You can never win a fight until you hit your opponent where it really hurts. Right-wing nuts in Alabama are clearly unchained right now, evidenced by their passage of a cartoonishly sinister anti-abortion law. How can women punish them for it and at the same time turn the tide? I can assure you that marching, protesting and hash-tagging are not going to cut it. And considering the demographics of the state and the shabby conditions of the electoral system, greater voter turn-out may not cut it either.
Clearly the women of America and especially Alabama are in a fighting posture over this but they will waste their ammunition if it is not aimed at the right targets. What are the two things that the state of Alabama holds most precious and is most noted for at this particular point in time? This insane abortion ban and their college football team. Every conscious woman in America is well informed about the importance of the former but far fewer appreciate the extreme value and out-sized influence of the latter.
Because Alabama is such a simple place- politically and economically speaking- there is a way to use these twin pillars of cultural identity against each other and re-frame the discussion around a woman’s right to control her own pregnancy without state interference. What follows is a hard-core lesson in messaging so Democratic candidates please take note:
What if word got around that some of the most coveted college football recruits in America were no longer considering signing with the University of Alabama? And what if those recruits had been planning on going to ‘Bama but changed their minds because their mothers, grandmothers, sisters or girlfriends aggressively objected to the extremist political climate in the state- specifically because of this draconian abortion ban? And then what if those prized prospects decided to sign with rival schools in states without draconian abortion bans? What if all of that could happen and be spread all over the world via social media in a matter of minutes? What if?
This may sound crazy to someone who does not follow college football but those who do will assure you that a sequence of events like this could not be ignored. College football is the most profitable enterprise in several deep red states- especially Alabama. Anything that hurts that football program is damaging to the state- publicly and painfully damaging. That could not and would not be ignored. And like in Alabama, there are crazy new laws in Georgia and Ohio- two more states with deep investments in college football as both a cultural identity and a cash-cow. The mere threat of this kind of push-back on the state would have ten times more impact in a tenth of the time that any marches, protests or hash-tags could produce. Simply stated, the plaintive wails of progressives is a siren song to carnivorous conservatives. They are political sadists and have grown to love the sounds of crying, cursing and complaining that come with protest activism.
But let the word spread that a four-star defensive lineman from suburban Atlanta or inner-city New Orleans withdrew his letter of intent from Alabama and signed with Florida instead over this stupid abortion ban and all hell would break loose. It would become THE topic of conversation on every sports talk radio station in America on a 24 hour loop. Cable news would not be able to get enough of the story because the nation will be transfixed on the revelation of how women finally learned how to hit these conservative dirt-bags where it hurts- in their pocket and in their pride. If Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban lost his top quarterback recruit because of this ridiculous legislative stunt he could have the statehouse back-tracking with a singe phone call. He is the highest paid and most valued state employee for a reason.
This kind of approach is intriguing because we all know it is time to add a new line of attack to the traditional protests breaking out over this tragic legislation. What has been tried before has led us to this awful place and we are in no position to dismiss any weapon in our arsenal. And our sons and nephews who are elite athletes are in our arsenal. Alabama’s football team will collapse into obscurity if their roster has to be filled out with the sons and nephews of Christian Evangelicals or right-wing nut jobs.
And the men of Alabama simply cannot tolerate that. From every truck-stop greasy spoon along Interstate Highway 20 to every fancy law firm in Birmingham there is zero tolerance for compromising the viability of their beloved Crimson Tide. If you doubt my assertion I invite you to revisit the history of how the University of Alabama’s football team was desegregated: the fully integrated USC Trojans beat the hell out of an all-white Alabama team in 1970 in front of the entire world and that was the end of the “white’s only” policy. So that, ladies, is the gut-punch you have been looking for.
This all out assault on the personhood of living, breathing, walking, talking women is in full affect in America and Alabama is ground zero. The legislators of that state are not trying to hide their callous contempt for women who have chosen not to be pets of the old plantation patriarchy. They are enjoying every inch of penetration into the private affairs of every woman who may be disinclined to function as an unwilling incubator. What is more dangerous than the desire of Republicans to inject their beliefs into the uterus of every woman in their state is their ability to do so. They own the courthouses, the statehouse and the state capitol with rock-solid majorities and margins. So if women really want to fight back against Alabama’s deep fried philosophies and undo their scattered, smothered and covered policies they have to add to their playbook and get creative. Trolling the Tide is a great start.