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'The worse, the better'

The comic novel Luthor offers a fresh perspective on an old relationship, one you've likely figured out by now.

The comic novel Luthor offers a fresh perspective on an old relationship, one you've likely figured out by now -- that of a hard-working, civic-minded Metropolis industrialist desperate to protect humanity from this so-called "Superman," an all-powerful alien who will not share his power and symbolizes the end of human aspiration. Oh, that's not exactly the narrative you had in mind? Well, Lex Luthor is the same guy in this book that Superman fans have come to know -- crooked, murderous, and obsessed. But letting us see it from inside his head at least allows Luthor to make his case. And frankly, I can see where some might agree that he has a point. How we understand someone's deeds depends greatly on our understanding of the motivations involved. But what happens those motivations lead people to adopt the tactics of those they fight against? During Rachel's interview last night with economist Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini, he used four words to encapsulate what's motivating Republicans in their economic philosophy these days: "The worse, the better." Dr. Roubini made note, correctly, that this saying has Leninist origins. It was originally used, apparently by one of Lenin's mentors, to signal that the worse that socio-economic conditions became for the poor, the more inclined those poor would be to stage a Communist revolution. It was a rallying cry for Leninists. Considering both their rhetoric and their curious mathematics, revolution by the underclass doesn't seem to be the Republicans' goal. But the idea that Republican policy and rhetoric have, indirectly, appropriated the tools of the same scary Communists they tell us to fear? That is instructive, to say the least. I'm not suggesting that Republicans are emulating Lex Luthor to the letter -- sometimes a metaphor is just a metaphor. That said, Luthor does one thing that Republicans also do: ask us to respect their argument, regardless of its roots. I remain unconvinced, on both counts. (Image: DC Comics. A special thanks to Joan Hilty for the book.)