Former Slate intern and North Carolina native Jake Melville sends along this dispatch:
Barack Obama pitches himself as a “post-partisan” politician who can bridge our divides. But by playing a pickup game with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels earlier this week, he inadvertently took sides in one of the nation’s bitterest rivalries.
The Duke-UNC rivalry ( more like blood feud, really ) is the dividing line in North Carolina sports. There may be no red America or blue America, but there are two very distinct shades of blue in North Carolina. Has Obama finally ditched his message of hope and unity by associating with Coach Roy Williams and Tyler Hansborough instead of Coach K. and Greg Paulus?
Perhaps. But shooting hoops with UNC was no doubt a shrewd political move. Everyone knows Obama has had trouble courting white working-class voters. In Pennsylvania, he lost the Rust Belt area around Pittsburgh by a whopping 23 percent. The UNC scrimmage could be a deliberate appeal to this group. Whereas Duke is seen as rich, white, upper-class elite—Obama’s base—UNC is considered more populist, democratic, and working class. For Obama, one Tar Heels scrimmage is worth a thousand rounds of bowling.
Of course, there’s always the risk of alienating Duke fans. The blue-blue divide is so tense, it makes the red-blue divide look amicable. But if Obama can make significant inroads with the UNC demographic next week, it will weaken Hillary Clinton’s argument that Obama can’t win the party’s core voters. Maybe it’s time for Clinton to suit up.
Update 4:17 p.m.: Frayster “sdloughlin” begs to differ :
Obama’s recent scrimmage with the Tar Heels was actually very muchin keeping with his efforts to bridge all divides. Prior to thisscrimmage, he had done work on both sides of “the court” if you will.His body man is Reggie Love, former varsity basketball and footballplayer for Duke. He picked UNC to win in his NCAA brackets. At his 3 on3 tournament in Indiana, his teammate was current WNBA star and formerBlue Devil, Allison Bales.