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President Lex Luthor: How DC Comics Predicted The Rise Of Trump – OpEd


By Sifat Shahjahan*

Across the internet, everyone has an opinion about a famous billionaire redhead’s bid for the White House. To be clear, I am discussing the contemporary story arc of Lex Luthor from the Superman comics. Hailing from the same city as the 2016 Republican National Convention, Lex Luthor along with his arch-rival Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, in Cleveland, Ohio. With the 2016 US election underway, many people discuss through different media outlets what a Donald Trump presidency would look like. Ultimately, Luthor’s term as President is our best picture into what a Trump regime would look like. Furthermore, Superman’s counterproductive resistance to Lex’s campaign mirrors some of the problems the Democratic Party might face.

In a popular storyline released in the early 2000’s, Luthor is depicted as winning the presidential election by running as a businessman who goes into politics during a time of economic uncertainty and self-funds his own campaign.

Luthor fear mongers about Superman’s status as an illegal alien and devises a plan to get him arrested. Most versions have Luthor framing Superman and Superman teaming up with the Justice League to clear his name and get Luthor impeached. In one particular version, in an alternate universe, President Luthor starts irresponsible conflicts with other countries that almost lead to WWIII. Right before Luthor hits the proverbial doomsday button, Superman barges into the Oval Office and tries to reason with Luthor. Luthor thanks Superman for being his greatest accomplice noting that Superman’s enormous ego and desire to be a hero is ultimately what makes Luthor such a great villain. In the end, Superman kills Luthor and rules the world with an iron fist, limiting free speech and spying on its citizens.

The position of Superman in relation to Lex Luthor is always very tricky for fans to understand. Ultimately, Superman can not be a great hero unless Luthor is a great villain.

Superman is sometimes viewed as a proxy for American liberalism, or perhaps as a figurehead of the mainstream media (as with his day job) or the Democratic Party and its online activists. In reality, Superman is embodies all of these concepts. With Trump following Luthor ideologically, Superman follows liberalism.

In almost every comic book origin story, the hero helps create the villain. Some stories have Luthor losing his red hair and going bald during an encounter with a young Superman. I believe that the liberal ideology has gone so far left that it has helped make a far right candidate like Trump so appealing.

The rise of the “politically correct” “social justice warriors” who took over college campuses in 2015 shows that liberals have a martyr complex, and they need Trump just like Superman needs Luthor. How can one be a “social justice warrior” if there is nobody to fight?

As Clark Kent, the journalist, Superman is the voice of the liberal media. Both Trump and Luthor are classic narcissistic bullies. Since the beginning of the presidential campaign, statistical analysts like Nate Silver have pointed out that polls follow media attention. The press gave Trump unending attention from day one—even when he did little of consequence—and that helped pump his poll numbers up and drown out opportunities for the other candidates. I argue it would have been more useful to ignore some of his antics, or at least give him coverage more in line with that of other candidates.

But in both in our universe and the fictional DC Universe, people like Clark Kent are constantly talking about these candidates. Many attention-craving Washington pundits seem to have huge egos, suffer from victim complexes, evidenced by so much infighting and feuds that they become news stories themselves, and care more about how others think of them than reporting the truth. They don’t realized that they are doing a huge disservice to society every time they tweet, share or hashtag the latest Trump article. Or maybe they do, but they crave the ratings. Just look at all the interviews Trump did on Joe Scarborough’s show, to the point people started speculating whether Scarborough was getting anything out of it, or the many times MSNBC went live to Trump speeches where he was expressing his junk message unchallenged.

Finally, the easiest concept to grasp about Superman is that he is the leader of the Democrats. The two people Superman can embody is Barack Obama or the Democrat’s nominee. Much of the public believes Obama did not do enough in his presidency. And the Democratic candidates have been driven far to the left, by self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders challenging Hillary Clinton, as well as by activists interrupting speeches with demands the candidates heed.

What makes Superman great is that he is a hero that is ahead of his time. Superman has already shown us how terrible a Trump presidency would be for America through the election of Lex Luthor. There is quite a lot of blame to go around for rise of Trump across all party lines. In the summer of 2016, Superman’s hometown will host the Republican National Convention. Whether we bring his greatest rival to life remains to be seen.

This article was published by Bombs and Dollars

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Bombs and Dollars stands to bridge the gap between academia and policy, commentary and opinions, reporting and blogging and reflects the maturity of the personal experience of its Editors, who are now early-mid career correspondents, authors and academics.

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