Knockout Metaphor

A campaign blog.
April 1 2008 4:35 PM

Knockout Metaphor

Hillary Clinton must read Slate in her downtime. Afew weeks ago, John Dickerson concluded that if pundits are going to compare the primary fight to sports, then boxingis the best way to do it. The basic metaphorical gist: Two opponents fightthrough multiple rounds (primaries), and if there’s no knockout, the finaldecision rests with ringside judges who have watched every jab and uppercut(superdelegates). Flash forward to today’s event in Philadelphia,when Clinton unveileda brand new theme song : "Gonna Fly Now," the famous theme song from Rocky .

On the surface, this new theme makes plenty of political sense. Rocky is the pride of Philadelphia and made the front steps of thePhiladelphia Museum of Art as iconic as the Liberty Bell. Plus, Sly Stallone’scharacter is a symbol of the American spirit—he may have been an underdog buthe never gave up, and he proved something to himself and the country in theprocess.  

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Probe deeper, though, and the Clinton-as-Balboa metaphor is deeply flawed.Hillary started out as the favorite, only becoming the underdog when shestarted losing primaries and caucuses. If anything, she’s more like Apollo Creed,the undisputed champ who didn’t take an upstart opponent seriously. (Plus, fewof us think of Clintonas the "Italian Stallion.")

Youwould think that Hillary might also take pause considering that—spoiler alert!—Rockyloses. Balboa puts up a great fight, but neither fighter knocks the other outafter 15 rounds. Instead, the fight’s outcome hinges on the superdelegate-like judges,who declare a split-decision: Apollo is the winner. But three years later in Rocky II the fighters meet again. Thistime Rocky wins. The takeaway: If Clintoncan’t win this go-around, maybe she can get off the mat in time for 2012. (Andperhaps, many years later, she can convince the Soviet Union that " everybody can change ." But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)

There’s one Rocky scene in particular that gives us a window into Hillary "Balboa" Clinton’s psyche. The night before the big fight ,Rocky sits on the edge of his bed and tells his girl Adrian that he can’t beatCreed. He gets in the ring the next day with one goal: He wants to go thedistance, to trade jabs with the champ for 15 rounds. He doesn’t care if hewins—he only wants to prove that he can survive the onslaught and do somedamage in the process. He keeps on fighting for himself, his fans, and hiscountry. Even his closest advisers couldn’t convince him to get out of thering. Sound familiar?  

One last possible parallel carries some salience: Those who are calling for Clinton’swithdrawal say she should bail because she’s going to hurt Obama. Duringthe climactic fight in Rocky , Balboadoes serious damage to Creed. He dodges a Creed jab and punches him twice in the torso, breaking his rib in the process.