Would Archie Bunker Be a Trump Fan?

Don Willmott
Don Willmott

First things first: Archie Bunker was from Queens. Donald Trump is from Queens. That geographical fact is but one thing linking the beloved/despised sitcom character played to perfection by Carroll O’Connor from 1971 to 1983 with our beloved/despised President.

Would Archie Bunker Be a Trump Fan?

Photo: Creative Commons

Next, think about the “All in the Family’s” theme song and its wistful longing for a simpler time when America was, for lack of a better word, great. “Boy, the way Glenn Miller played,” “Guys like us we had it made,” “And you knew who you were then/Girls were girls and men were men,” “Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,” “Didn’t need no welfare state,” and “Those were the days.” were some lyric lines. Here’s a man in 1971 identifying both 1942 and 1929 as years in which America was great. At least he’s more specific on the dates than President Trump has ever been.

And then think about Archie’s deep-seated racism, sexism, xenophobia, and love-it-or-leave-it patriotism. He wasn’t a deep conservative thinker. He was a reactionary, lashing out at any perceived threat or slight to his position of white, lower middle-class privilege. He deeply loved the country that made it possible for a poorly educated man like him to end up owning a house and providing for his family. Belting out a chorus of “God Bless America” was his way of ending an argument.

What’s interesting about this in the context of today is that Fox News, the Tea Party, and the hard right’s various social media efforts didn’t exist then. Archie got his information right alongside tens of millions of other Americans who tuned into Walter Cronkite every night. Both Archie and his liberal son-in-law Mike watched the same newscast, but each interpreted it entirely differently. If they lived in the same house today, they would probably spend all day in front of computer screens and never debate each other at all.

Of course, “All in the Family” was a comedy, and Archie’s prejudices were usually shot down in funny ways — a kiss from Sammy Davis, Jr., an unlikely friendship with a transvestite, a blow up when Edith decided to wear pants. There were also plenty of moments when the show tried to humanize Archie and reveal if not a heart of gold, then maybe one of bronze. In one touching episode, a drunk Archie reveals to Mike that his father beat him mercilessly, doing so, Archie believed, as an act of love to teach him “right from wrong.”

We know Archie grew up in poverty in the Depression, fought in Italy during World War II (his military career, undistinguished though it may have been, trumps Trump’s lack of one), and like Trump, considered himself a good Christian even though he never went to church.

So would Archie have voted for Trump? Of course. He would have loved Trump’s “America First” doctrine and his belief that somewhere in the past was a better time that needed to be recreated. Mike would have screamed about Trump’s carelessness, his lack of credentials, his self-aggrandizement, and his narcissism, but Archie would have simply screamed back, “Shut up, you dumb Polack.” Today, 46 years later, those screaming matches continue. The difference is that all the screaming is on Facebook and Twitter, and Archie’s living room is silent.

If “All in the Family” was meant to shine a light on America’s Archies and make them fade into the past, it certainly failed. The Archies are still around, and now they wear red baseball caps.