Blue Ball

Marc Abrams

No, I’m not talking about the small town in Pennsylvania Dutch county. I’m talking NBA basketball, baby! (as Dick Vitale would say.)

For the next two weeks, I’ll be a rabid Detroit Pistons fan, and so, too, should you.

It’s simple: Michigan is Blue; Texas is red. Really, really red. Detroit votes Democratic, San Antonio is a Republican town. The teams are even emblematic of party affiliation. Detroit’s team is the Pistons: an industrial product made in union shops by UAW members. Spurs are worn by folks who let overfed livestock graze on federally subsidized grasslands while pretending they are self-reliant and never took a handout. The Pistons are hustling, sweating, hard working, blue collar basketball players. The Spurs are cocktails after the sales meeting, all smooth, corporate and sanded edges.

Okay, so the Pistons have Rasheed Wallace, Portland’s favorite whipping post. Get past it. Look at what Michigan and Texas have given the world.

Must I remind you of not one, but two Bushes? By contrast, even when Michigan produces a Republican, it’s the amiable and bumbling Gerald Ford. Governors: Jennifer Granholm, the Democrats’ reason for repealing the ban on foreign-born candidates for President vs. Rick Perry, the Democrats’ reason for repealing Texas’ statehood. Senators: Debbie Stabenow and that magnificent legislator Carl Levin vs. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Martha Stewart of the Senate and John Cornyn, who apparently learned so little from his time on the Texas Supreme Court that he leads the charge for muzzling judges. The same Texas Supreme Court that, by the way, that gave us Alberto Gonzales and Priscilla Owens. The Texas Supreme Court is a spawning ground for reactionary higher appointments. What has the Michigan Supreme Court done to you lately? Congress: John Dingell vs. Tom DeLay. Case closed.

So unless you’re a redneck with a longneck whose hands involuntarily clench into a "hook ‘em horns" sign at the beginning of every college football season, this should be an easy call for you.

Vote Detroit. Go Pistons!

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    Marc, great post! As a rabid Blazer fan as well as a passionate Dem, I've never been able to reconcile the two. Your post has now given me a logical tie-in to the two.

    Marc shoots! He scores!


  • Wayne Kinney (unverified)

    Sunday, while sitting in the Sea-Tac airport, some friends and I happened to strike up a conversation with a couple from Staten Island, who were, as you might guess, devoted Yankee fans. They saw my ever-present Red Sox hat and looked at me with the eyes of an enemy, until I told them that I was a DNC member and was returning home from our Western Caucus meeting in Montana. It turns out they were staunch Democrats and we began a very pleasant conversation while I hid my hat. I've never liked mixing politics and sports -- otherwise Kerry's loss would have canceled out the Red Sox victory in the World Series. By the way, there isn't much federal grazing land in Texas, if any. Those Texans must be getting their subsidies in other ways.

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    And don't forget, if the Pistons win again, Rasheed gets to go back to the White House - where he can reprise his quote to reporters from last year (as reported here on about meeting the President.

    "I don't have [expletive] to say to him. I didn't vote for him. It's just something we have to do."
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    Marc, if you stick to the teams, I guess I'm with you. But you lose me after that. Texas gets more credit for W I guess, but HW was son of a Senator from Connecticut, raised there, went to prep school in New England and Yale. Texas gave us Lyndon Johnson, who screwed up in Vietnam, but who also spent all his white Southern political capital to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 passed. In 1972 George Wallace won the Michigan Democratic primary with 43% of the vote.

    Texas deserves credit for Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Buddy Holly and Austin City Limits. I also have some sort of memory of Michigan having a Tommy Thompson-like R governor in the '90s or maybe late '80s. I believe that last year Michigan was considered a battleground state.

    Cattle country in Texas is only in West Texas. Lots of blue collar Texans in oil and chemical industries to east & along the Gulf Coast. Oil workers' former union, OCAW (now merged with Paperworkers) was one of the most progressive (Karen Silkwood, a union member was driving to meet an OCAW organizer when she died) and had strong, forward-looking policies on environment and worker health and industrial conversion. Many Texas working people are African-American and Mexican-American.

    Dems should not write off Texas. DeLay's need to do his gerrymander redistricting power play reflected that R dominance could not be counted on to the degree he wanted. Fighting there will be harder as a result, but one problem with this whole stupid red state blue state business, and it is stupid, is that it leads to writing off states and people.

  • Kent (unverified)

    Ahh...Chill out Marc:

    You obviously don't know San Antonio. Metro San Antonio is predominently Hispanic and the actual city even more so. It's poorer than the other major cities in Texas and generally Democratic. Hispanic San Antonio really has nothing to do with Texas oil or Republican West Texas ranch country.

    Yes, Bush won San Antonio in 2004 but relatively narrowly and that was with Kerry completely ignoring the state. Not one single Kerry ad ever ran in Texas and neither Kerry nor Edwards ever showed their face. About the only more reliably Democratic parts of Texas are the Rio Grande Valley, border region, and Austin.

    In fact, just yesterday San Antonio just elected it's first openly lesbian Hispanic Councilwoman Elena Guajardo.

