Saturday, January 24, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 4

With the Iowa Caucuses just over a year away, and the first batch of Republican hopefuls in the Hawkeye State today taking part in an early conservative cattle call, the race continues to take shape, even though very few Americans are engaged in the process. There is a lot I could write about this week, such as a long-planned meeting in Utah between Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush which did not produce much in the way of headlines and no indication that either man is planning to step aside. I could write about how people have conflicting theories involving whether Romney would run to the right of Bush and others or to the left of the field in the primaries, if he enters. I could talk about the increasing likelihood of Florida Senator Marco Rubio preparing to enter the contest, perhaps thinking that his seat in the U.S. Senate is something he might be willing to give up to take a gamble on the White House, and that even if he were to fall short this time, he might be "next in line." I could ponder whether a focus right now on Romney vs. Bush for the establishment mantle could eventually merge into a 2016 showdown between Rubio and Scott Walker for the mantle of "establishment acceptable fresh face." I could even examine Barack Obama's State of the Union Address and ponder what his modestly improving poll numbers might mean for Hillary Clinton or other Democrats who might wish to succeed him, and whether or not they might be sustainable. All of those topics and more are worth delving into in the weeks ahead.

However, I mostly want to pay tribute this week to someone who was not going to have a direct impact on the next Presidential race, but who has meant so much to many people for a long time. There is even a political tidbit or two in his life as well.

Last night, word came that "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks passed away, days away from his 84th birthday. Despite his advanced age, the news felt surprising and sad. Ernie seemed like the kind of person who might live forever. He was several years retired, and already in the Baseball Hall of Fame, when I was born, but still he was a big part of growing up as a Chicago Cubs fan for people of my generation and beyond. My mother has told me how he was one of her heroes when she was growing up on the North Side and how she loved to watch him play. For as long as I remember, Ernie Banks was a happy go lucky figure you would see on tv, talking about the Cubs or showing up in championship locker rooms for teams like the NBA's Chicago Bulls, taking part in the joy of their triumph, without seeming at all sad about the fact that his great career never saw him play a postseason game.

I never got the opportunity to meet Mr. Cub, but my sense is that anybody who ever interacted with him in person came away happy with the experience. He transcended baseball in so many ways, especially for Cubs fans with his eternal optimism and good cheer. I almost get the sense that some really horrible human being, perhaps a Klansman or something, could meet Ernie Banks and five minutes later somehow come away liking him.

Democrats and Republicans can certainly put away political differences around a shared affection for Ernie Banks, but it might be worth mentioning, that while he was still in the midst of this incredible baseball playing career, he once ran for Alderman in Chicago, as a Republican no less. He lost, as most Republican candidates have in Chicago, but he was running on the South Side, where there might not have been many Cubs fans. Still, everyone liked Ernie and I remember feeling especially proud when I read his name on a letter in 2004 of athletes endorsing the reelection of President George W. Bush. Years later, Obama would have a lot of kind words for Barack Obama as well, the man who would go on to present him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but there is also a story in which Banks said that he tried to talk Obama out of running for President. "Do you really want to do this?", he apparently asked the Illinois Senator. If only he would have listened...

Each year, long after he was retired, Ernie Banks would proclaim it as the one that the Chicago Cubs would finally go all the way and win the World Series. If he might not have really believed it, he sure seemed like he did. With so much optimism surrounding the Chicago Cubs and their near-term future, it is sad to think that Ernie Banks, as well as his former teammate Ron Santo, will not be around in person to join in the celebration if the unimaginable happens. If and when that day happens though, all Cubs fans will need to take a moment to think of Ernie Banks, remember his career and life on and off the field, and know that he is smiling somewhere.

As many have said over the past day, Ernie Banks will always be Mr. Cub, no matter how many championships the team may one day win and whatever baseball heroes may emerge in that effort. A long overdue World Series championship would be a wonderful way to honor Ernie, and we would he would say, "let's win two!"


At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Zreebs said...

I vaguely remember Ernie Banks playing baseball. He was at the end of his career when I became a fan. Although I wasn't a Cubs fan at the time, he seemed to be a very likeable person.

I did not know that Banks ran as for Alderman in 1962. Like you, I probably would have voted for him. It is true that Banks ran as a Republican, but it wasn't uncommon for black people to be Republicans back then. Jackie Robinson was a Republican too. as you suggested, Banks did describe Obama as "great" and "brilliant".

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Class Act!!!!!


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