Losing close is not weak. It is political rocket fuel.
Denying election results is a political albatross weighing down Stacey Abrams and Donald Trump
In the world of Mixed Martial Arts , giving up isn’t a cowardly act. It’s necessary for your career.
A fighter only makes money when they fight. Staying healthy matters. If a fighter thinks they might get injured, which is what a properly applied submission hold will do, the best thing to do is tap out.
Add MMA fighters to the list of people with more enlightened political acumen than Stacey Abrams and Donald Trump.
Let’s start with Donald. While he’s a close friend of Ultimate Fighting Championship honcho Dana White, he’s much more cut from the cloth of Professional Wrestling. Pro Wrestling is an artistic fun house mirror of combat sports like boxing and MMA. The small emotional moments are amplified and the less telegenic mechanics replaced with acrobatic feats of wonder.
In Pro Wrestling, submissions are often used as humiliations. Villains are quick to avoid the pain and tap quicker, heroes are shamed by their lapse in toughness and vow to get better… or just turn into villains. In that way, Trump played to his Pro Wrestling roots by never saying die about the 2020 election.
But Pro Wrestlings is art. It’s inspiration, combat sports, is a legit competition.
Politics shares the theatricality and presentation of Pro Wrestling with the athletic strategy of MMA.
In both MMA and politics, refusing to quit makes your next contest harder and not easier. In politics it is especially damaging for several reasons:
It erodes faith in the contest itself which creates a narrative you rely on for turnout. Namely: your vote counts.
It’s a purity test for your supporters. Are you ALSO willing to say the whole thing is rigged? If you thought this was happening why didn’t you do anything about it before Election Day?
You are denying yourself the storytelling hook losing gives you. A near loss makes for a better rematch. Now the hero can come back and settle the score.
It obligates you to be at odds with members of your own party who don’t want to deny the mechanisms of democracy. You’re making enemies you didn’t have to for very little benefit.
Which brings us to Stacey. She is currently running second in her rematch from 2018 with Brian Kemp. This is despite raising the GDP of an island nation for the race, a compliant press calling her Future Madam President and a Star Trek cameo where she portrayed the actual president… of Earth.
In 2018, she refused to concede her close election to Kemp.
I submit while 2022 will be a tough year for Democrats to win no matter your narrative traction, Abrams injured her political career by not tapping out.
She also denied herself narrative advantages. It would have galvanized her most ardent supporters to circle November ‘22 on their calendar without having to first commit to possibly anarchy.
Losing isn’t weak. In a close election, it is political rocket fuel.
The human desire for an end is crucial. Not the ultimate end but the end of the current pattern so we might get the next variation on the theme. Denying that only punishes those paying the most attention. Rewarding it tickles a primal itch in our brain.
So just capitulate? Get run over? Exploited?
You should very much believe you got robbed. You should tell your audience who agrees with you. You simply need to do it AFTER you accept the end of the current contest.
You need to blame the refs.
Instead of denying the basic rules of the fight, blame the arbiter of the contest.
This is a far more recognizable pattern. Boxing fans remember fights they thought went the wrong way because of the score card. MMA fans can list a million fights that ended too early. Pro Wrestling’s most famous screw job happened when a character theatrically got screwed for the title while the performer who lost was ALSO getting unjustly punished for a contract dispute in a meta tragedy.
Crucially, in almost every version of those examples: the loser came out stronger.
Politically, there is a rich tradition of losing and blaming the refs. Nixon never thought he lost ‘60. Many around him would tell anyone who would listen. He won the presidency in ‘68.
Hillary got beat fair and square in 2008 and she came within a few visits from Michigan away winning in 2016.
Don’t deny results. Accept them because you’re strong and cheated. Then talk about both of those traits until the next fight.
Make your true believers believe in the comeback.
Scratch that primal itch.
Give the people what they want: an underdog who gets back up and earns a victory.
Great article, good to see this back up and put to use!
Your view on losing psychology has some merit. However, Trump and Abrams behavior after their respective election loss is completely different. Abrams never admitted her defeat, which made her look weak like you said. Trump on the other hand, Stepped down, left the white house, and claimed he was robbed, and blamed the "ref" (election boards) for his loss. By doing this he has fired up his supporters. All just like you said he should do, to be able to fight another day. You seem inconsistent with your comparisons between Trump and Abrams.