession: the President and the Speaker of the House were both on Air Force One when it went out of contact returning from a state funeral in Australia and the Vice President was undergoing emergency gallbladder surgery, so they were about to swear in the President Pro Tempore of the Senate when he turned out to be a Scatterbrained Senior.
    • 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 through Congressional objections (which require a majority vote in both chambers to be sustained) or 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 retroactively invalidating the punt to the House, which is uncharted legal territory to say the least.note 
  • In the Australian show The PM's Daughter, when the Prime Minister steps down, the Deputy PM automatically becomes Prime Minister. In reality, while the Deputy PM would be Acting Prime Minister in the meantime, the Government would take a vote on who should be the next Prime Minister.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Prometheus", a reporter tries to publish a story exposing a "Project Prometheus", which she thinks is a fusion reactor project (it's actually Earth's first-ever space battleship). The President shuts that down with a phone call, and the reporter's editor tells her flat-out that "when the President kills a story, that's the end". As described, this is a very basic violation of the reporter's First Amendment rights: the President has no constitutional power to simply order a press agency not to publish anything. Likely what actually happened is that the President exercised soft power, i.e. they pulled strings with the network.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blue Planet: The UN Security Council unanimously voted to give all governmental authority to the GEO; the United States and China immediately refused to accept the GEO's authority. In reality, the United States and China are permanent members of the Security Council and both have veto power over any votes taken.

    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. It goes without saying that being elected as Mayor shouldn’t be applied to every other town.
  • 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's 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.
    • Ironically there aren't any official requirements to be a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States so appointing a baby is theoretically perfectly legal.
  • 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.
    • The Turkey President gets the approval of all members of Congress by repeatedly raising their pay. In reality, not only does all legislation involving money have to originate in the House of Representatives, the 27th Amendment makes any change in Congressional pay not take effect until after the next election. And why would Congress even be in session on Thanksgiving (a federal holiday)?
  • The X-Men: The Animated Series two-parter "Proteus" is set during Joe MacTaggart's election campaign, as he urges the people of Scotland to vote him in as Secretary of State. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State for Scotland is a position in the UK cabinet, appointed by the British Prime Minister. (In the comics, he was just an MP, although tipped to rise in government.)

Alternative Title(s): Artistic Licence Politics