The President in 'Succession' Is a Giant Mystery

·4-min read
Photo credit: Succession
Photo credit: Succession

There's no shortage of compelling mysteries at play in Succession's third season: Do Sandy and Stewy have the votes to finally pull off their hostile takeover of Waystar Royco? Is Tom playing the long game, or having a full-blown mental breakdown? And did Greg ever scrape together $40k to pay for that watch? But one of the show's longest-running mysteries has also come back into play, and that's the question of who exactly is in the Oval Office in the Succession universe.

The unnamed president has been a significant off-screen player since almost the very beginning. He's depicted as being friendly (ish) with Logan and with Waystar, but has also snubbed them in a few significant ways, and Logan's political influence seems to be waning this season. The ambiguity is clearly deliberate on the part of Succession's writers, but here's a breakdown of everything we do know.

The president in Succession is probably a Republican.

Though the president's party affiliation has never been confirmed, there are enough tells to suggest he's on the right. During season one, Logan mentions that Waystar Royco's conservative network ATN played a role in getting the president elected.

In the sixth episode of season one, Logan is trying to persuade the president to help him to get around some FCC red tape to okay an expansion. At the last minute, the president stands Logan up at the White House thanks to a homeland security issue, which Logan takes about as well as you'd expect. After screaming at an underling ("Have I been snubbed?!?") Logan eventually gets on a phone call with the president, whose side of the conversation we don't hear. It's clear, however, that he's apologetic and agrees to cut Logan a break with the FCC.

During season one, Shiv is working for a female Democratic candidate for the presidency. She then jumps ship to the even more left-leaning Gil Eavis, who seems to be the show's take on Bernie Sanders. Both these gigs are depicted as a major departure from the family's usual political affiliations, which again strongly implies that the sitting president is a Republican.

Donald Trump is not the president.

Despite the ambiguity around the president's identity, it's pretty clear that he's not intended to be Donald Trump, or even a figure in the Trump mold. On his way to visit the White House in season one, Logan irritably describes the president as a "California shrunken little raisin... he's basically a fucking intern."

While it's not clear exactly what Logan means by this characteristically colorful insult, there's really no way it could apply to to the New York-born, 75-year-old Trump. But if the president is a California Republican, it's possible that he's written as a modern-day variation on either Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon.

Even though its president is fictional, Succession has been profoundly shaped by the Trump era—the first table read for the pilot took place on Election Day, 2016, and its exploration of corporate corruption and the moral bankruptcy of the 1% can't be separated from post-2016 America. "After taking a backseat for about 50 or 60 years, inherited wealth and nepotism seem to have come back with a vengeance,” The Big Short director Adam McKay, an executive producer on the show, told The Hollywood Reporter. "And media conglomerates are increasingly becoming the microphones of oligarchs.”

Washington may play an expanded role in the show going forward.

Connor's deranged presidential campaign still seems to be going ahead, unless Shiv can persuade him otherwise. Then there's the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Waystar Royco's cruise ships division, and Logan's so-far unsuccessful attempts to pressure the president into intervening.

As of season 3, episode 4, that effort seems to be backfiring. "You’re 600 years old and you’ve pissed off your fucking boyfriend, the president," Kendall gleefully tells Logan. "And he’s sending the Feds on you, and you’re wriggling, but you’re in too deep.”

Logan, via Shiv, tries to plant more critical coverage of the president on ATN via its primetime anchor Mark Ravenhead (who, fans may remember, is probably a Nazi). Ravenhead is resistant, but by the end of the episode seems to have been persuaded by Shiv that he doesn't have a choice, so ATN may be openly attacking the president from here on out. It's also not clear exactly when the presidential election is due to take place in the Succession timeline, but it's possible we'll be seeing more of the campaign trail as the season goes on.

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