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That Time John Schneider ... Well, Jonathan Kent Actually, Ran For Senate Against Donald Trump Jr. (OK, Lex Luthor)
Somebody save me!
Sean Hannity is producing a Christmas movie called Jingle Smells, and that’s about all I have to say about it. I did notice that this instant yuletide classic features John Schneider, who you might recall from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Smallville.” He played small-town, “salt-of-the-earth” types in both, and that’s usually somewhat tedious code for a white rural “real American.”
Schneider as Bo Duke drove around with his cousin Luke (Tom Wopat) in the “General Lee,” the Batmobile for the Lost Cause. The General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger with the Confederate battle flag painted on the roof and a car horn that blared “Dixie.” As a small child, I watched “The Dukes of Hazzard” on Friday nights and actually thought the General Lee was cool. That’s like Jewish kids watching a couple of “guter alter junge” driving around in a BMW called the “General Rommel” with a Nazi flag on the roof and a car horn that played Wagner. Yet, Schneider continues to defend the General Lee and the “rebel” flag.
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“What [that flag] meant to an eight-year-old, nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 15-year-old John Schneider [was] that we are collectively rebelling … against an oppressive society that pollutes the well where we drink.”
I don’t think the Confederate flag was flown in the South as a call for environmentalism, though segregationists certainly believed Black people polluted public pools and drinking fountains. The “rebel” flag doesn’t quite “stick it to the man” when the “man” in Hazzard County, Georgia, is corrupt sole commissioner Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg. It just makes them look like they’re on the same side.
Schneider was obviously a perfect fit for a show about a young Superman, considering how he confuses actual history with total fantasy. His Jonathan Kent was younger and more flawed than previous media depictions. He was also openly hostile to his adopted son Clark’s “alien” heritage. Schneider is reunited with Wopat in the 2005 episode “Exposed.” Wopat plays family friend Jake Jennings, a state senator who is running for re-election against his deep-pocketed opponent Lex Luthor.
Jonathan hated the Luthors because they bought their way into Smallville and crushed local businesses. “It’s bad enough that he owns half the state of Kansas,” he said when he learned about Lex’s candidacy. “Now he wants to tell us what we need to do with our lives.”
Nowadays, Kansas Republicans would celebrate the Luthors as “job creators” and wear Luthor hats to Lex’s campaign rallies. Rural “real America” apparently loves big city real estate tycoons who boast the trappings of wealth. Lex was not yet the classic supervillain from the comics and still struggled to escape his unloving father’s shadow. Yes, this might seem like Donald Trump and Junior but John Glover and Michael Rosenbaum are incapable of playing such two-dimensional, irredeemable characters.
I also doubt Trump is capable of Lionel Luthor’s insight. He easily identifies Lex’s hollow motivations for seeking political office: “This isn’t about serving the greater good,” he tells him, “or even about power. It’s about you changing the way people perceive you, isn’t it? … Even if you were president of the United States, you think that’s gonna make any difference? Because the people who are close to you will always know what’s truly in your heart.”
Jennings drops out of the race because of a very vanilla sex scandal, and Jonathan decides to challenge Lex himself. While this was technically a state Senate election, it was presented with all the pomp and circumstance of a US Senate race. Political parties were never mentioned, of course, but the coding in these pre-MAGA days was straightforward: Lex represented corrupt corporate big money that had little regard for the average working person. Under his leadership, LuthorCorp had abandoned its agricultural roots (i.e. feeding people) and become a major military contractor (i.e. killing them). He was hardly a liberal darling.
Jonathan Kent, however, was a man of the people who talked about corn subsidies more than “religious freedom.” During a campaign rally, Jonathan explained that he’d run for office “to help all Kansans, whether they’re rich ... or whether they’re poor, and [to] do my very best to put the heart back in the heartland.” That doesn’t sound like a Republican, and it doesn’t sound like a candidate who defeats a billionaire MAGA businessman in Kansas.
A Lex fanatic with a shaved head (a young Marjorie Taylor Greene) leads a mob that puts Jonathan in the hospital. When that doesn’t stop him, she tries to assassinate him. Lex denounces the attack but it still derails his campaign. “Smallville” couldn’t imagine a significant amount of voters shrugging off stochastic terrorism. Lex himself isn’t thrilled to become “the idol for a cult of psychopaths.” He’s a future supervillain but he’s not quite MAGA.
It’s not much of a twist to reveal that Schneider is an unapologetic Trump supporter and an early adopter of the Big Lie, declaring the 2020 election stolen in a Newsmax interview just days after Joe Biden was declared president-elect.
Jonathan Kent opposed Lex Luthor’s political run because he believed “the state needs somebody … who’s willing to stand by their word, somebody who’s willing to do what’s right for everybody not just himself.” However, John Schneider has fully embraced Donald Trump, who never once demonstrated any of these traits. Life is often more disappointing than fiction.
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