Saturday, 18 November 2017

Why Politics is Basically Professional Wrestling

Why Politics is Basically Professional Wrestling

I’ve long noted similarities between politics and professional wrestling, and finally tried googling it a few nights ago.  And what did I find? I found that politics is exactly like professional wrestling, and Oliver Willis over at Medium makes the point wonderfully. I also found videos of Trump shaving WWE owner Vince McMahon’s head. Amazing stuff really.

via GIPHY

Wait, what are we talking about?

Professional wrestling is low-brow opera marketed to young boys (and girls now too). It is athletic and theatrical storytelling disguised as competition. Think of it more like interpretive dance than MMA (and also understand that interpretive dancing is really hard and takes a lot of athleticism, strength, endurance, and dedication). I believe the messaging style and rhetoric of campaigns and wrestlers and largely analogous, just with vastly different stakes. I’m not sure I’ll succeed in convincing you of my point, but here’s why I think political campaigning is basically a high-brow, mostly non-violent version of professional wrestling.

A political speech and a wrestling promo are the same thing

A politician giving a speech is the same thing as a wrestler delivering a promo. Pro Wrestlers in a ring and candidates on a stage use the same rhetorical techniques. Like politicians, pro wrestlers have to develop messaging and stick to it if they are going to successfully convey their character. Both politicians and pro wrestlers tell stories, get audiences to chant slogans, always namedrop the city they are in, and come out to cool entrance music. And in exactly the same way a famous speech can make a politician’s career (see: Barack Obama), so too can an excellent promo make a pro wrestler’s career (see: Stone Cold Steve Austin).

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Candidates get “pushed” if they prove themselves worthy

Since wrestling isn’t a real competition, they have to decide who wins beforehand. Wrestlers earn a push and are given victories if the company believes they have value and they can make the company money.  Likewise, candidates are pushed if they prove an ability to raise large amounts of money for the Party.

In wrestling, the people in charge of the promotion ultimately decide who to push. Likewise, in American Politics, the major parties largely decide who to push. In the 2016 Democratic Primary,  the Democratic Party definitely “pushed” Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

Both Parties Have Powerful Stables

In professional wrestling, “stables” are teams of wrestlers that work together for an extended period of time. They usually have a defined leader. In wrestling, you may recall the famous stables Degeneration-X, the NWO, The Hart Foundation, The Shield, or Evolution.

In Politics, there are also various stables. Instead of wrestling on the same team, they usually just vote together. Clinton Democrats, Progressives, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, Environmentalists, #NeverTrump folks, #NeverHillary folks and Neo-Cons are just a few of the political “stables” today.

The Establishment isn’t cool

But the anti-establishment guy is always cool. Like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bernie Sanders is the ultimate middle finger to the man. Sanders barely joined the Democratic Party, and he almost won their nomination – that’s pretty cool. Can you imagine him slamming a few beers on-stage after a debate? It would be legendary.

Ryan Black is a documentary filmmaker, political consultant, and digital media professional who writes about Progressive Politics.

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