Metaphor Contest: The Winners

Hillary Clinton continues to have a logic problem. After her win in Pennsylvania, her campaign reiterated their claim that winning big, reliably Democratic states means she’s a more electable candidate in November. While that’s entirely possible, there’s no historical or logical evidence to back it up.

But just because it’s wrong doesn’t mean it’s easy to explain why it’s wrong. So we solicited Trailhead readers’ help to come up with the catchiest metaphors to help explain why Clinton’s logic is bunk.  

You responded in record numbers and came up with some truly creative—and odd—responses. Our personal favorite one-line metaphor came from Trena Klohe, who wrote:

You may know how to saddle a donkey, but that doesn’t mean you can tame an elephant!  

The simplicity, yet coy vagueness of the particulars delighted Trailhead’s imagination. Have either Obama or Clinton truly saddled the donkey? Does beating McCain entail taming him or attacking him into submission? It’s the most existential metaphor we received, and we’re suckers for existential politics.

Other all-star oddballs came from Billy G. who sent in a lengthy, MadLibs-style post about FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World list . It’s too lengthy to quote in full, but Billy G. was totally convincing in his assertion that Megan Fox is Barack Obama, Jessica Biel is Hillary Clinton, and Matthew McConaughey is John McCain. A snippet:

In FHM’s survey [ the democratic primary ], a sizable minority supported Biel [ clinton ] over  Fox [ obama ] because they find  tattoos [ reverend wright ] repulsive, or because they prefer blondes [ a candidate of the same race/gender ], or because Fox [ obama ] recently made a prominent and profoundly stupid movie [ comment ] about vehicles that turn into crime-fighting robots [ bitterness in small-town america ], or because they rallied behind Biel’s [c linton’s ] call for mandatory universal healthcare.  

It gets better from there, but unfortunately doesn’t perfectly explain away Clinton’s faulty logic. Billy’s assertion was that straight men who preferred Fox would always choose Biel over McConaughey. Sure, but the differences between Fox-men and Biel-men weren’t fleshed out quite enough to take the crown.

Outside of the wildcards, the responses generally broke down into two categories—food and sports. The most common response involved a trip to a restaurant, grocery store, or pie shop that forced consumers to confront a painful decision—what to do when your favorite flavor of your favorite food is out of stock. In a nice allusion to McCain’s age, Ryan wrote:  

Just because I choose green grapes over purple grapes now, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t choose purple grapes if the alternative was raisins.

True, but raisins have their own unique taste that you aren’t automatically opposed to. Plus, if raisins come out with a great ad campaign , there’s nothing stopping you from switching sides. The trouble with Clinton’s assertion is that almost all Democrats—even the ones who prefer her over Obama—aren’t going to jump ship just because of a flashy ad. The grape-raisin metaphor doesn’t pick at that weakness.

Instead, let’s turn to the bland world of sprouts, veggie burgers, and tofu. K. Richardson gets closer with his metaphor:

As a vegetarian, I may have a hard time choosing between the pasta primavera and the grilled veggie platter, but I’m still not ordering steak.  

Much closer. Vegetarians have an automatic distaste and unwillingness to eat steak, which fills the void of the last metaphor. But this setup—choosing between two similar items at first, then being forced to choose the loser of the two over a totally unpalatable third item—ignores the big-state, little-state issue. For that, we’re forced to turn to the sporting arena.

The key knot we’re trying to unravel is why Clinton’s success among core, big-state Democrats in the primary doesn’t mean she’s the stronger candidate among all voters in the general election. Plenty of people tried a sports metaphor and missed the mark, but John Zepernick nailed it. I’ve edited his response down a tad.

Hillary has a good passing game (big states), but Obama has been grinding out yards on the ground all game (smaller states). … But it isn’t clear that any particular game plan would be better or worse versus McCain. And even if Hillary has more passing yards in the championship game, there’s no reason that Obama couldn’t throw the ball well versus McCain. Especially since he has a weak secondary defense.  

Spot on, but I’d posit that nobody knows what McCain’s defenses are yet. It may be his secondary, but it could just as easily be an injury-prone offensive line. As the great and clichéd sports aphorism goes, the only way to find that out is to play the game.