On the heels of her defeat in the general election, the logos of the United States is seen in a new light. She had built her campaign on a particular vision of America, and her loss is not only personal – defeated as well was this vision she shared with her supporters and her voters.
It then becomes necessary to re-examine the accepted logos of the United States, as determined by the popular vote and the electoral college decision. In order for logos to be intrinsically true, it must be accepted by the group to which it pertains. What has been seen, in the wake of this election, is that Hillary Clinton’s vision of America, the one that she built and shared through her speeches and interviews, had been resoundingly rejected by the electoral vote of 298-220 electoral votes. This, however, does not tell the whole story. In the popular vote, 668,483 more votes were cast for Hillary Clinton than were for Donald Trump. On the individual level, Hillary’s rhetoric, her logos, has received a fairly significant edge. Does Hillary’s logos, as a rhetor herself, survive in the midst of a lost election?
Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the office of President of the United States was beset by attacks from all sides; from the expected conservative right all the way across the spectrum to the extreme left (chiefly the supporters of Bernie Sanders). Despite this, Clinton’s main logical appeals remain consistent, prevalent, and above all, resonant. What is most interesting about viewing her campaign from her acceptance of the nomination at the DNC all the way to her concession speech following the election is that the strength of her campaign and her claim to candidacy were rarely questioned; most of the inquiry was leveled at her ability to make better rhetorical appeals to a wider audience, thereby expanding the power of her logos.
One of Hillary’s biggest setbacks as a candidate was her connections to what became commonly known as “the establishment.” She had ties to Wall Street and was, at that point, a career politician. Voters on both sides of the spectrum voices frustration with the political climate, turning away from Clinton towards Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as outsiders who would “shake up” the current system. She dealt with labels from “evil queen” to “warrior woman” to “pioneer” (petscortnyc), with some obviously more flattering than others. This labeling was not limited to the Hillary that was seen on the campaign trail, but also dug up from here college days at Wellesley, where her cunning and deft political maneuvering made her an early face of student activism (clogan10). Even in her early twenties, Clinton had the reputation of having strong logical appeals, despite the very different forums.
Jumping forward a bit, Hillary makes a splash on the scene with a speech in September of 1995 at the fourth UN World Conference on Women. Her words were not her only tool here, as Clinton showed herself to be a tactful visual rhetor as well as an articulate speaker, with her outfit offering a bevy of interpretations, down to each individual hue:
In her speech in Beijing she wears light pink–a color associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, and femininity. Twenty years later, Hillary is still wearing suits — but now she wears bolder more energetic and lively colors — a virtual pantsuit rainbow– Red symbolizing strength and passion; yellow suggesting optimism and cheer; green for vitality, wealth, prestige; blue being communicative, trustworthy, calming; orange reflecting freshness, youthfulness and creativity; white putting forth purity and simplicity; brown/tan to depict her as organic, wholesome, simple, and honest. (buffington36)
Her visual rhetoric, as seen here, does not betray her intentions or her message. If she cannot be the broad-shouldered male politician that American voters are accustomed to seeing, she uses other tools, specifically her dress, to inform her logical appeals.
Seeing Hillary as one of these archetypes (whichever one best suited whichever pundit at whichever time) in 2016 as well as in the late 1960s, those following the election had a sense of the consistency Clinton brought to this election cycle.
For whatever reason, this was not enough. Her ethos as a rhetor was constantly under fire over scandals that seemed minor in comparison to the claims and actions of her opponent. Once again, it is not her logos that is under fire – as seen in Christina Yim’s post where she writes “logos appears to be the one rhetorical tool HRC has mastered; at times, she effectively invokes pathos, as in her DNC speech, but ethos is the area where she apparently misses the ball with most voters.” (yimchristina) Her logical appeals, here and elsewhere, are viewed as above reproach. If not for delivery what has been characterized as unnatural, it seems that Clinton would have run away with the whole thing. It’s unfortunate, though, that this supposed untrustworthiness became a valuable weapon for her opponents, and somewhat derailed her campaign (or, more likely, provided the last nail in an already shut coffin in the minds of voters already 99% sure they would cast their ballot for the Trump/Pence slate).
The media’ approach to Hillary’s logos is also worth studying, as the media is the source through which American voters attain information regarding the candidates up for election. As Professor Wendy Hayden quotes, women must “speak softly and carry a big statistic” (to play on Teddy Roosevelt’s famous axiom) because this is the sort of logical appeal women in politics have at their disposal (professorhayden 1). Without being able to convey a physically demanding type of visual rhetoric (at least without being castigated for sacrificing their femininity), logical appeals tend to be their most effective rhetorical weapons.
The media, of course, is an entity made of up many individuals and outlets with wildly varying agendas. One such writer, having vociferously penned anti-Clinton pieces, came around to her platforms and her candidacy, urging others to take a closer look at what was happening. Her logos had reached this writer, and in doing so showed the power of this particular rhetorical appeal (hweinberg707).
Some of the conversation in the media was twofold, with satirical pieces poking fun at her weaknesses to (perhaps) highlight her strengths. It was noted that humor, in this instance, can work as a logical appeal as satire allows for a more honest approach to the material – its criticism is unbound, and therefore credible. (akreichman, hweinberg707 2).
This is seen most clearly in her DNC sppech, where she accepted the nomination as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. Sarah Parente writes:
The arguments that Clinton makes are premised in the values and beliefs that these voters hold. I believe she views a value charged connection as the first step to coming to an understanding on policy. She wants to show voters that she has the same ultimate goals as voters, just a different way of accomplishing them. Sanders supporters specifically agree on a lot of the same things as the Clinton candidacy, the difference is in how they hope to accomplish the goals, and to what extent. For the voters to trust Clinton, and believe her heart is in the right place, is half the battle (sarahparente).
It is worth noting in Sarah’s dissemination of Clinton’s speech that Hillary is able to expand her logos to incorporate newly disenfranchised Sanders supporters who are still unsure if they can vote for the candidate they so vehemently opposed in the primaries. These same logical appeals were reflected in her concession speech, indicating that the logos was still alive and that a defeat in the general election at the hands of the electoral college would not determine the logos going forward (professorhayden 2). Her campaign slogan “Stronger Together,” was also brought up in these speech and reaffirmed by President Obama in his response to the results:
Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things; the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them. (professorhayden 3).
Her word choice is often under intense scrutiny, as is any candidate running for public office. Pundits in 2016 were reaching back twenty years to nitpick her neologism “superpredators,” (jameswheat) which referred more towards cartel leaders than it did African-American youth, but that hardly matters having it so far removed from its context that many following conservative news outlets will not bother to check the context. In this way, her opponents used her logical appeals to undermine her ethos, fabricating another attack that may have worked against her in the general election.
Her logical appeal was mostly colorblind – she did not try to be the candidate for a particular group; instead posting a future where all groups were accepted and that was the “normal America” By being this for-everyone candidate, Clinton echoes the logical appeals of a previous female candidate, one Shirley Chisholm who deemed herself “unbought and unbossed,” as per her campaign slogan. (pmurphy54, professorhayden 4) The logical appeal here is that these candidates will do what is right for the people as a whole, without influence from certain groups to favor one over another. This recalls Sarah Parente’s post above, in which the logos she built encompassed many groups.
What remains, as always, are more questions. In the wake of the decision in the general election, who decides the logos? If the popular vote calls for Clinton, and the new administration has a different set of beliefs, what is the limit of logos? Can Trump claim to appeal to logos if it is shared by a minority? How can the logos of a defeated candidate remain if the candidate fades from public view? What does it mean for the power of logos if it can be overturned by a system such as the electoral college?