Just when you thought we couldn't see any more drama in presidential politics, Netflix dropped the fourth season of "House of Cards" on Friday. Binge watchers will be able to escape the insane melodrama of the real-world race for the White House for 10 glorious hours this weekend and dive in to the insane melodrama of a fictional presidency instead.
But what if these two universes -- the real one filled with bombast and insults and the surprising success of "outsiders," and the fictional one filled with murder and manipulation -- were to combine through some miracle of the multiverse? More simply put, what if Francis Underwood and his supporting cast were to throw a hat in the ring in the current 2016 race to run the country?
We're not the only people fantasizing about a Netflix and reality crossover series. Earlier this week the actor who plays Doug Stamper on the show gave his own analysis of how Frank would do against Donald Trump, and it's not good news for the Teflon Don.
Imagine Democrat Francis Underwood has been in this race all along. By now, let's assume, he would have used that southern charm to pick up all the primary states Hillary Clinton has won so far. His America Works proposal appeals to Bernie Sanders supporters and he's arguably a more charismatic personality than Hillary. We don't know too much more about Underwood's policy platform -- he's too busy manipulating (or murdering) people behind the scenes to talk immigration and climate change -- but even his lackluster record on foreign policy would give him an edge over both real Democrats, especially when the comparison between Benghazi and the Jordan Valley start flying around in debates.
Failing that, Frank could simply deploy his "very close friend" Meechum in the Secret Service to spy on the other candidates and gather valuable dirt for the campaign.
For a power-grab insurance policy in case Hillary does clinch the nomination, Frank would have already used his wife Claire and her nonprofit to begin courting favor and partnerships with the Clinton Global Initiative. As we know by the start of season 4, Claire is at least equal to her husband in cunning, so she should have no problem becoming close enough to Hillary's husband (much like she did with fictional President Walker's first lady) to find some sort of angle to exploit.
Claire's Clinton connections would give Francis a path to becoming her running mate, and we've already seen how Underwood is capable engineering his ascent from the office of vice president.
What if Bernie wins though? Sanders could really use a strong southerner like Underwood in the general campaign. So no matter what happens in the primaries, Frank would end up on a Democratic ticket somehow.
That brings us to the general election. If a ticket with Underwood on it were to face a more traditional candidate like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, the path to the White House is a little easier. Blackmailing a hacker like the show's Gavin Orsay to manufacture and plant photos on the server of either candidate of Cuban descent showing them meeting in secret with members of the Castro regime equals game over.
For a challenge like Donald Trump, you have to send Doug Stamper to stamp it out. But this is where we run into the problem of truth being stranger than fiction again. Outside of murder, which would only make Trump a martyr and probably lead to Kanye West winning in his place, it's hard to imagine any kind of intrigue that would take Trump out of the race considering what he's gotten away with so far in the real world.
Stamper would need to frame him for something unforgivable, even to his most dedicated supporters. Trump would need to be tricked into making a trip to Syria or Iraq and fooled into somehow posing for a photo opportunity with a leader from ISIS -- an especially shocking move given his vow to "take out" terrorists and their families.
But even with Trump out of the way, maybe Frank Underwood doesn't really want to win the election after all. What good is four or eight years of power worth? Francis wants lifelong power.
This is where the Machiavellian Francis Underwood weaves his masterpiece. The embarrassing photos of Trump laughing it up with ISIS would finally cause Trump's poll numbers to slip, opening the door for Mitt Romney to steal the nomination at the Republican convention a la Hubert Humphrey.
But what only Underwood and Stamper can prove (because they helped set it up through untraceable third parties) is that leaders of US intelligence agencies conspired to trick Trump into being photographed with ISIS. In other words, the diabolical duo manages to frame the Obama administration for their own dirty tricks.
Underwood meets secretly with President Obama, who honestly has no idea what is going on with the plot to embarrass Trump, but the involvement of the intelligence agencies he is supposed to be in control of threatens to tarnish his legacy in the final months of his time in office. Obama agrees to give Underwood whatever he wants in exchange for keeping the administration's link to the plot secret.
And that is how Francis Underwood becomes the next nominee for the currently vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court. Although he is a Democrat, the Republican-controlled Senate confirms him swiftly to get him out of the presidential race, clearing the way for a Mitt Romney presidency.
Underwood is assured a permanent position of power for as long as he wants it, and no doubt spends the rest of his life maneuvering to consolidate as much power as possible in the judicial branch.
There you go Netflix, no need to write season 5; I've laid it all out for you. You're welcome.
Let us know in the comments tweet us @crave using the hashtag #Underwood2016 how you think Francis would do in the current race.