President Luthor and President Trump are More Similar Than You Think
“The most controversial election of all time!” That was a marketing line for the storyline run by DC Comics that saw Lex Luthor elected President of the United States in the DC Universe. Collected in the “President Lex” trade paperback, the story ran through the various series of the time from an impressive collection of creators. Having recently reread the collection, it’s a frighteningly prescient story far ahead of its time, primarily because it could have easily been talking about the recent election of Donald Trump.
Opening up with “The Why” by writer Greg Rucka and artist Matthew Clark, we get the motivations of Lex Luthor’s run as he makes an announcement about his decision to run. Surrounded by the Superman logo, we’re presented with a Lex Luthor whose ego has clearly been hurt and driven by a need to be in the spotlight. In a mostly wordless six pages we get a sense that Luthor is driven for his competition with the Man of Steel and needing to be in the spotlight and in charge. That sound familiar?
In 2012 it was reported that Trump’s decision to run was made partially due to his humiliation at a White House Correspondent’s dinner. According to Republican trickster Roger Stone, Trump’s motivation was partially an “I’ll show him” attitude to President Obama and the shade thrown Trump’s way at the event. It’s ego to him, and we’ve seen from his outbursts and Twitter tirades, the man is all ego. But that simple coincidence isn’t all when it comes to the Presidential run, and win, for the two celebrity businessmen turned politicians.
One of the biggest decisions a Presidential nominee can make is their Vice Presidential choice. In Trump’s case, it was Indiana Governor Mike Pence. In Luthor’s it is former Kansas Senator Pete Ross. In a weird coincidence, a real life Pete Ross ran for Shadow Senator for Washinton, DC. So, in both cases we have a “big city” businessman choosing a mid-west politician as their running mate.
As part of the story Luthor is accused of harming Atlantis with some technology and after “going to trial” he talks his way out of it with a settlement and offers to pay reparations for the damage done. Trump has at least 75 lawsuits against him and his businesses and infamously settled the Trump University case during his Presidential run.
While lots of empty talk continues, action hasn’t been taken to help the people of Flint, Michigan and the water crisis occurring there. Due to neglect and outright criminal action, the water is poisoned for the people and damage done to those who have already ingested so much of it. The people of Suicide Slum in Metropolis too have been hurt with water poisoned from Luthor’s upgrading of the city with alien technology. While some areas benefit, Suicide Slum is left behind by those in charge, the people left to rot.
Luthor’s business is much like Trump’s as well. Lex Luthor has Lex Tower, Trump has Trump Tower, both ruling out of it. Luthor turns over his company to Talia Head (actually Talia Al Ghul), but he doesn’t really give up control instead dealing with Talia directly.
The election itself has many parallels. The outcome isn’t a blowout, resulting in a close election going on well into the night, a reality of the Trump/Clinton race. Luthor, like Trump, plays the media to not just make over his persona but deliver his message to the people with free air time. Perry White on the other hand, ponders if there was more they could have done as the fourth estate during the election itself, a similar introspection that existed within the media after Trump’s election.
That hand-wringing extends to Superman and Batman. Both at a point debate if they should intervene to dig up dirt on Luthor. Superman is the the one who doesn’t want to, believing in the process and letting it play out, an attitude reflected by many who say we need to “stand with the President” and “give him a chance.”
Post election there are similarities. Luthor’s election is met with protests and he threatens to out Batman and his allies’ identities by using the NSA, FBI, CIA, and more. While we haven’t seen Trump directly do that, there’s some oddness concerning the current issues between the Trump administration and the intelligence community.
But, there’s a foreign policy move that’s odd. In one issue as part of the collection, Aquaman tells Superman that Luthor is the first world leader to reach out to Atlantis and take it seriously as a nation. The extended hand is something reminiscent of current talks with Russia and Trump’s willingness to praise the country so many see as an adversary. It’s a break in the previous foreign policy and one might argue, the right policy. Today, it would be easy to see the parallels, but this was originally published in 2000 and 2001.
What does the story tell us about President Trump’s future? President Luthor was impeached due to his going insane and trying to kill Superman. This was after a fairly competent run though. We haven’t seen that same competence out of President Trump, but talks of impeachment swirl about a month into his Presidency.