    As for what's Detroit given us? For one, some of the worst cars I've ever owned.

    And I'd be willing to give 100-1 odds that if you were forced to chose, you'd pick San Antonio over Detroit if you had to pick one of the other to live in.

    In any event, take the cities out of it and San Antonio clearly has the more compelling cross-cultural team. And when was the last time one of the Spurs was arrested?

  • Brian Wagner (unverified)

    This conversation tires me, because everyone has flawlessly transitioned from sports to politics. I just want to see Ben Wallace push Tim Duncan too far, and have Duncan pull a Nolan Ryan on the upstart (someone please tell me they know what i'm talking about...)

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    Add Barbara Jordan to that list of Molly Ivins, Buddy Holly et al.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    It took me decades to convince myself that being a Yankee fan was just not consistent with my political and economic values. Just my luck, the Mariners now suck.

  • Jonathan (unverified)

    And let's not forget that Texas is up to nine executions so far this year ... leading the nation in state-sponsored killing.

  • afs (unverified)

    Just one problem with your theory, Marc. Using your rules, I could potentially have to root for the Yankees at some point in the future. I'll give up watching sports altogether before that happens.

    And Rasheed... grrrrrrrrr... When a player is so wildly unpopular that he makes NBA fans around the world hark back fondly of their memories of the glory days of Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, well...

    With all that said, I'll take Detroit and live in Detroit 100 times out of 100 over any place in Texas. Sign me up as rooting for the Pistons in this one. Just find me seats behind a big hard-working UAW member to watch it from. Hopefully, he'll stand up and yell through the whole series and obstruct my view of Rasheed for all seven games.

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    Nah... I've been to Detroit. You couldn't pay me to live in that bombed-out segregated hellhole of a city. Entire blocks of burned out buildings and evacuated neighborhoods.

    Haven't been to San Antonio, but hear it's fairly cosmopolitan with a vibrant downtown area.

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    I'm in the let's-not-mix-sports-and-politics camp. Sports, like beer can be such a nonpartisan uniter. But while we're on the subject of Texas--why isn't it a blue state? Anyone foresee a time when it becomes one?

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    Don't forget that Texas also gave you me. ; )

    Texas is not really, really red. I wish Democracts would stop looking at it that way. We are never going to take back Congress and the White House as long as we look at Texas as a state we can't win.

    Democrats held the majority of Congressional seats until DeLay took his hedge trimmers to the map. We also held the governor's mansion, state legislature, state-wide offices, etc. until the in-party fighting started in the late 80s, early 90s.

    There are a LOT of Democrats in Texas. The problem is that they are L-A-Z-Y. Texas does not have you register beforehand as being a member of a certain party (like Oregon does). You declare this the day of the primary. As such, if people aren't voting in the primary, you don't have accurate numbers showing who belongs to what party.

    The numbers in Texas are much, much closer than people may think. We CAN win Texas. We choose not to. And because we chose not to do anything in Texas, the Republicans were able to fix the vote in counties across the state (vote a Democratic straight ticket and your presidential vote goes to Bush).

    San Antonio is a beautiful city. It is one of my favorite places to visit in the state-- I've been there 5 or so times during the 22 years I lived in Texas. I'd love to go and visit again. The layout of the main part of the city is wonderful, making it very easy to get around without a vehicle.

    I'm by far not a redneck, and I don't show a "Hook 'em Horns"-- I do a "Gig 'em Aggies." I also happen to be a Houston Rockets fan. And even though I was rooting for Detroit to make it to the finals, I will be rooting for San Antonio now.

  • Suzii (unverified)

    Isn't Jennifer Granholm the one who pulled state employees' domestic partner benefits EVEN THOUGH nobody was putting any pressure on her to do so or offering anything in exchange, just because it made her happy?

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    Also, in regards to Rick Perry...

    I seriously doubt that he has any chance at becoming President. You think Bush is stupid? He's a genius compared to Perry.

    Perry won in Texas because of Bush's coattails. That doesn't work for President unless you are the VP, which he isn't. He also doesn't have the name recognition that Bush did.

    Also, Kay Bailey has been building a huge war chest for years even though she never has a serious opponent. She is the one more likely to run for something like the presidency. Many think she may go for governor next time so that she can get the executive office experience first.

    As to Texas' two Senators being Republican-- that's what happens with the DNC virtually ignores the great candidates who run for those positions.

    We had a great guy running in 1996 for one of the Senate seats. He could have done a lot better had he received support from the DNC.

    However, it seems that Dems just want to write off Texas (as well as much of the south, for that matter). In the meantime, we've gone from barely losing races to getting beat. Nobody wants to run for anything big down there because they know they aren't going to get any support.

    The tide is changing, though. People are getting tired of all of these Christian Coalition Republicans. This last month, my own hometown school board began to change. The CC Repub incumbents lost or chose not to run again because the numbers weren't looking good. The town got a new, more progressive mayor.

