The Politics of "The Dark Knight Returns"
The political landscape within "Dark Knight Returns" is a complex one. While definite political statements and demonetizations are made, they're made on both sides... never really forming a strong argument for any political party.
On one hand you have president Regan (never mentioned by name but clearly a caricature), boldly trying to police the world to as he says: "protect our assets... uh... I mean... defend freedom". Clearly a stab at republicans in power who try to hide ruthless tactics under the guise of morality.
Then on the other hand you have the liberals... the smug voices of what can be assumed to be Robins parents can be heard from the other room, apathetic of the current climate of crime, and constantly complaining of Batman's methods of corporeal punishment and lack of due process... all the while passing a bowl and reminiscing about marching in protests.
The thing that stands out about politics within "The Dark Knight Returns" is that Batman remains neutral. His neutrality becomes more evident when he is mirrored with his former ally, Superman... now essentially a tool and lackey of the United States government.
Superman no longer follows his own moral compass, rather he is content to let others call all of the shots, and simply follow orders. Putting the two characters side by side provides a good parallel that really gets to the root of Batman's mentality.
A hundred different Batman comics can show his parents get gunned down and think they've explained it all... but "Dark Knight Returns" goes above and beyond... showing us comparisons in his current mindset to that of other super heroes. Superman is essentially an immigrant soldier... raised in the U.S., and quite patriotic. Batman has no use for such allegiances... or he just doesn't care. Rather, Batman does what he does because he knows it's the right thing to do. The need to fight for justice is like a monster raging in his body and the only way to let it out is through Batman. His ability to help the innocent is a blessing and curse that may have its roots in revenge, but ultimately his responsibility towards true justice transcends this emotion and being Batman evolves into something much more pure and important than a personal vendetta... it becomes a moral obligation, one which he is willing to lay his life on the line for every night.
No other political character in "The Dark Knight Returns" has true morals that they're willing to sacrifice anything for. Not the right wing president chuckling in a radiation suit at an undisclosed location, not the "anti-fascist" speakers that drink their coffee and enjoy celebrity on the talk shows, not the liberals smoking weed hiding in their houses, and certainly not the indestructible Superman who risks nothing and has become arrogant and haughty in his role as "the next best thing" to God.
Superman's apathetic and complacent behavior through his constant rationalizations is especially eerie within the backdrop of a cold war that's steadily heating up with Russia in a foreign conflict... never coming right out and saying it but still leaving the viewer to ponder... what if Superman's ship had simply landed in Russia?
Yes, a lot of political statements are happening in "Dark Knight Returns", but Batman keeps to himself, doing what he's always been doing, not interfering with government affairs until government affairs interfere with him. This makes the world of "The Dark Knight Returns" a believable one, as Batman isn't alone in the world, and the world is constantly changing.
Justice and Morality in an Unjust and Immoral World
Through all challenges political and personal Batman remains Batman, and while he suffers vulnerabilities and private moments of fragility, he never compromises... he doesn't have any super powers, no political pull... he's just a man doing what's right, and maybe that's why he's been such a ziegiest throughout generations. In a world of phoney politicians and compromised morals mankind looks for a beacon of justice... Batman may not be a real flesh and blood person- but his tale of doing what's right through all costs resonates with people... stories of the Joker indeed fascinate but deep down everyone wants to be on Batman's side, they route for him, they sincerely feel sadness and pain when they see him fail or get hurt. This is because for those of us who grew up loving Batman, he is the fictional incarnation of our own sense of justice... and his image is closely tied with our senses of right and wrong. When we see an injustice, we want to right it.
Because Batman would right it.
But Batman's not real... leaving just us... just humans... just like Batman.