Bartenders recalled a Superbowl-like hysteria inside the Angry Elephant during the last presidential debate, the amped up crowd cheering Mitt Romney as he traded barbs with the president. Then "some idiot liberal," according to one bartender, grabbed a nearby life-size Romney
cardboard cutout, bent the good governor over, and humped away. A scuffle ensued, and the crowd quickly ran the guy out.
Aesthetically, the dimly lit Northside lounge, which opened six months ago, splits things down the middle. Blown-up Clinton family photos are offset by the Bushes, Kennedy and FDR campaign signs countered by Reagan and Nixon.
But not the clientele. One bartender laughed and handed me anti-Obama bumper stickers a patron brought in for display ("Somewhere in Kenya a village is missing their idiot," blares one). On a recent night, Sean Hannity's face loomed out from the massive screen, warning of "the twisted, dark soul of liberalism." Rob, a local pilot, scoffed at Julián Castro's rising star-status in the Democratic Party, telling me, "That guy's all about class warfare." "Embarrassing," he said of the Mayor's moment in the national spotlight at the DNC, calling Castro a talentless speaker and party shill. "But … Rick Perry!" I managed to sputter. "Yeah. He looked like an idiot," Rob said of Perry's legendary campaign fuck-ups. "But he's our idiot."
Tending bar, Angry Elephant owner Chip Ingram told me he's a Libertarian, saying, "I'll fucking stay out of your life if you stop taxing me." Ingram, 36, grew up idolizing Ronald Reagan, but calls the modern GOP "a party with a good financial message that's obfuscated by all the social issues." The Angry Elephant is Ingram's homage to the rocky marriage of alcohol and politics. "I've been stuck in two hour debates sitting here at the bar, I love it," he said. Ingram regularly takes to the bar's Facebook page to instigate; recent postings include, "It's so cold outside, I just saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets," and a fawning "thank you note to a good man" lamenting Romney's loss.
Booze and politics are, of course, old friends. John Adams had beer for breakfast and enjoyed a tankard of hard cider daily. "There's nothing left … but to get drunk," Franklin Pierce told reporters when his party didn't re-nominate him for president after his first term. FDR fixed the Great Depression and crushed the Nazi war machine sipping on martinis. Chappaquiddick is Ted Kennedy's most infamous booze-fueled moment, but his most hilarious occurred aboard a return flight from Alaska months prior when the late senator, fresh off a fact-finding mission to native villages, hit the drink trolley hard. Sloshed, Kennedy batted aids and reporters with pillows before running down the aisle chanting "Eskimo Power!"
While Ingram's drink menu sports political trivia, food offerings, mostly brats and hot dogs, are all named after local and national politicos — Hilary Clinton's is a pastrami dog since she's "not known to be a fan of sausage."
Perhaps the Angry Elephant's catering to the right crowd in more ways than one. Aside from location in the Stone Oak hinterlands, recent research surveying bar patrons discovered those with higher blood alcohol levels were more likely to think conservative. Published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this year, the study aimed to test the notion that conservatives and liberals have notably different cognitive styles, and that while conservatives are inclined to quick thinking and directness, liberals favor nuance and complexity. Titled, "Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism," the study suggests conservative opinions shoot up as alcohol clouds the brain, shutting down complex thinking.
So who knows. Maybe you enter the Angry Elephant reading your copy of The Nation or Mother Jones, but leave a boozed-addled mess, calling Obama a Kenyan-born socialist.
19314 US 281 North, Ste. 107
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