    Now this is the town in Texas that is known as the sister town to Vidor (do a quick Google on Vidor, you'll find plenty on white supremacists, hate crimes, and lynchings) and went to the Supreme Court in 2000 (Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe) in regards to church in the schools. A case the town lost, but continued to allow prayer at football games, in classes, and more. It's also a town that in 1981 held the big rally against Vietnamese fishermen in which the KKK incited violence against the Vietnamese (if I remember correctly, the movie Alamo Bay is about this incident).

    And this isn't the only place it is happening-- news reports from across the Houston-Galveston area (my home area, thus the area I pay attention to the most) showed these Republican incumbents being beaten out by people much more progressive.

    Instead of hating Texas and casting them off, why doesn't every Democrat across the nation adopt the state and help us win it? Help the state party become more organized. Help each county to become more organized. Raise money to get staffers into the state. Help support candidates who are taking on people like Hutchison, Cornyn, DeLay, etc.

  • LT (unverified)

    We had a great guy running in 1996 for one of the Senate seats. He could have done a lot better had he received support from the DNC. However, it seems that Dems just want to write off Texas (as well as much of the south, for that matter). In the meantime, we've gone from barely losing races to getting beat. Nobody wants to run for anything big down there because they know they aren't going to get any support.

    I remember that well--Victor something? High school teacher who drove around in a pickup truck. Great speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention where he showed a slingshot and spoke of smiting the "Phillistine" because he was running against Phil Gramm. Good looking Hispanic man maybe in his 40s?

    This gets to the core of how Democrats win. That great candidate had won a primary against one or more members of Congress (if it weren't 9 years ago I would remember more details) and blew away the DSCC people who had planned on the Congressman winning. I really wonder if they knew how to react to someone they didn't predict winning a primary.

    That was the year I registered Independent after the Oregon primary, being so fed up with game playing in the Democratic Party. While I have twice since voted in Democratic primaries having registered that way to do so, I think of myself as an Independent-leaning Democrat.

    This, I think, goes to a root problem with the Democratic Party. It can be the party of ideologues ("what the left needs to learn to win" or claiming all unions should be unquestioningly supported--even when they endorse Republicans?). It can be the party of "money is all that matters and only professionals know how the game is played" where candidates and volunteers take orders from some central authority. OR it can be the party that wins elections by appealing to ordinary folks who don't live and breathe politics and by realizing that the views of of voters in Grant or Harney County might be different than those in Marion County or Coos County or Clackamas County, etc.

    Last night on NBC, they showed the annual tribute to college grads with excerpts of famous people giving graduation speeches. Tom Browkaw said the big lesson is that real life isn't college, and it isn't high school. "Real life is junior high" he said.

    That was certainly how I felt in discussing 1996 election results with some people who were angry that Tom Bruggere hadn't won the Senate election. He had money and powerful friends--what else should anyone ask for?

    In 1996, I wished I could have contributed to that wonderful Texas candidate or even worked on that campaign. He was an inspiring man who was an eloquent speaker. I was a huge fan.

    But when I had the "gall" to mention to some people I had known for years in Democratic politics that the Texas Senate candidate had done better in a state Dole carried than Oregon's Democratic nominee had done in a state Clinton carried (HOW DARE I quote raw votes and percentages to people whose opinions were supposed to carry more weight than fact!) I really did feel like I was back in jr. high where what really counted was who's "cool" and "in" and who isn't.

    If Howard Dean as DNC chair can organize Democrats all over the country to win races in all states like the Dean Dozen and Dean Endorsed candidates won some unexpected victories, then it won't matter what soundbites are on the national news. Lest we forget, there are what some of us might call major news stories that people who have busy lives are barely aware of.

    The secret to winning elections is to convince more people to vote for your candidate than for the other candidate. And votes for someone who gave an impressive speech, someone who once helped out a friend with a problem, the guy who lives down the street, or the young man who a woman in your office watched grow up all earn the same one vote as the votes for the "in " candidate, the candidate with the "best" consultant, or the candidate who takes orders from some political group.

    I am a native of Michigan, and Michigan Republicans were always more moderate and common sense than most Southern/ Texas Republicans. My Grandfather was elected statewide in Michigan. He might be described in current terms as a combination of John McCain, Ben Westlund, Peter Courtney. I inherited the clippings and my guess is that reporters loved him for his candid remarks and willingness to talk about proposals in detail and answer questions. He stood up for what he believed in. Growing up in Michigan, I was aware of how many people remembered him as a colorful character who got things done.

    This is the choice Democrats face: is it better to have quality candidates who think for themselves and can connect with voters, or is it better to follow a formula which pleases consultants and "political professionals" whether it works or not?

    That is a debate worth having.

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    That's the one-- Victor Morales.

    We passed around gas cans at the Texas State Democratic Convention, held in Dallas that year. We filled it with money to put gas in his tank so he could continue driving around the state.

    He was a great candidate and I am happy to have done some volunteering on his campaign.

    The problem is that Democrats seem afraid to take on any race that looks difficult. And if someone runs in one of those races-- and does fairly well, but doesn't win-- it is seen as a loss and the person/seat is written off.

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