The Archie Bunker Vote (United States Elections, 1972)
Archie and Edith Bunker at their famous spinet piano
Those Were the Days was the top-rated program on television in the 1971-72 season (despite being virtually ignored in its first season), and unlike nearly all American sitcoms that had come before, it was unabashedly topical, and refused to shy away from covering controversial topics. The show also refused to appear neutral or unbiased, consistently taking a liberal tack to most issues of the day. But the broad spectrum of opinions held by many people on most matters were ably represented by the four main characters in the Bunker household. And indeed, their perspectives would also become a microcosm of those presented by the candidates seeking office in the elections of November, 1972; the campaign leading up to which becoming a constant touchstone of plots and character interactions.
Richard Higgins, the "Meathead", was played by Richard Dreyfuss. He was intended as a shining example of the "modern man": the adult Baby Boomer, the new generation. He repudiated many traditional American values, though he embraced others – or at least, he claimed to embrace them. The decision was made to play the character as a stereotype of the conservative boogeyman – bleeding-heart, limousine liberal, ivory-tower intellectual, unmanly – though their success in doing so was limited.  Dreyfuss played the character as milquetoast and deferential to all of those whom he did not wish to offend: his wife and his friend, the African-American Lionel Jefferson, in particular.
His father-in-law, on the other hand, was a different story. Richard had an unfortunate tendency to believe that he
knew what was best for everyone else in his life; though he could not really be described as pushy
, condescending fit very nicely.
Gloria Bunker-Higgins, the "little goil", was played by Penny Marshall. The writers – including star Carroll O'Connor – faced considerable difficulty in crafting the character, an unapologetic feminist who fought for women's rights. Marshall herself took an active role in Gloria's development, inviting the frequent comparisons to the character's mother, a conventional housewife who was eternally deferential to her chauvinistic husband
. Though Gloria's views were generally liberal, she was more independent-minded than Richard, and took a more "common sense" tack to societal problems.  She worked full-time as a clerk in order to support her husband, a career student. She and her mother were very close; and though Gloria did love her father, she fought with him almost as frequently as her husband did.
Edith Bunker, the "Dingbat", was played by Jean Stapleton. Her character was an oasis of warmth and compassion in the often combative Bunker household, and without question, she was the only character with whom all the others got along. Perhaps only her husband occasionally refused to react to her good cheer in kind, though she in turn was the only one who really seemed to understand him. Indeed, she was without question the wisest character on the show, despite her leaps of "illogical logic" that came to rival even Gracie Allen in her heyday; hence her nickname.
She was the only one of the four central characters who could not be described as "realistic", and was not meant to represent a segment of society; however, her portrayal by Stapleton emphasized her humanity.
And then there was Archie Bunker himself, the "lovable bigot", played by Carroll O'Connor. Not nearly as abrasive or as mean-spirited as his inspiration, Alf Garnett, Archie was portrayed sympathetically; he was a victim of circumstance, namely, those same "good old ways" that he so staunchly defended. Stories generally used one of two means to arrive at this end: either the plot would demonstrate that societal changes were indeed making things better for everyone; or his continuing resistance to make new changes, or adapt to them, would result in Archie becoming worse off than he was before.  It was the primary objective of showrunner Norman Lear that Archie always be proven wrong before the end of each episode; O'Connor favoured a more nuanced approach. He was not fond of ivory-tower types like Richard, and often encouraged storylines that put both Archie and
Richard in the wrong; in those cases, Gloria or (especially) Edith would be vindicated. Audiences, for their part, instantly took to Archie; everyone
knew an Archie, and indeed, some of them were
Archie. But even those who did not agree with the character ideologically found him easy to like, and to relate to. Lear insisted
that Archie was popular because audiences enjoyed laughing at
him; the truth was a good deal more complex than that.
Throughout the early 1970s, polls generally showed incumbent President Hubert H. Humphrey (or Herbert A. Hump-free, as the malapropism-prone Archie often referred to him) with a commanding lead; certain of his policies (ending the overseas quagmire, aggressive racial integration) met with some resistance – particularly with Archie himself, as he made very clear on numerous episodes of Those Were the Days – but on the whole, his Great Society agenda was met with approval by the American people, continuing the liberal consensus of the post-New Deal era.  Richard and Gloria were both Humphrey supporters, though with differing levels of fervour: Gloria liked him well enough, whereas Richard, though a passionate supporter of some of his policies, would occasionally lament his relative moderation, expressing a preference for more liberal candidates, such as Eugene McCarthy.
