Clinton’s loss was a heartbreak for her supporters. It left us lost, angry, confused, and overall disappointed in our fellow citizens and government. A fellow classmate and Hillary supporter, allinclusived accurately notes the disappointment.
I was practicing the art of ignorance and confidence, I would ignore possibilities of Trump because I was confident the public knew better, but they didn’t.
There are many factors to blame for the tragic outcome and it’s something that we have to own for the next four years. There are issues that we have to address, which are deeply rooted in our country and we were blind to; Trump’s rhetoric brought these feelings to the surface. By exploring Hillary’s rhetoric and her methods of discourse we can possibly find solace, if not the answers to the questions that we are left with following the result of the current election. But also, I want to explore the significance of rhetoric in this election, specifically regarding women and rhetoric.
What is Hillary’s Rhetoric?
Clinton’s rhetoric can be best described as pragmatic and cautious, unlike her running mate. The “conservatism” in her discourse is something which many of her critics and supporters criticized especially for someone who represented democratic “liberals”. My previous article Hillary Clinton: Conservative ideas or Conservative Rhetoric? defines her rhetoric as attempting to be “conservative enough for the average republican and liberal enough for the average democrat”. She does this in order to fit the agenda of what the public expects from her, especially as woman trying to fill the shoes of a historically masculine position. Clinton’s rhetoric has to take into account those factors, thus molding her delivery.
This post takes into many factors which play in influencing Clinton’s delivery. The post also points to Clinton’s cautious delivery methods and how they are mechanisms for her to come out on top during the debates and not let the opponent get to her. The video featured brands her cautious retreating and listening method as the “listening woman face,” which is a rhetorical technique used by women as a response to criticism in order to have some sort of legitimacy during debates. Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Strategies furthers the notion of silence and listening as solely a female rhetorical strategy. It enables the women into a position a power.
It’s no secret that women who “overreact”
are branded irrational, so this rhetorical strategy is something women, like Clinton, have come to rely on in order to legitimize themselves as politicians. This technique can be tied to her delivery. We all know how cautious and calculated Clinton is in during speeches and interviews. It seems that this stylistic choice is influenced by her not only being a woman, but being a woman in politics.
Delving further in that idea, these articles and blog posts focus on Clinton’s visual rhetoric and how she delivers herself as a candidate and politician while keeping in mind how her gender plays a role in changing her rhetoric. In Gender and Visual Rhetoric Clinton is yet again labeled a “listener.” The article suggests that, Clinton’s listening trait didn’t transfer for her when she began her campaign for president because yet again, she had to change her rhetoric to fit the role she was attempting to fill. The role of president is traditionally a masculine position, or so the American population believes. She adopted a more conservative form of delivery, as a result she didn’t communicate well with the American public. She had to remain composed and had to hold back. This can be seen in the first presidential debate, which was live tweeted and referenced below.
The shift in her rhetoric can be directly tied in with her visual rhetoric and delivery. Clinton had to learn to shut herself off so as to not be viewed weak. Her delivery became impersonal, her speeches more cautious, and her body language stiff as seen in Aristotle’s Virtues As Related to HRC’s Image of Untrustworthiness. The article points to how the American public couldn’t get to know the real Clinton; she presented herself and her ideas in a conservative and withdrawn manner, not fully verbalized what she represented. She had to balance this conservative delivery and rhetoric while representing liberal ideas. This article addresses how her rhetoric and ideas almost seem to clash which might play a part in the difficulty for the American demographic to identity with her, especially the millennials. In her attempt to appeal to all audiences and all expectations of her, her political identity is suffering.
The conservatism in Clinton’s rhetoric:
While still waiting for the gap to close, it is important to recognize that gender plays a role in delivery and visual rhetoric, especially as more women join the public sector.
It’s an important idea to consider given the following posts. These pieces, The Double Standard and Clinton’s Visual Delivery, and For Hillary in Arkansas, First Came Rejection. Then Came Rebranding took a look at the re-branding Hillary had to do for different roles in her life. One post even went as far as noticing the manipulation of jewelry. As a presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton had to re-brand yet again in a conservative manner in order to mold herself to fit the expectations of the public.
