Somatic Podcast – Ep 17 – The ‘Final Stretch’ of the Election ‘Race’: American Politics and Sporting Metaphors

In a special “pre-election” episode of Somatic Podcast, we explore the history of sporting metaphors in American political discourse. Check out any of the recent media coverage on 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and you’re bound to hear sporting metaphors used to describe the election “race”. Candidates are “competing” and “running” for office. The candidates, seeking an election “win”, declare that they won’t “leave anything on the field.” Why do we use sporting metaphors to talk about American politics? Why do we say that politicians “run” for office? What are the origins of this sporting discourse in American politics?

In the episode, we talk with Dr. Kenneth Cohen, Associate Professor of History and Director of Museum Studies and Public History at the University of Delaware. Dr. Cohen discusses the history of sporting political discourse during the antebellum period, a history he covers in his 2017 book They Will Have Their Game: Sporting Culture and the Early American Republic (Cornell University Press). As Dr. Cohen explains, this antebellum context, in which male politicians used the terms of sport to gain the support of an enlarged White male electorate, is important to better understanding the enduring racial, gender, and class politics of contemporary American politcal discourse.

You can listen to the episode on our website (which includes a blog post with links to Dr. Cohen’s book and other links related to sporting metaphors). You can also find the episode on SoundCloudApple Podcasts, and Stitcher.

Samuel M Clevenger
Towson University

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