Following her historic run and unfortunate defeat, we have seen Hillary Clinton express impressive showmanship of the three types of rhetorical appeals. She has established herself as a formidable candidate because of her political experience and her campaign marks an important part of women’s history. Hillary’s campaign was built on an arsenal of ethos, logos, and pathos, as well as her methods of delivering to her audiences. However, because of her historic defeat, it is important that we look back on how Hillary has built herself as a politician based on her rhetorical appeals and delivery.
What influenced Clinton’s success or lack of success: her personal rhetoric or her audiences’? How consistent has Hillary’s rhetoric remained over time?
In order to address this question, we must look back on Hillary’s timeline as a politician, and how past experiences have shaped her into the person we know as Hillary Clinton today. Her struggle with relatability traces back to that conjured image of a “cold and aloof” politician. Hillary’s critics painted her personality in a negative light, yet in a piece by The Humans of New York, she explains that societal pressure influenced her decision and forced her to “toughen up.” It is a tactic to place logic before anything else, since emotions can overwhelm the human thought processes. In other words, by shutting down one’s emotions, an individual can properly convey logical reasoning. (Csandoval)
This setback created a distance between Hillary and her supporters. However, her political history proves Hillary to be a strong rhetor. On September 5th, 1995, First Lady Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on women’s rights in Beijing, China. The purpose of this speech was for Hillary to challenge her critics and prove herself capable as First Lady. Her worth is shown through the usage of rhetorical appeals, particularly ethos, as seen when Hillary discusses the women she’s met in various locations, and how women’s rights should be solidified because they are equally valuable contributors to worldwide communities. (wordsofthewall) Even Hillary’s visual rhetorics are important for her delivery; the light pink suit conveys a powerful message for women, a color often associated with charm and femininity. (buffington36) She manages to combine oral and visual rhetorics to strengthen her arguments within the speech.
Despite her moderate success with the Beijing speech, Hillary struggled with conveying her rhetorical appeals during a speech at Keene State in New Hampshire during the 1996 election cycle. She relies heavily on the family ideals, placing extraordinary value over her argument with her usage of ethos and logos. Her credentials are established when she references a statistics about school uniforms and the living cost-ratio as she tries to close the gap between low-income families and her status as first lady. (wordsofthewall) Unfortunately, her pathos relied heavily on Bill’s agendas and she uses the plans as a means to strengthen his credibility instead of her own. (nonzamo) This posed a problem in establishing herself as an independent rhetor.
Twenty years later, Hillary becomes the democratic Presidential nominee. Following her victory, Hillary makes a speech thanking her supporters and reminding the audience of her resolve. In comparison to her Beijing speech, we can see how much she has changed over the past two decades based on her rhetorical appeals and how she conveys her message to supporters. As Isabella Hamilton noted, the Beijing speech was specifically targeted towards women and proved to be a more detailed speech. However, as Hillary faced a more general audience in Brooklyn, she had to adjust her rhetorical style in order to appeal to the masses. (ciaobellalou) It is also important to note that her delivery proved weaker in Brooklyn than in her Beijing speech, but on the other hand, Hillary shifts her tone as much inclusive, incorporating “we,” “us,” and “our” pronouns into her speech. (yimchristina) This change incorporates her usage of pathos and ethos and establishes herself as a candidate who wants to work together in unity.
How does Hillary Clinton establish her rhetorics as a female politician? Does her identity affect her rhetorics?
To me, this is a question with far too many possible answers. It is a question formed by society’s expectations of not just female politicians, but women in general. I see this as an opportunity to explore why male politicians focus on appearances and not on the potential that their female counterparts have. Yet somehow a woman’s appearance can influence how an audience interprets their rhetorical style.
An excerpt from the PBS Frontline documentary “The Choice” explores Hillary’s physical transformation following Bill’s loss in his re-election campaign for Arkansas governor. I do not believe Hillary was to blame for Bill’s loss, but I agree that visual rhetoric plays an important part in presentation. Unfortunately there is a strong part on women’s physical appearances instead of her words, since society places such high standards on women’s appearances. (petscortnyc)
Anne McElvoy’s “Jewel Purpose” continues the conversation on what female politicians wear. She explains that wearing certain types of jewelry conveys significant messages. While McElvoy’s focus is placed on several female politicians, it is quite notable to see the shift in how Hillary presents herself with jewelry over the years. In just a span of a little under a decade, we have seen Hillary shift her visual rhetoric through jewelry and it can be seen as a means of rhetorical change. When it comes to the double standard, women are limited to how they present themselves physically, yet can twist society’s expectations in order to convey subliminal messages. It is a survival strategy that a female politician like Hillary can use to her advantage. (ciaobellalou) It is clear that she knows how to the double standards as a means of appealing to her supporters and even creating a thin line of relatability. In other words, Hillary comprehends society’s expectations and utilizes them in a way to satisfy both parties. (melmmelrh)
Shirley Chisholm’s speech when she announced a Presidential run in 1972 reflects a rhetoric resembling that of Hillary Clinton’s. She establishes her credibility with her experience as a New York Representative. I think Chisholm encompasses all three rhetorical appeals when she states:
“I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.”
