May 6, 2004

Beyond Horse Races and Boxing Matches

Democracy basically is about two things, elections and governance. One is seasonal, the other continuous. And nothing sucks up more attention in a
democracy than our quadrennial presidential election seasons here in the US. The playoff nature of presidential primaries turns politics into a sports
event, with metaphors adjusted to the populations involved.

For all of 2003 and the first two months of 2004, we had a horse race between eight Democrats, while the lone Republican--the incumbent in the White
House--ran unopposed. The "field" of Democratic "dark horses", "thoroughbreds" and "mavericks" lined up at the "starting gate" and "ran" a "race". The
media talked about Dean's "early lead", while Dick Gephardt and others "faltered" or "fell behind" as they all headed for the "final stretch". After
voters removed Dean as the "frontrunner" and nominated Kerry instead, the media switched metaphors and began talking about a boxing match. Bush and
Kerry were now "in the ring", "nose to nose", "throwing punches", hitting "below the belt" and so on.


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