At times in this crazy world, one is like to let one’s mind wander to strange places. Sometimes it helps to understand the inscrutable madness of daily life on Planet Earth in the year 2022 A.D. by following these thoughts as far as they’ll go and seeing what comes of them.
One such thought that pops into my head from time to time is: how would Hank Hill have voted in the election?
Hank Hill, as you may recall, was the patriarch of the Fox animated series King of the Hill. He lived in the suburb of Arlen, TX with his wife Peggy, son Bobby, and niece Luanne. KotH was a quiet kind of funny — not bust-a-gut like golden-age Simpsons, or wacky and brazen like Family Guy or cutting like South Park. Instead it took a shrewd, observational eye to the modern world while framing as its main characters the ultimate middle-American everyman. That way, the show was able to appeal to people who wanted something simple, and those who twigged its skewed perspective. The show is often praised as being a “bipartisan” comedy (meaning, essentially, Conservatives didn’t have to worry about getting raked over the coals at any given point during an episode.)
Hank was a leading fictional TV Conservative for 13 years of the show’s run. He was a man of Traditional American Values: God, Family and Country. He also loved his truck, his Georgia Bloodhound Ladybird, and perhaps most of all, selling propane and propane accessories. The way society was starting to trend through the end of the 90’s and early 2000’s flummoxed him: his son, an aspiring entertainer, often left him scratching his head and musing in dismay, “That boy ain’t right.”
On the surface, there’s not much that Hank and I would agree on, besides, perhaps, the value of a good propane grill. I doubt he’d approve much of my personal beliefs. But although he was frustrated by bureaucracy and progressivism of all sorts, he didn’t seem to have a lot of hate in his heart. He didn’t walk around embittered, he believed if there was a problem in life, it was up to you to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. He prized common sense and straightforwardness most of all.
I think Hank is how Americans like to see themselves, generally. A little old-fashioned, with simple tastes, genial, honest and hard-working, maybe just a little square. But in 2020, 74 million Americans — 30% of all eligible voters and 46.9% of all those who cast a ballot — voted in favor of having Donald Trump as their President. And I think that’s where they break with Hank.
Hank was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican in the heart of Red State Texas, that’s true. He famously supported “native son” George W. Bush in 2000, despite having found the man’s handshake disappointingly limp. But he was not intractable, often opening his mind to new ways of thinking if they could be framed in terms of his values. Beyond his obvious positions, Hank was not outspoken about his political beliefs, preferring to think about the things that unite us rather than divide us (propane, beer, football.) He was too busy being a hard-working common man to subscribe to any of Trump’s beliefs. I firmly believe that he would have taken one look at the candidacy of Donald J. Trump and had one thing to say: “Someone needs to kick this guy’s ass.”
It’s true, Hank Hill’s tried-and-true method for correcting the idiots of the world was to propose, in some cases literally, an ass-kicking, to physically beat the sense into the senseless. And I think he would have seen Trump as a prime candidate for that. Hank may have had his blind spots — his hero-worship of boss Buck Strickland, for example — but he would not permit himself to be taken in by Trump’s particular brand of cult-building. He would have seen a sea of red MAGA hats and judged them all to be dumbasses: “Don’t these idiots realize, America’s already great?” And it’s buffoons like Trump who makes it less great.
My favourite Donald Trump Story — “favourite” here meaning “amusing and harmless, relative to everything else this guy does” — involves a pair of cufflinks that he allegedly lost while appearing on a WWE Wrestling event. He sent owner Vince McMahon an invoice to replace them, which the Chairman and former WWE Champion dutifully did to the tune of $50,000 — only for it later to be revealed that the accessories were worth, max, $100. Donald Trump’s whole deal is that he’s $100 pretending to be $50K. He’s the kind of con artist Hank Hill would be eager to lay a beatdown on.
And to top it all off, he’s from New York. If Hank had a crisis of faith over voting for a Texan with a weak grip, how would he feel about a New Yorker who can’t even walk up a flight of stairs (despite being ostensibly able-bodied)?
No, Hank would not vote for Donald Trump, not in 2016 and not in 2020. He would be a Never-Trump Republican from before that ghoul even cinched the nomination. I’m not, however, sure he would have been able to hold his nose and vote for Hillary, either, being an elite progressive who is also from New York. The only thing that keeps me from thinking he would just write in Buck Strickland is that he would recognize the folly of the gesture — even if he believed womanizing drunk Strickland would make a better commander-in-chief than womanizing racist Trump. I’m sure he would be fine reluctantly casting a vote for Biden, however, as a responsible adult choice. And I’m sure he would be relatively happy with the way Biden has been governing, too, which is another way he and I disagree.
Bill, Dale and Boomhauer are all wild cards — especially with this being a prime era for Dale’s conspiracy-mindedness.
I also think Hank would get the vaccine, wear a mask, and socially distance in the alley, at least during the early part of the pandemic — continued risk of infection at public gatherings is harmful to the propane industry. But that could just be me projecting.
Hank represents how Americans like to see themselves. As the protagonist of his own TV show, he’d have to be more or less an idealized version of his beliefs, and while I may not hold those same beliefs, I was always able to get behind him when watching. I don’t need to agree with Hank about the role of the carceral state, and I know he would never utter the words “Black Lives Matter,” but he must never lose his common sense and perspective. To lead this kind of TV show, a character needs to be more or less relatable, without any significant baggage alienating him from the audience. Nobody is going to laugh with a guy sporting a MAGA hat, not in Primetime on Network television at least. For a show like King of the Hill to work, Hank has to walk that line of holding stodgy old-time beliefs while not being a rotten person. With news circulating about a King of the Hill revival, I hope they manage to thread that needle.
But while Hank is sort of the idealized middle-American, the rise of Trump revealed something darker that lives inside much of that country, rebuking science and international co-operation and environmental protection and not-being-racist. His success made it more okay for that darkness to come out and live in the light and just be something the rest of us have to put up with and constantly combat. It may even be possible that the end of King of the Hill’s original run left Conservatives without a dignified mainstream role model and left them to waywardly embrace their darker impulses — who is to say? All I know is that in times like these we could really use a Hank Hill to kick that darkness’ ass.
Scotto Williams would like to remind you that as a Canadian his takes on U.S. Politics are for novelty purposes only, to be taken with discretion.