King of the Hill swing voters

The NYT magazine yesterday added to the new fad of identifying people's politics according to their TV viewing habits. Matt Bai makes the case for conservative viewers of King of the Hill, which includes middle-aged white males like Hank Hill himself. He argues this part of Red America is most likely to respond to a Democratic message which appeals to their sense of fairness and, well, basic human decency.

I'm not sure why Bai claims that the animated sitcom has a "general policy of eschewing politics," since most episodes of King of the Hill takes on explicitly political issues, including Title IX, environmental laws, workplace harassment, and anti-immigrant sentiments. And the moral of each episode is always clearly positioned on the left side of political spectrum. But Bai is right in arguing that progressives can learn a lot from the series in that it shows why political commitments must always be tempered by the reality of people's lives.

My favorite episode is one that sets up the liberal/conservative divide in terms of soccer vs. football. Soccer here symbolizes a Lakoffian nurturing parent worldview, and is therefore more attractive to Hank Hill's chubby sensitive son, who dislikes the rough-and-tumble brutality of football, made a lot worse by an abusive coach who terrorizes the kids in the name of tough love. Yet as both Bobby and his mother Peggy find, elitist soccer moms and the coach's "everyone wins" credo make the actual soccer games hard to like. Meanwhile, former high school quarterback Hank comes to the realization that his all-American sport could learn something about compassion and fairness from that weird European game. In the end, however, it's loyalty and affection and not ideology that wins the day.

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