Elephant Beers

As the Democrats cruise, the Sonics—and their fans—lose.

On Nov. 7, a friend and I rekindled a years-long tradition of meeting as early as possible in a bar we wouldn't normally inhabit to drink and watch election returns. That night, we and some friends hit the Elephant & Castle pub at the bottom of the downtown Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue. People were cheering wildly as it became apparent, very early in the evening, that the Democrats would reclaim Congress. It was as though a local sports team were beating the defending world champs or something.

Turns out, at the very same time those returns were flowing in, a local sports team was beating the defending champs—although, among the half-dozen TVs within my sight line, not a one was tuned to sports. The Sonics were the team in question, leading for much of the game before losing a hard-fought battle on the defending champ Miami Heat's home court, 90-87. The fact that politics trumped the city's only major professional titleholder proved fitting: Initiative 91, known as the "anti-Sonic initiative," sailed to victory by a wide margin. Per The Seattle Times: "[New Sonic owner Clay] Bennett said the team will honor its lease at KeyArena, which expires in 2010, 'and then hopes to relocate to a new facility outside of Seattle but within King County.'"

We'll see how long it takes for the county Oklahoma City's in to change its name to King, but let's take a moment to ponder the doomsday scenario in this, the Sonics' 40th season. The overwhelming passage of I-91 was nothing less than a big, fat fuck-you-very-much from the city's residents to a franchise that's brought a lot of loyal, hardworking people many a fond memory.

Supporters might argue that Tuesday's vote was a long-overdue rejection of corporate welfare. Maybe so, but don't forget that around the time the Mariners and Seahawks were asking for half-billion-dollar playgrounds on taxpayers' backs, the Sonics quietly went about retrofitting KeyArena for a relative pittance. For the Sonics to be the team that might skip town on account of stadium fatigue is only too ironic.

But enough about sports; let's get to the '08 crystal ball, shall we? My predictions: (1) With Congress safely stowed away for the D's, Jim McDermott will draw a very serious primary challenger for the first time in forever. (2) Seeing as they're essentially backed by the same New Democrat power players, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will not square off against one another in the presidential primary. Clinton will let Obama take on likely Republican nominee John McCain, and bide her time for 2012 or 2016, using the interim to continue to surprise people with her diligence, sincerity, and ability to work across the aisle. (3) Having said McCain will be the likely nominee, I'm betting he either: (a) faces a health crisis that prevents him from running or (b) loses his marbles on the trail. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will end up being the party's nominee, and will lose a squeaker to Obama, the Dems' brightest star since Kennedy (JFK, that is—not red-nosed Teddy and his hard-livin' progeny).

A little over a year ago, I sat across a conference room table from former Sen. Jack Danforth, overlooking the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. There, Danforth entered a cage he's been rattling ever since: that while Republicans' pandering to scriptural literalist nut jobs and NASCAR-NFL meatballs might result in a short-term rise to power, that strategy was utterly unsustainable over the long term and would lead to the implosion of the party. I can't help but think what a far superior course our nation would be on had Dick Cheney selected Danforth as Bush's running mate instead of himself. (Danforth, as has been widely reported, was on a short list of finalists for the job Cheney eventually recommended himself for.) What would the war in Iraq have looked like had Danforth and Colin Powell formed a unified front of pragmatism in the Oval Office?

After Tuesday night's results, many on the left will argue that the last six years of being in the minority were worth it. But I can think of several thousand flag-draped reasons why they weren't.


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