by Fox Doucette
Barack Obama (2-0, 1 KO) claimed a tough split decision victory over Mitt Romney (0-1) in America’s recently concluded presidential election. Most estimates of the popular vote had it in the 50.5-49.5% range when votes for third-party candidates are discounted, and until the count came in from California, Romney was ahead in that particular metric. By boxing standards, it would have been a slugfest leading to a hard-fought and deserved majority draw.
However, in the Electoral College, that tally of states peculiar to the United States’ brand of democracy, Obama won easily, 332 electoral votes to 206. How is it possible that a deeply divided electorate and rancorous nationwide back-and-forth could have produced such a lopsided result, one nearly as wide as the comfortable margin by which Obama won the presidency in 2008? The answer lies in the Sweet Science.
Consider a fight in which every round is a back-and-forth battle, but one fighter does just enough to win the rounds in the eyes of the judges. He may nearly be knocked down in a couple of rounds, the opponent may even seize the momentum in Rounds 5 through 7 and look like he’s on his way to a TKO8 as the bell rings to end Round 7, but when the dust settles, the winning fighter wins on all three cards by scores of 118-110, 117-111, and 116-112. Anyone scoring the fight would have it in something like that range, and whoever didn’t see the fight would see the score on Boxrec later on and think “OK, this guy won comfortably and had little to worry about.”
The Electoral College is America’s 10-point must system. In states that Mitt Romney won, he won easily, places like Mississippi and Wyoming and other backwaters of America where Jesus reigns supreme over economic and social justice. Sure, Obama won a few of those too (Commie strongholds like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and California), but “safe” states do not decide elections. If they did, America would be a de facto one-party state.
Nay, it was the so-called “swing states”, the ones that cannot from year to year make up their mind whether they want to be redneck red or blue-blood bleeding heart liberal. Mitt Romney won exactly one of those states (North Carolina), while Obama won all of the others, including Florida and Ohio.
Very few of those swing-state contests were decisive; indeed, Obama won Florida by a margin so tight that results were not confirmed until Wednesday, and if the fate of America had swung on that one result, you could bet your life that the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign alike would have had lawyers pulling a Bush vs. Gore redux well into January, to the point where eventually we’d have to face the notion of “someone make a decision before the inauguration on January 20.” The country would surely have been scandalized along the way; thankfully for the republic, the election went as it did.
So when you look at election returns from all those “10-9 rounds”, the ones where neither outcome in which one candidate could beat up the other came to pass, Barack Obama simply won all the close ones, landing that extra left hook or throwing a few more effective punches or (if you’re conspiratorially minded) influencing the judging a little. Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada…all places where Obama did just enough to “steal the round on the scorecards.”
So when the count was added up, most pundits had the race 201-191 in favor of the reigning champion before any of the swing states got factored into the equation. North Carolina was worth 15 electoral votes; all the other contests combined netted the champ 131. So when the final tally looked an awful lot like that 12-round title fight with the 118-110 scorecard that everybody thought would be close, let’s not think of it as a travesty that the champ kept his title in what appeared to be a decisive fight. This was the archetypal “closer than it looked” boxing match, and later generations run the risk of being fooled by history. For Republicans, let the lesson be that you managed despite the troublesome elements of your party to come within a puncher’s chance of the Oval Office (indeed, your columnist used to be a Republican before the Tea Party showed up and convinced him to switch sides), and for Democrats, don’t strut around like you won a clear mandate unless you want to run the risk of getting knocked out when your opponent spends their time before the rematch training and honing their skills at political fightcraft.
Continuing the metaphor, I would be remiss if I didn’t gloat a little at how the fights on the undercard turned out. The Rapey McRaperson-promoted fighters on the off-air portion of the show got knocked out early and often. Todd Akin, Scott Brown, Richard Mourdock, and all your lunatic-fringe “personhood” and “rape is a gift from God” friends…may your political careers be deader than Duk Koo Kim.
The measure of any sport’s relevance to broader popular culture is not found on SportsCenter. It’s found in the everyday use of metaphor and jargon that everyone understands. It’s why a boxing columnist can write a political pundit column and give it the appearance of still being a boxing column. I might be able to do that about baseball. I’d have a good bit of fun doing it about American football. But the fact that boxing is absolutely perfect for it means that the Sweet Science is still deeply instilled enough in the popular zeitgeist that there’s a good chance the sport will remain alive…for at least four more years.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. He’s gone from a frothing pro-1% Republican to a bomb-throwing socialist revolutionary in a single lifetime. *no actual bombs thrown. Relax, FBI. Fan mail, hate mail, and “random selection” for searches at airports (seriously, guys, NOT THROWING BOMBS) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.