The field of Republicans seeking to defeat Humphrey was fairly large, but more noteworthy were those who had declined the opportunity: former Vice-President Richard Nixon, who had staged a strong comeback from seeming oblivion in 1968, held firm to his refusal to return to the political arena, refusing any interviews or queries on the subject: his famous quote on the matter was "All I have to say to you is something that can't be printed in tomorrow's paper." Another, more surprising, withdrawal came later, when presumed frontrunner, conservative Governor Ronald Reagan of California, opted out of the race. He would eternally cite his interest in continuing to serve the fine people of the Golden State as the primary factor in this decision; but his aides would later admit that he was turned off by polls showing Humphrey comfortably ahead, coupled with the presence of George Wallace, running as a third-party candidate. Reagan believed that he and Wallace appealed to the same core constituency – the white working-class, who, in one of the greatest legacies of Those Were the Days, came to be known as the "Archie Bunker vote".
In Reagan's absence, the natural frontrunner was Nelson Rockefeller (rendered in Archie-ism as that Rocky Nelson fellah), the liberal Governor of New York, who had finished second in 1964, to another conservative, Barry Goldwater. An elder statesman of the party, Rockefeller naturally had the largest cash advantage of any candidate, and also had strong support – and strong opposition. Another returning candidate was Senator George Romney of Michigan  – who had run in 1968, while sitting as Governor of the Wolverine State. Despite his strong credentials, he could not recover from the mistakes of his previous, disastrous campaign – the famous "brainwashed" remark in particular continued to haunt him. But he was Rockefeller's only real competition amongst moderates, though in the end he only won two states in the primaries: his home state of Michigan, along with Utah, bulwark of his Mormon coreligionists (and, ironically, a very conservative state otherwise). Among the major conservative candidates were Rep. John Ashbrook of Ohio, Sen. John Tower of Texas, and Gov. Paul Laxalt of Nevada.  Ashbrook, being a mere Congressman, could not build a significant infrastructure; Tower dropped out of the Presidential race early, to focus on running for re-election to the Senate and preventing several upwardly mobile House members from nipping at his heels. Laxalt thus emerged as the conservative candidate and the only real threat to Rockefeller. As a natural proxy for Reagan, Laxalt became good friends with the Gipper during the primary campaign; that friendship would endure throughout their careers.
But eventually, Rockefeller prevailed, finally given the chance to carry the Republican banner into a Presidential election. Needing to choose a conservative running-mate in order to balance the ticket, he selected one of his strongest supporters: Gov. Daniel J. Evans of Washington State. This would serve to balance the ticket geographically, as well as ideologically. On Those Were the Days, Edith supported Rockefeller, against the protests of both her husband and her son-in-law (relatively muted, as both would much rather attack the politics of the other). She praised his long years of service as their Governor, and believed that he would make a fine President. Gloria, though a committed Humphrey supporter, admired Rockefeller and claimed that she would not object to his winning the Presidency. Richard refused to qualify his support for Humphrey in the same way, claiming vehemently that Rockefeller's party would bring their agenda into the White House. Archie, though he had voted for Rockefeller in the past, did not care for his liberal policies, and, like Richard, often described him as "just as bad" as the other candidate that he opposed.
And then there was Gov. George Wallace (George E. Wall-izz), the staunch segregationist from Alabama, who, incensed by Humphrey's liberalism and his racial policies, decided to turn his 1968 vehicle for a Presidential run into a legitimate third party. The American Party, as it became known (though many commentators continued to refer to it as the American Independent Party, listed in short-form as AIP) appeared on the ballot in 49 states, absent only from Hawaii.  Wallace extended his attempt to thwart an Electoral College majority for Humphrey by running House and Senate candidates, in hopes of preventing one for the Democrats in Congress as well. Wallace scored a bipartisan coup when the extremely conservative Republican Congressman, John G. Schmitz of California, offered to serve as his running-mate.  The American Party campaign was unabashedly populist and nativist; in searching for a symbol for their party, they were aided by an editorial cartoonist, who chose the turkey – which, unlike both the donkey and the elephant, was native to American shores. The turkey was also seen as proud, stubborn, and folksy, much like Wallace. Intended as, at the very least, a ribbing of Wallace's ideals, if not an all-out condemnation, the American Party co-opted the symbol wholeheartedly. The turkey, being a fowl, much like the NBC peacock, inspired one of the more subtly racist slogans of the 1972 election: Vote for turkeys, and stay away from peacocks – a derogatory reference to NBC's popularity with black audiences.
Unsurprisingly, this was one of the few elements of the campaign that did not
percolate into Those Were the Days
, which aired on CBS.
