In 2018, America’s Republican party is a mess, thanks to Donald Trump steering the GOP into a cesspit, and basically saying “No. I meant to do that. You’re the idiot if you think this wasn’t the plan all along.”
When it comes to conservative America, I think of Hank Hill. Hank’s an old-school guy in Arlen, Texas — working at Strickland Propane (‘taste the meat — not the heat’) — and drinking beers with his buddies, eating beef, fixing stuff with his hands, and is generally being the prototypical small-town American.
He’s small ‘c’ conservative, and so indicative of a certain type of North American; so much so that North Carolina’s double-term Democratic governor, Mike Easley, would base the explanation of his issues on whether or not the characters of King of the Hill would understand them or not.
Think about it — Hank & Co drive their pick-ups, shop at enormo-marts, eat in chain restaurants, mow their lawns, own guns, tinker with their cars, try not to make too much of a fuss, don’t have glamorous jobs, watch Nascar, and showcase the America that’s often overlooked by the huge coastal cities that dominate the media.
Hank Hill loves a flag too — so proud a Texan is he, that when a tornado rips all his clothes off, when given the choice of covering himself with a cactus or the state flag, he chooses the jeopardy of a cactus near his nether regions so he can spare the flag.
In short, Hank is exactly the type of person Donald Trump is aiming at.
Small-town Arlen may be, but it is a place on the rise. It is economically thriving — Hank finds his surroundings becoming more diverse and prosperous, and we get a laugh as he struggles to adapt to modernity and new ideas.
These liberals and their pilates and hugs are in contrast to Hank’s hilarious ill-ease with any form of intimacy. The libs encourage their children to be outspoken and work things out, while Hank is saving his outbursts to things like that “bastard gas” butane, or watching the Texas Longhorns.
Within this protestant sentimentality for work, a correct order of things, and things not changing too quickly, lies fear. People in Arlen would conceivably want a strong border and likely to be quick to be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t look like them, or doesn’t feel Texan-enough. There’s struggles with political correctness, old-America, and all that stuff that Trump has become so adept at poking with a stick.
There’s talk of a return for King of the Hill — but what would Hank Hill think of Donald Trump’s Republican party?
If you look at Hank’s meeting with George W. Bush, you’d have to imagine he’d be unimpressed with Trump as a man. At a campaign, Hank shakes the hand of Dubya after supporting him; he’s so mightily unimpressed with the quality of it (too soft and insincere) that he has a crisis over it, analysing videos of Dubya’s handshaking ability. Trump is a man with one of the worst handshakes in the world, and with his fake tan and little hands, you imagine it wouldn’t cut much cloth with Hank Hill.
If you consider Hank’s lack of tolerance for idiots, then Trump’s shrieking buffoonery would resolutely switch Hank off, even though you can imagine his neighbour Dale Gribble being 100% on the Trump Train, and an avid viewer of InfoWars — he’s already wearing a red cap, for crying out loud.
When Hank is accused of being racist after a black repairman is attacked by his dog Ladybird, it transpires that Hank’s main beef is with repairmen as a whole, and says: “a man should not be judged by the colour of his skin but by the actions of his heart”. When Hank’s wife Peggy says he’ll look racist for being rude to his Laotian neighbour Kahn, he says: “what the hell kind of country is this where I can only hate a man if he’s white?” Hank Hill would not be a fan of Trump’s race-baiting.
Hank’s prejudices are soft, but always see our man drawn toward the right conclusion — Trump’s are for self-benefit and aggressive persuasion.
If anything, Hank is something of an independent thinker, which translates into something like this: he’ll vote for anyone provided they care about the same rural values as him, and don’t disrespect what he stands for. He’s not a bigot, he’s willing to have his mind changed, but he really, really knows what he likes.
Can you imagine Trump — a spoiled brat from New York trying to explain a policy to Hank? Hill wouldn’t buy it from a man who likes his steak cooked well-done.
Does Trump look like a man who has ever had his hands in an engine or put up some shelves in his garage? Trump doesn’t even drink alcohol — Hank hasn’t poured away beer, “not even to put out a grass fire.”
Fact is, Hank is a man who embodies the kind of American that finds themselves in a jam right now — caught between two views that become more extreme, both courting him for a vote, but almost guaranteed to forget all about him once he’s out of the voting booth.
He wistfully recalled voting for Reagan and said he missed it; he also had respect for Democrat and Texan, Lyndon B. Johnson. There’s a type of leadership that Hank Hill likes, and it isn’t that displayed by the chaotic, attention-seeking style of politics displayed by DJT. You can almost imagine Hank saying “Make America great again? You meant to tell me you don’t think America is the greatest country on God’s green Earth? I tell you h-what, I should come over there and kick your ass.”
Hank Hill values a certain reservedness in a person, so when he’s faced with a man who has literally been taped saying “grab them by the pussy” (you can almost imagine Peggy telling Hank about it and replacing ‘pussy’ with ‘bathing suit area’ so she didn’t offend Ladybird sat nearby), a man who has paid off adult actresses after sleeping with them, a man with that hair, a man who rips off contractors, a man too friendly with the Russians… it’s going to give him a lot to wrestle with.
In short Hank Hill isn’t a poster-boy for conservatism, but rather, he’s a man who stands for decency, and Trump isn’t a decency kind of guy, with his gold offices, money brags, and everything else besides.
There are similarities, no question, especially when it comes to a longing for Old America. Also, when you look at Hill’s father Cotton — you can see Trump — and that’s not a good thing. You can imagine Hank seeing too much of his own blowhard dad in the 45th president of the USA; pointlessly agitated, complete with a trophy wife, and troll-like. When Cotton says “what do you think of mama’s new tatas?” to Hank, you can almost hear Trump saying it to Barron.
When it comes to having principles, Hank’s are pretty rock-solid — you can’t say the same for Donald J. Trump, and that’s something that wouldn’t sit easy in Hill’s stomach. Hank wants consistency — Trump wants carnage.
If there’s a King of the Hill episode based around Trump, you can imagine Hank rooting for Ted Cruz (with Bobby chipping in with “but isn’t he the Zodiac Killer?” gags) because he’s Texan. You can see Bill and Dale joining the Trump Train, and Boomhauer only being interested in a Trump rally for the opportunities it’ll give him to get some more notches on his bedpost. Peggy — who knows? Luanne would be all about Beto and Bernie, for sure.
Everyone knows that The United States of America is a polarised country — there’s a million think-pieces on it. However, in the sleepier parts of the country where life runs a little slower, the conversation is a little different to the opposing zingers from chat-show hosts and Fox News (they both serve the same function, and you imagine Hank watches neither).
Would Hank Hill vote Republican out of duty? He’d think hard about it, but ultimately, you feel like Trump would turn him away. So, would he cast a vote for Hillary? It’s hard to say. He’d definitely be riddled with self-doubt and more besides. Would he have chosen to vote for no-one? Absolutely not.
Only Mike Judge can answer this question, and if King of the Hill returns, you can only hope we get to see what Hank Hill would make of modern politics.