“Now I’m calling all citizens from all over the world, this is Captain America calling; I bailed you out when you were down on your knees, so will you catch me now I’m falling?”
– Catch Me Now I’m Falling, Ray Davies, The Kinks, Low Budget (1979)
There are several versions of the United States of America. In the parlance of comic book fantasy it is almost as if we live in different dimensions depending on your political persuasion (or lack thereof.) There is the world that conservatives paint, the one that liberals would like you to imagine, the parallel universe that exists where citizens don’t give a hoot about politics, and then there is reality.
Somewhere, mixed within those very different iterations of our country, lives the “American dream,” a lofty place where we are always at our best, where we all get along, working and playing together with common values and goals – where all men are created equal. That’s the sacred ground that Captain America holds; so why not … Captain America for President?
In 1980, as the United States was gearing up for that year’s presidential election (between the incumbent President Jimmy Carter (D), the former California Governor, Ronald Reagan (R), and Congressman John B. Anderson (R) – who ran as an independent), Captain America found himself being nominated as the candidate for the NPP (New Populist Party.)
In Captain America #250, in a story by Roger Stern (inspired by Don Perlin & Roger McKenzie) with pencils by John Byrne, the star-spangled Avenger foils a terrorist plot at the NPP convention, where the chairman of the party decides that Cap would make a great president.
Our hero is reluctant to get involved in politics and governing, but that doesn’t stop the party from nominating him as their candidate anyway, declaring “People wouldn’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils – they’d actually have someone to vote for!”
As the best comics often do, this issue depicts the American mindset at the time, which is very similar to what we are going through now, 36 years later, where there is a great dislike for all of the political candidates and a huge distrust of politicians in general.
Eventually Cap has to deliver a speech to tell the people why he cannot accept their nomination, explaining that he stands for the American dream, not the government, and he puts the responsibility on the electorate to find someone who can help them achieve their dreams.
The 2016 presidential race has certainly taught us that the real world is nowhere near as simple as comic book elections. What would the Cap of 1980 think of the candidates we have today? Can the American people really be trusted to pick the best person for the job of president?
Will there always be a line between the American dream and our government? Has the dream become a nightmare, and if so, how did it happen? Many people are saying that until we learn to live in the same spirit as Captain America, then the answers to those questions are sure to be as divisive as the circumstances that spawned them.