As the campaign wore on, it became increasingly clear that despite Humphrey's strengths at governing, he was far from the best at campaigning; though he was certainly not helped by considerable voter fatigue with total control by the Democratic Party, who had held the Presidency and both houses of Congress since 1961. A critical decision, to allow the first televised debates since the famous Kennedy-Nixon match of 1960, was later perceived to have severely damaged his chances for re-election; for he was outmatched in oratory by both Rockefeller and Wallace, who naturally took very different – but equally successful – approaches to debating with him. In this regard, Muskie proved a valuable asset, for he easily triumphed over Evans and Schmidt in the lone Vice-Presidential debate.
By contrast, Evans proved something of a drag on Rockefeller; one of the campaign's biggest scandals broke out when one of his aides was discovered to be eavesdropping on the Humphrey campaign.
Map of Presidential election results. Red denotes states won by Humphrey and Muskie; Blue denotes those won by Rockefeller and Evans; Gold denotes those won by Wallace and Schmidt. (Note also that a faithless elector in South Carolina cast his vote for Wallace and Schmidt, instead of Rockefeller and Evans; this is not indicated on the map above.)
Turnout for the election was approximately 55%, or just above 78 million. Humphrey and Muskie carried 22 states out of 50 (along with the District of Columbia), which translated to 276 electoral votes out of 538; in contrast to Rockefeller and Evans, who won 23 states but only 217 electoral votes (though they were entitled to 218). Wallace and Schmidt won the remaining five states and 45 electoral votes. A large number of states were marginal, won by fewer than five points in either direction.
Though the electoral vote was relatively close, the popular vote was closer still. Humphrey had a lead of just over one-and-a-half million votes; approximately 35 million to 33.5 million. This translated to a victory margin of slightly more than 2% of the vote: 44.8% to 42.7%. Wallace received over 9 million votes, or almost 12%. The Socialist Workers Party won 50,000 votes; no other ticket received more than 25,000 votes nationwide, though Governor Ronald Reagan received over 20,000 write-in votes in his native California.
Despite Wallace's efforts, the Democrats (narrowly) retained control of the House, returning 220 representatives; majority control required 218. The Republicans elected 204 members; the American Party saw 11 of their candidates elected. This was the largest Congressional delegation of any third-party throughout the 20th century to date.  Alabama Rep. Walter Flowers, a close Wallace ally, and a relative moderate within his party, was chosen as House Leader. Because of Wallace's strength in his home state, he co-opted the entire Democratic Party machine, and the American Party became known in that state as the American Democratic Party of Alabama, or ADP. The National Democratic faction, opposed to Wallace, avowed their loyalty to the federal Democrats, officially becoming the National Democratic Party of Alabama, or NDP.
The ADP won most of the local offices up for election in the state, and took control of the State House. The Republicans, though they managed to win two seats in the state's Congressional delegation, were utterly marginalized.
Sen. John Sparkman, running for re-election in the Heart of Dixie, remained neutral, and his friendship with Wallace allowed for his re-election as an Independent Democrat, joining Harry F. Byrd of Virginia. The two joined the Democrats and the Republicans, tied at 48 seats apiece; New York Conservative James L. Buckley; and the lone AIP Senator, Lester Maddox of Georgia.  With both Independents caucusing with the Democratic Party, this gave them exactly half of the seats in the upper house, resulting in the need for Vice-President Muskie to remain on-hand to break ties.  The Republicans did surprisingly well in several southern states, thanks to strong support from such established figures as Strom Thurmond (who had himself run a third-party campaign for President in 1948); South Carolina Gov. Albert Watson  and Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, both of whom governed states that swung from Wallace to Rockefeller; and Winthrop Rockefeller, former Governor of Arkansas and brother to the Presidential candidate, who campaigned for him throughout the South.
Those Were the Days followed the campaign throughout 1972, and anticipated it throughout 1971. The second episode of the series, "Writing the President", featured Richard writing a letter of praise to President Humphrey, which inspires Archie to write a condemnation, famously imagining his scathing criticisms being read on-air in a dream sequence. Episodes produced in the second season included "The Election Story", airing in late 1971, and covering a local election (in which it is revealed that Archie last voted for Rockefeller – in 1958) ; and "The Man in the Street", in which Archie is polled to answer a topical question, and will appear on that evening's news with Walter Cronkite. However, not all episodes were so narrowly focused. A purely comedic episode featuring Sammy Davis, Jr. was one of the most highly-regarded. Two episodes also featured Edith's cousin Maude Findlay, the antithesis of Archie, played by veteran stage actress Beatrice Arthur; the second would serve as a backdoor pilot for her own series, "Maude", which premiered in the 1972-73 season.
