Be like Mike | On Politics | Chicago Reader

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Be like Mike

Imagine if Jordan, not Obama, was the leader of the Democratic Party.

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President Obama finally got around to criticizing Donald Trump for his incompetence and idiocy in the face of the pandemic.

Don’t worry—you’re excused if you missed Obama’s criticism, which came in a national commencement address to college graduates.

Classic Obama. It was well written—“this pandemic has fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing—a lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

But it wasn’t blistering, forceful, or memorable. Obama didn’t even mention Trump’s name. As though it was beneath him to name the blundering nitwit who’s driving the country to ruin.

It’s got me thinking: What if the leader of the Democratic Party—the man most beloved by Democrats—were less like Obama and more like Mike? As in, Michael Jordan.

I’ve got Jordan on my brain these days after having just watched all ten episodes of The Last Dance, which I liked so much, I may watch it again. I know: help is needed.

Back to the Jordan / Obama analogy.

I realize politics is not Jordan’s thing. And that he’s a little, oh, cautious about getting political. Republicans buying sneakers and all that.

But follow me nonetheless.

When it comes to competition, Jordan never lets a grudge—any grudge—go to waste. He views every slight, no matter how trivial or unintended, as a monumental insult that demands revenge.

In contrast, Obama seems to hold no grudges. I’m not sure he even knows what the word means.

I remember him giving former downstate Congressman Aaron Schock a ride back to D.C. on Air Force One—trying to win his vote for the stimulus bill back in 2009.

Schock didn’t vote for it.

Jordan would have billed Schock for flying on the plane.

But, Obama? Hey, man, it’s good. Can’t we all get along? Obama kept pretending there was a bipartisan bone in the Republican body up until the day that Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even give Merrick Garland a hearing on the vacant Supreme Court seat.

Now, imagine if McConnell had blocked Jordan’s nominees. Man, Jordan would have cut off all federal aid to Kentucky right there and then. Fuck ’em—those dumbasses aren’t going to vote Democratic anyway.

Now, I’m not saying Jordan would be doing the right thing in this scenario. Just suggesting that Democrats be a little less eager to please as they head into this year’s election.

If nothing else this presidential race will be a referendum on two schools of politics. The scorch-the-earth strategy of Republicans, which has worked well for them. It won them the White House, a majority of Supreme Court justices, and the Senate—even though Trump got fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And the kumbaya—when they go low, we go high—strategy of Obama. Hence, subtlety and nuance as opposed to hitting the public over the head with a two-by-four. That strategy has worked out well for Obama—not so well for everyone else.

Consider these recent events: as the nation’s COVID-19 death toll mounted toward 100,000, Trump tweeted or re-tweeted an endless stream of hate and bilge at various Democrats, calling them skanks, making fun of their weight, their age. You know, typical Trump stuff.

Meanwhile, Trump and his backers act hurt and offended by Joe Biden’s “you ain’t Black” comment to Charlamagne tha God on the Breakfast Club radio show.

Nikki Haley—Trump’s former UN ambassador—tweeted that Biden’s comments were “gut-wrenchingly condescending.”

Nikki, Nikki, Nikki. I’ll believe you’re offended by bigotry and hate when I hear you denounce the MAGA-hat crowd protesting stay-at-home orders with their confederate flags, rifles, and signs with swastikas and Nazi slogans.

It’s like the Tara Reade thing all over again. Republicans were outraged that Democrats weren’t more outraged when Reade accused Biden of sexual assault. But not one Republican seems outraged at Trump for allegedly raping E. Jean Carroll.

Apparently, Republicans are OK with rape so long as it’s President Trump who’s doing the raping—allegedly. Just as they apparently have no problem with Nazis, so long as they vote for Trump.

Look, Charlamagne tha God was correct to hold Biden accountable for his commitments to Black communities. (And again, Biden: pick a Black woman as your running mate! We don’t need a female version of Tim Kaine.)

But when it comes to winning over Black voters, the Republican strategy goes like this: shower adulation on the handful of Black commentators or celebrities who support Trump.

And then do everything possible to keep as many Black people as they can from voting, knowing that Black voters have the power to win Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and other swing states for Biden.

That suppression includes knocking thousands of Black voters from the rolls, closing polling places in Black neighborhoods, and throwing Black people into jail for trying to vote—as Republican prosecutors did in North Carolina.

Just last weekend a federal judge ruled against Republican officials in Florida who were trying to keep felons—many of whom are Black or Latino—from voting without paying what amounts to a poll tax.

Nikki Haley and the Republicans are awfully quiet about suppressing the Black vote. That’s because they know it’s really the only way they can reelect Trump.

I wish President Obama, Biden, and other Dems would shout from the rooftops about the voting-rights injustices in Florida, North Carolina, and other Republican states. But that’s not their style.

I can think of one Democrat who knows how to beat Republicans—Illinois house speaker Michael Madigan. He’s a little Jordanesque, in his own way—never forgets a grudge, always goes for the jugular. He’ll kick your ass and then carve up an apple as his reward—like Jordan lighting up a victory cigar.

Now there’s a political Mike for Dems to be like.

Remember, Dems, the second-place finishers don’t win championship rings. And the runner-ups don't nominate Supreme Court justices.  v

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