What Barack Obama and Harvey Dent Have in Common

The Dark Knight is undeniably this summer’s biggest film and, surprisingly, the most political. Kevin Nguyen discusses the movie’s allegorical relevance to Barack Obama’s campaign.

Bush may be Batman, but Obama is Harvey Dent. (Spoilers to follow, if you’re one of the three people who hasn’t seen The Dark Knight yet.)

In Andrew Klavan’s playfully emphatic piece in The Wall Street Journal, he cleverly parallels the role of both Batman and George Bush.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

Bush believes in suspending certain freedoms and liberties, a necessary, temporary sacrifice, for the greater good. Batman’s vigilante justice works outside the bounds of the law, subjecting Gotham City to the same trade-off of freedom for safety.

Another good parallel that Klavan doesn’t touch on (perhaps a Bush supporter or unfamiliar with Batman comics) is that both the president and the Dark Knight use fear as a means of suppressing “evil.”

Also, they both use illegal wiretapping.

Courtesy of the American Memory Project.

But there are more important connections at work than Bush and Batman. In the same way, Harvey Dent, the inspiring district attorney of Gotham, represents Barack Obama. Dent is touted as the “White Knight” of Gotham, Batman’s unmasked public equivalent. Bruce Wayne himself “believes in Harvey Dent,” hoping that one day the city outgrows its need for Batman. I’d like to think that one day we’ll outgrow the suspension of civil liberties as well.

To much criticism, Obama’s platform is known for ideology rather than specific policy. But principles and morals are what define a leader.

Gotham National Bank Manager: The criminals in this town used to believe in things. Honor. Respect. Look at you! What do you believe in? What do you believe in!

The Joker: I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger.

The Joker may not escape at the end, but in a way, he does win the war for “Gotham’s soul.” He proves that even great men can be turned, as Harvey Dent makes the painful transition to Two Face. But Commissioner Gordon and Batman know what has to be done: to preserve the flawless image of the White Knight by pinning his crimes on the Dark Knight is the only way to save the people of Gotham from living in fear.

Batman takes the wrap for Two Face, and again, we face public deception for the greater good.

Even if Barack Obama isn’t cut from a different cloth, the anti-politician we’ve been promised, at least he gives us hope. The opposite of fear. So it’s not surprising why Obama’s supporters get defensive when the candidate is villainized, such as Barry Blitz’s recent cover for The New Yorker. What Harvey Dent and Barack Obama represent is bigger than the individuals.

Obama’s not a sure thing, but after the past eight years, the only way to save our country is by giving people a change to believe in.

Harvey Dent: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Kevin Nguyen is a founding editor of The Bygone Bureau. His only marketable skill is an above-average knowledge of European geography. He has been useless since the introduction of the atlas in 1477. Reach him by email or follow his Twitter account.