 Richard is essentially an effete milquetoast; basically the "Sensitive New Age Guy" before his time. His passion for left-wing politics is more intellectual, his convictions more patronizing. He's also more fastidious in his appearance. Contrast Michael from All in the Family, who was loudmouthed, hot-headed, and obnoxious. It's not easier to like Richard than it is to like Michael, but it's harder to dislike him.
 Gloria on All in the Family was a classic case of Depending On The Writer; Sally Struthers, in turn, was only as good as the material she was given. Marshall, a more consistent performer than Struthers, also seeks greater creative input (a logical assumption, given her eventual directorial career IOTL). Thus the contrast of the modern young woman with her mother strengthens the interactions between both characters. She's also more assertive in general, to compensate for Richard being more passive.
 Archie's portrayal is slightly more sympathetic ITTL, given the overall theme of his generation being left behind, or being forced to adapt to the rapidly changing society. This ties in nicely to O'Connor's interpretation, held even IOTL, viewing Archie and his ignorance as victims of circumstance. To compensate for this, he is the aggressor more often in his confrontations with Richard, whereas on All in the Family he and Michael were about equally quarrelsome.
 Given the candidates, 1972 is often reckoned as the height of the liberal consensus, much as 1924 was reckoned as the height of the conservative consensus IOTL. In both cases, a strong third-party candidate emerges to challenge that paradigm.
 The Archie Bunker vote was a real-life phenomenon – and it spoke to the tremendous cultural cachet of the show that it was already being discussed ahead of the 1972 election. All in the Family correctly predicted that they would overwhelmingly break for Nixon; IOTL, Tricky Dick carried Archie's native Queens, the last Republican candidate to do so. ITTL, though Wallace does not wins Queens outright, it is his best New York City borough by a considerable margin (Brooklyn and Staten Island are too "ethnic" to vote AIP in large numbers).
 Romney was appointed Secretary for Housing and Urban Development by President Richard Nixon in 1969 IOTL; here, Nixon is not elected, and Romney accordingly finishes his term as Governor of Michigan. Deciding that he would need foreign policy experience for a later run at the Presidency, he runs for the Senate in 1970, narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Philip A. Hart. (IOTL, his wife Lenore ran instead, as a proxy, and was defeated by Hart in a landslide.)
 Laxalt did not seek re-election to the office of Governor in 1970 IOTL.
 For obvious reasons, the AIP also does not appear on the ballot in DC.
 Schmitz was defeated for renomination to his Congressional seat in the 1972 election IOTL, thanks to finagling by none other than President Richard Nixon. Here, he becomes enraged at Rockefeller's nomination as Presidential candidate, and decides to abandon the GOP in protest. Schmitz was the AIP candidate for President that year IOTL; here he settles for joining Wallace on the ticket. Andrew J. Hinshaw wins the nomination contest to replace Schmitz, and is duly elected to replace him.
 All eleven AIP/ADP Congressmen are from the South: 4 from Alabama, 3 from Louisiana, and one each from Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Both the Democrats and the Republicans make a point of not inviting those members to caucus with them.
 Maddox would become the AIP candidate for President in 1976 IOTL. Here, he runs for Senate while sitting as the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, narrowly defeating Democrat Sam Nunn (the OTL victor) and Republican Fletcher Thompson in a three-way race.
 Among the candidates to be returned to the Senate are Republicans Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, and Gordon L. Allott of Colorado. Among those challengers to be defeated are Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware, and AIP candidate Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Note that the tally includes changed election results in the previous election, including Romney's victory in Michigan.
 Watson lost the 1970 gubernatorial election IOTL; here, he narrowly succeeds.
 "Writing the President", IOTL, naturally had Michael writing a letter critical of Nixon, and Archie writing a letter of praise in response. The Rockefeller tidbit in "The Election Story" replaces an OTL tidbit, in which it is revealed that Archie last voted for Nixon - in 1960.
Special thanks to vultan for his assistance and very helpful suggestions on this update!
So there you have it, the 1972 election results, and the continuing broadcast history of Those Were the Days, provided in more or less equal measures. It's certainly not all sunshine and roses for the USA; the population, as IOTL, is highly politicized and increasingly polarized. We can only be grateful that everything seems to be going smoothly, now and for the foreseeable future. Though things can always change...
To those of you who dislike politics, I apologize. I promise that this will be the high-water mark of political coverage for quite some time to come. As always, I aspire to cover all aspects of TTL from a pop culture perspective, and I will continue to do so in the future.
Last edited by Brainbin; March 8th, 2012 at 07:35 PM..