Boxing is a violent, beautiful, corrupt and compelling sport. I'm a long-time fan. I also follow politics. Naturally, I see some connections between the two. Here are a few things I've learned as an observer that may apply to the presidential election we just witnessed:
If you fight not to lose, you will not win.
When you fight not to lose, you are on your heels, avoiding getting hit. Your opponent dictates the fight. They cut off the ring, pick shots, exploit your weaknesses, time your moves, throw their best punches and eventually get you out of the ring.
There was a clarion call by Democrats to vote for Hillary Clinton, primarily out of fear of a Donald Trump presidency. Her high-powered corner — President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden — all pitched a stronger case against Mr. Trump than for her.
It was a failed strategy. Hope has always beaten fear as a driving force. Particularly for African Americans who survived slavery and Jim Crow segregation, a Trump presidency is not frightening.
Duck and counter your opponent's money punch.
Though the country has changed over the last 240 years, America is still a predominantly white working and middle class Christian nation. While we all may have concerns about issues of justice and equality, when candidates ignore the voices of the dominant population — the silent majority — and play heavily to minority communities, their campaign will suffer.
The silent majority became Trump's money punch.
The Democratic elite pummeled the silent majority with pejoratives, most memorably as "deplorables," somehow believing they would not be a factor come election time. These "deplorables" came out to vote in droves.
Never try to out hook a hooker.
Despite his bankruptcies, lawsuits and social controversies, Mr. Trump mastered every game he has entered. He mastered the real estate game, the media game and now the game of politics.
While his blend of racist, sexist and xenophobic comments would derail any other candidacy, he kept slipping punches and returning fire. Not even the infamous October surprise — offensive language, delivered casually on a bus years ago and leaked to the media — could dismantle him.
Ms. Clinton could not claim the same. Mr. Sanders influenced her positions to the left, while her record demonstrated otherwise. She responded poorly to the Black Lives Matter movement, failed to convince voters she had no strong ties to Wall Street and proclaimed the NRA — the most powerful lobby in Washington — was her enemy.
Ms. Clinton tried trading shots with Mr. Trump, but she did not throw punches in bunches. When Mr. Trump hit, he hit hard and often. She fell just like the 16 Republican primary candidates before her.
Style makes fights.
The Democrats did not foresee the fallout of an establishment candidate pitted against an anti-establishment one. Even though Mr. Trump was at the crest of a tidal wave that began after President Obama's first election and gained momentum from the tea party's 2010 midterm victories, the Democrats labeled him as inexperienced and went after his temperament. The silent majority was still outraged by the Bill Clinton years, which included NAFTA and the blending of traditional banks with investment brokerages. The infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal and the president's impeachment were in there as well. The last thing these voters wanted was him anywhere near the White House.
Also damning was Hillary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration, which is loathed for Obamacare and other policies that these voters felt were shoved down their throats. Her email scandal erupted, and Democrats tried to trivialize it. That didn't work — it was a factor up until the closing days of the election.
Hillary Clinton ultimately was viewed as untrustworthy, lacking in credibility and a symbol of the old liberal elite establishment. She possessed little charisma, her words sounding flat and unconvincing. She failed to energize the country, let alone her base. She was effectively damaged goods. Democrats were too steeped in denial to acknowledge it.
Early in this cycle, Mr. Sanders was the Democrats' anti-establishment answer. His Democratic Socialist message was consistent and unwavering. He spoke directly to white working class families both in urban and rural America. Mr. Sanders drew huge crowds and helped reinvigorate the electorate.
But the Democratic establishment did everything they could to fight their own contender. Even Mr. Trump noted how unfairly Mr. Sanders was treated. Then there were the risk-averse, establishment Democrats who decided Ms. Clinton would be the safe and sure thing.
Mr. Sanders was exactly what the Democrats needed for a true shot to win. They balked at the chance and paid the price.
Never leave the fight up to the judges.
Beginning next January, Republicans will control both houses of Congress and the Oval Office. It is easier for Democrats to blame those who voted for independent candidates, as well as those who stayed home. Much more sobering — and possibly the start of a more productive conversation about how to come back from this defeat — would be a confession that they picked their weaker fighter and got sent to the canvas.
In the next election in 2018, will both parties continue to fight the same way? If so, it could be another knockdown. Talk of a new way to train, a new punching strategy, already should be in the air.
Ron Kipling Williams is an adjunct faculty member in the University of Baltimore's Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.