U.S. Rep. Don Young

Don Young: Alaska’s Archie Bunker

For years, there’s been no comparison. Few, particularly the East Coast punditocracy, had no idea what to make of it when U.S. Rep. Don Young brandished his 18-inch long walrus penis bone on the House floor and waved it at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chief, who happened to be a woman. Or when he called environmentalists a “self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots.”

Or when he called anal sex an expletive that can’t be repeated here in front of a school assembly.

Or when he put his own wrist in a steel trap. Or when he endorsed and shot an ad for a Democratic Senatorial candidate over a fellow Republican. Or when he defended Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La., who came to this country as a child from Vietnam, for not toeing the party line on health care reform.

The love of his life, the late Lu, was Alaska Native, and he has two Alaska Native daughters from that marriage.

None of these things, nor the man himself, make for gluey moniker’s or easy catch phrases.

The Archie Bunker of the GOP, however, might have some staying power. This came from a Washington Post article entitled Don Young and the GOP’s Archie Bunker problem, after Young gave a speech where he referred to illegal aliens as “wetbacks,” in a Ketchikan radio interview.

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machines.”

It was a dunderheaded thing to say and shortly thereafter, Young issued an apology.

In 1954 the feds began a program called “Operation Wetback” to remove illegal Mexican immigrants from border states. The term lives on among a certain kind of person. And it’s that certain kind of person that the Republican Party these days want to keep their distance from, as evidenced by the statements made by those in his own party in the wake of the gaff.

The Democrats are foaming with glee. And the GOP is falling in line. One Republican operative went as far as to call Young “a dinosaur on the bridge of political insanity and irrelevance.”

Dinosaur he might be—he is, after all, 79 years old– but at least, unlike today’s young Turks, Young is willing to stand up to his party to protect someone in need of it, or cross the aisle and endorse a woman Democrat when he thinks it was the right thing to do.

For that, in this current partisan climate, one that he continually bemoans, he might indeed be insane.

The Archie Bunker of the GOP might stick. But is that really so bad? The show was one of the most popular shows in history and most remember it, and its leader character, fondly.  It was so beloved that Archie and Edith’s chair sit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

We looked on benevolently when Archie referred to Germans as “Krauts”, or Irish as “Micks”, Italians as “Dagos”, Polish persons as “Polacks.”

We did so because he was our grandfather, our father, our uncle and we knew that he could say those things and still mean well.

Young sometimes says and does some outrageous things and nobody will ever accuse him over being overly sensitive. But after his first election in 1973, and he’ll likely have that seat, a version of the Smithsonian chair, for as long as he wants. Alaska has chosen to keep him there because, just like Archie, though he sometimes says stupid things, he’s more than his gaffs.

Contact Amanda Coyne amanadamcoyne@yahoo.com

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6 thoughts on “Don Young: Alaska’s Archie Bunker

  1. Pingback: Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 10.7 | Amanda Coyne

  2. Charles Ek

    “It was a dunderheaded thing to say and shortly thereafter, Young issued an apology.”

    It’s telling that you omit some key facts. The fact is that he first claimed he “meant no disrespect” when he knew, like all the rest of us, that the word is a despicable slur. He only issued an apology after being rebuked publicly by Speaker John Boehner.

    Mr. Young is not a cute old grandpa. He’s a nasty bully whose long tenure in that House seat embarrasses Alaska on a regular basis.

    Reply
  3. Lee Goodman

    Good summary Amanda. I’ve voted against this guy maybe 17 times, ridiculed him, criticized him, mocked him, loathed him, told tasteless jokes about him, and worked for his opponents. And while I’m not sure whether he’s changed or I’ve changed (or we’ve both changed), my contempt for him has abandoned me. Yes, I think he is Archie Bunker. And whatever else one might say about him, at least he’s never boring.

    Reply
  4. Perry

    Don is very aware of others, and his words hurt, but hardly meant in a derogatory sense in
    that I know he regards all people with understanding. He should have said it differently but
    sadly in the future he will use the proper terminology. I only wish others who don’t use the
    word at all understand the plight of illegal workers and will work to solve their problem and
    our problem as well.

    Reply
  5. Paul Reed

    Thank you for being kind to Don. Most people like to be mean to the elderly. We are the only country in the world that locks our moms and dads up in nursing homes that smell like urine ( at worst) or minimum security
    Luxury prisons ( at best).

    Reply

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