dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

News flash: Biden is not Green Lantern

January 30th, 2022 by dk

In video production, we used to call them “cheats.” Props carried by the characters might appear or disappear as they needed them. Travel times were condensed. Consequences for actions could be ignored if they distracted from the story. Audiences forgive these indiscretions because they heighten their viewing experience.

All action movies employ cheats, but the current craze of superhero series has taken it to new levels. No one who dies mysteriously has a family that wonders. Law enforcement never inspects suspicious patterns that aren’t central to the plot. No one ever gets lost, unless they’re about to become a victim.

Cause and effect is selectively applied. Space and time are purposefully compressed. Every distortion serves to heighten the experience. Life is packaged as a commodity that’s more compelling than the real thing. Escaping audiences are offered another version of life that is quicker, larger and brighter.

We used to understand that these fabricated presentations are not pretending to be real. They served as a respite from the humdrum of daily existence. You can’t live on popcorn and Milk Duds, even if you wish you could. Sitters must be paid, diapers must be changed, taxes must be paid.

But then came so-called “reality TV,” home theaters, on-demand video, and binge watching. We spend all weekend watching a world where houses are magically transformed, soufflés never fall, and bad guys never win. Which version of reality feels more real? Enter the Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency.

We’re reviewing President Biden’s first year in office as if it were a comic book action flick. Did the hero vanquish his foes and accomplish his goals? Was the plot tight, the throughline clear? Did we get our money’s worth and would we pay to watch a sequel? Did the all-powerful object of our hero myth save the endangered damsel in distress?

Trouble is, life. Actions have consequences. Things take time. Our president has no magic power ring that vanquishes every foe with his determination and skill. 

Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth political scientist, coined the term. He summed up the syndrome this way for Vox News: Americans have come to “believe that the president can achieve any political or policy objective if only he tries hard enough or uses the right tactics.” Every cluttering detail is removed. Each task tests the hero’s worthiness.

The syndrome hurts Democrats more than Republicans. The modern Senate has abandoned the filibuster for judicial appointments and tax cuts, which are about all that Republicans care about. Any substantial policy initiatives, which comprise the bulk  of any Democrat’s campaign, still requires a supermajority. It’s harder to build something up than to tear something down.

Biden can be faulted for not pivoting quickly from campaign promises — the “reality TV” version of politics — to an agenda that could be endorsed by Congressional majorities. He has been silent while Democratic senators Manchin and Schumer choose career over country. Hubris has crept into his administration’s policies and its defenses against criticism. 

In short, he’s not a superhero. Even if millions of binge-sopped Americans wish he were.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

Tags: No Comments

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.