Her role as first lady, she had to cater to a softer,
more feminine image. That role is best depicted here, in her rhetorical delivery of this speech and visual rhetoric. Clinton’s use of anecdotes and her use of the word “super predator” doesn’t feel familiar knowing the Hillary we know today; it’s not cautious enough. Which is probably why she’s getting more backlash today, 2o years later.
In Cable News Has a Sexism Problem, ciaobellalou perfectly depicts the stigma women in politics face in broad daylight; on a daytime news channel nonetheless. This article sheds light to the basis of why women have to be cautious in their rhetoric and how they are perceived by the public. The video featured in the post depicts a compilation of sexist remarks verbalized by news anchors. What was familiar in watching the video was the response from the females victimized or present. They invoke a similar feminine style we see Clinton utilize. This post provides the basis we need to understand for Clinton’s conservative rhetoric. How can a woman be open in her liberal ideas facing that kind of scrutiny and backlash?
The Real Clinton Foundation Revelation is yet another piece which addresses a change Clinton can make in order to appeal to the public. This one calls for her to be more “conservatively ethical” by removing herself from the scandals the Clinton Foundation faced. Painter, the author of the article featured, states that she is the most qualified candidate but her image needs to be more “conservative” in order for the public to take her seriously and trust her. There are many male politicians who have been a part of one scandal or another, but yet Clinton, whose foundation does “mainly good deeds” needs to be more conservative; the only differentiating factor is gender. Similarly to the re-branding she had to do, this is yet another call for her to change her rhetoric to fit the expectations of women in politics.
Addressing the fluidity of Clinton’s rhetoric is seen in Hillary Clinton: Believer in Conservatism or Exploiter of its ideas. It questions, “Is it possible for someone to embody both liberalism and conservatism” and makes note that “Election years are interesting because Hillary’s conservatism seems to flare up during them”. They are important points and definitely worth exploring, but it doesn’t take into account why she does this? Why is it necessary for her to lean towards more conservative ideals during election years when politicians like Sanders can stick to the same policies for years and only grow in popularity.
Clashing of the Conservative and Liberal?
Do You Trust Her? paints a different perception of Clinton, where it focuses on her ideas and where she stands on certain issues.; it doesn’t take in to account Clinton’s rhetoric but rather focuses on what she actually represents. Surely, the video itself is rhetorical but it conveys the liberal views she has on immigration; LGBTQ rights, race, and more. Similarly, this post by fellow classmate sheds light on the impact the loss has had on our class and many people of America. She represented more than a change in our way of governing. She is praised for these ideas in those posts but yet in Hillary Hate Dank Meme Stash she is criticized for those same ideas. The basis for that criticism seems to be less about her ideas and more on the rhetoric surrounding those ideas. For instance, she is considered “trustworthy” in the two former posts but in the latter she many of the memes label her untrustworthy and corrupt. The foundation of that image she has comes from her cautious, inconsistent, and overall conservative rhetoric. In lieu of these criticism’s her ideas and views are left on the back burner. What she represents is no longer her ideas, but rather her rhetoric. What’s forgotten is that Clinton was forced in into taking on this role as a conservative rhetor given her gender and yet despite her efforts, she is still criticized.
What does this all mean?
Clinton’s conflicting political identities are no doubt somewhat to blame for her tragic loss. Her rhetoric was evidently influenced by many factors. The conservatism in her rhetoric didn’t do justice to her liberal ideas and delivery. But what does this say about American politics in general: Did it force this rhetoric on the Presidential candidate? What about her being a woman in politics has been a contributing factor in being forced to adapt this rhetoric? Could she have gone further had she found her own voice or did she go as far as she or any woman was capable given how our country works? Lastly, what does this say about the power of rhetoric?
I’ll end with this post, where Hillary thanks those who were a part of her campaign and inspires her supporters to move on and continue with her movement and they represented as a campaign. Maybe will one day find a place for women in politics in addition to a balance between rhetorical and political identity.