Are Hillary Clinton’s ideas conservative or is her rhetoric conservative?
The rise of media and its growing influence has given birth to yet another identity: the public persona. The public persona has become critical to how the public responds to people in the public eye; it calls for a certain behaviors and mechanisms in order to be perceived as appealing. This is especially crucial for politicians, as it has the ability to make or break a candidate. Public persona has become a central factor in being in a politician; it becomes your public identity. The key to having a successful public persona is to have successful visual and verbal rhetoric in order to appeal to the masses. No one knows this better than Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton. This video perfectly sums up the rebranding she had to do in order to better improve her rhetoric, specifically her visual rhetoric.
Following her husband’s loss, Clinton was forced to adapt a certain rhetoric which appeals to her audience and softens her agenda in the sense that she doesn’t come off as harsh and intense; it’s her way of finding the median among a politically divided society. At the time she wasn’t conservative enough for politics in the southern state of Arkansas; she came off as a hippie and her appearance wasn’t “political”. The irony in this is that she was too liberal for politics so she adopted a conservative rhetoric to balance out her political views. Clinton “toned” down the aspects of herself which were deemed “liberal” and her new “identity” was something that her conservative Arkansas audience can understand and relate to.
Clinton’s public persona changed numerously throughout the course of her career. The instability in her rhetoric has people questioning her political stance. Clinton comes off as more of a “conservative” democrat, and can be likened to a “liberal” Republican. Many of her critics take issue with this, arguing that she isn’t fully committed to the democratic agenda. Clinton is quite often deemed a little too politically correct. As seen here in the first presidential debate of 2016 regarding police brutality and the tension between African Americans and police. She never directs blame nor does she fully address the situation. Clinton never crosses the line of political correctness—she confirms that yes, there is an issue with cops and people of color, yet she doesn’t fully address what most Democratic supporters want to hear: that cops have an implicit bias against African Americans.
implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police…
She collectively places the blame on all people not a single group, saying that we have to work together to beat this bias. This rhetorical strategy avoids a touchy subject but Clinton’s shying away from fully addressing social issues begs the question whether or not they are an indication of her ideas or are they a part of this politically correct public persona she is trying to embody; a persona that even republicans can support. In this instance, it is clear that her rhetoric is conservative in the conventional sense because it’s more restricted and she holds back from saying too much.
For instance her famous “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” speech takes on women’s rights globally. Now although that notion may not be radical in the U.S., it is in other countries. She is advocating equality for women, which is a concept that is unfathomable for some people. Yet she manages to do this gracefully and respectfully. Her rhetoric is conservative enough to be accepted yet strong enough to make a point. She has adapted this persona which can be accepted by both parties, conservative enough for the average republican and liberal enough for the average democrat.
Both Sanders and Trump fall on polar opposites of the spectrum on politics, yet Hillary doesn’t seem to categorize herself quite as easily. She doesn’t have the same outspoken and clear agenda as Trump and Sanders. As a democrat, she is found to fall on the more conservative side according to this data, which compares her position on certain issues to Sanders’ position. It sheds light to the basis of the critique that she is a conservative democrat. But this skews her narrative because Sanders is known for his radical ideas. He is a very left politician even for Democrats. Comparing his ideas to Clinton’s is unfair to her narrative and ideas. Furthermore, her ideas are not non-liberal. She and Bernie share many view points on the same issues. He takes it a step further, maybe a step American’s aren’t ready for. Clinton uses her conservative rhetoric to ease her ideas to the American people. Her voice has become a mediator of sorts, especially when compared to her running mates in the current 2016 election. Bernie Sanders is the very left democrat, or socialist who has become the radical voice of the millennial generation who want active change. Donald Trump has become the voice of the more conservative generation of Americans, who lets face it, are afraid of and ignorant to change.
Now, comparing our two candidates, Trump and Clinton, one could even argue that Clinton is more conservative than Trump. Not in the substance of her arguments and ideas, but the way she voices her ideas. Her conservative rhetoric doesn’t “offend” the audience like Trump does. He outwardly and explicitly states his opinion regardless of whom he offends and how he states it; Trump’s is rhetoric is blunt. This is unlike Clinton who argues for more progressive views but in a conservative manner.
As a representative the more “liberal” party, Clinton isn’t as radical as people expect her to be, but that doesn’t mean her ideas and policies are conservative. She doesn’t become this figure or radicalism, which both Trump and Bernie represent. Politically speaking, Clinton can’t come off as too conservative or it will seem as if she isn’t progressive enough or is seen as representing republicans, which goes against what the democratic party stands for. But she also can’t represent radical liberalism because the country would not allow it. She has become the voice of reason in her rhetoric. Her public persona may not represent her ideas and beliefs completely, nor does it misrepresent what they are. It merely takes into account the way the American people will react to her. Clinton alters herself in order to fit this role the world is trying to mold her into. As a woman and as a politician she has to constantly be aware of her audience and herself in order to be a successful rhetor.
But does new identity shape her ideas or does she expose only what she thinks the public can handle? Does she shape herself as a rhetor in order to fit where the public thinks she belongs or where she thinks the public wants her? And more importantly, is there distinction between her public rhetor identity as a politician and her personal identity as a politician, or are they binary?