Chisholm establishes herself as a candidate without removing who she is as an individual. Her final statement reflects an appeal to candidates who distrust politicians; it is an attempt to become a relatable candidate while reminding the audience of her identity.
This greatly contrasts with Sarah Palin’s 2008 speech to the RNC, where Palin established herself as John McCain’s running mate and introduced her own rhetorical style to the political field. However, in comparison to her running mate and his status as a prisoner of war, Palin failed to truly create her own ethos because she relied heavily on patriotic ideals, thus greatly weakening any sort of credibility she potentially held. (jameswheat)
In “The Rise of the Rhetorical First Lady: Politics, Gender Ideology, and Women’s Voice” the role of women in politics is illustrated as they continue to break rhetorical barriers. Feminist ideology in politics has greatly shifted throughout American history and Hillary Clinton is no exception. The role of first lady is shaped by gender and its values. While there is a great value placed on the first lady, there comes the issue, if it were to ever occur, should there be a first gentleman. The gender divide focuses on different issues, so if a man were to assume the role for the first time, there is the question of what happens to the history of work performed by the former First Ladies. (buffington36)
In “From Spouses to Candidates: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Dole & the Gendered Office of U.S. President,” Karrin Vasby Anderson explores the challenges that two different female politicians faced during campaigns: Hillary Clinton during her Senatorial run following the position of First Lady, and Elizabeth’s short-lived run for the Republican Presidential nominee. In this case, I think gender and media reactions worked simultaneously to affect both candidates, respectively. In Hillary’s case, running for Senator generated less media coverage and instead focused on Guiliani’s remarks. Therefore, the focus shifted from her rhetorics to that of her opponents. However, in Dole’s case the news coverage was focused directly on her campaign. The audience, in this case the media, quickly painted a feminized portrait of Dole simply because she was the focus and running for President. (allinclusived)
Karlyn Campell explains that Hillary is a woman, speaks as a woman, but does not conform to the typical gender roles while speaking. Hillary can come off as detached but she can also integrate personal stories into her speeches. Going back to her Beijing speech over twenty years ago, we see that Hillary’s rhetorical style has shifted to match more modern feminist expectations. However, how much of her rhetorical style has changed seems to have proven unsuccessful, considering the election results. Sarah Parente explains in a comment about this shortcoming:
Campbell extends her argument by explaining that her rhetorical style plays a major role in the American public’s response. She has attempted to appear more feminine but refuses to adjust her rhetoric. Clearly her rhetorical style is a disadvantage. However, as a society we are failing to recognize her highly developed and organized argumentative style, just because she is a woman. That may in fact be the real failure. (sarahparente)
This is important to recognize because while Hillary did meet the expectations of the popular vote, she failed to close the gap with voters as seen in the electoral college results. How far she can go from here on out remains to be seen.
What can be seen is that there is still a large gender gap in our society. Men are told to wall off emotions and it is unnatural for women to do the same. As Anna Pearlman, Hillary comes off as “stiff” and “masculine”which is very atypical expected behavior of female politicians. However, she also adds that Hillary is willing to listen to her supporters and quite successfully. (annapearlman12) Being able to shift between both gender roles can be beneficial, though not apparently so in Hillary’s case.
How does Hillary Clinton establish herself away from her family, critics, and opponents via her rhetorical appeals?
Other rhetoricians have noted that in order for Hillary to create a place for herself, she must create an image for herself. This can be done through both spoken and visual rhetorics, as noted by both experienced politicians and even outspoken Americans who want their votes and voices to matter in elections. Both groups can use their own rhetorical skills to express their opinions political rhetoric, and so here are two contrasting examples discussed in class.
Richard W. Painter’s op-ed piece presents educated advice with regards to the Clinton foundation “scandal.” His input is invaluable, backed by a strong usage of rhetorical appeals. By stating his former position as chief lawyer for the Bush presidency, Painter establishes ethical appeals, therefore creating a firmer and respectable criticism. His political background allows him to logically address what rhetorical appeals Hillary needs in order to resonate with supporters. In this case, I think Painter’s observations go back to how Hillary’s rhetorics failed to resonate with voters and that favoritism was in play during the election. He expresses support for Hillary but also does not fail to remind her that she must reject favoritism and concede to ethical appeals. (petscortnyc)
A classmate, Julia Canzoneri, compiled a series of livetweets created during the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Through tweets she manages to detail nearly every single moment of the debate. Julia’s style is emotional, expressing anger as she constantly challenges Trump’s presentation. She remains supportive of Hillary, praising the candidate’s rebuttals with humorous and relatable excitement. In contrast to the words of a seasoned politician, Julia Canzoneri uses social media to express her opinions and illustrate her rhetorical style with regards to a heated debate. What makes this approach different than an op-ed piece is that reactions are immediate and candidates can receive public input in real-time. (rgelmosner) This style can either widen or close the gap between candidate and audience, depending on the rhetorical presentation from both parties. I view this as an approach more heavily utilized by millennials who are exceptionally vocal through social media.
As explained by Aristotle’s rhetoric, one must follow the three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos in order to create a successful speech and resonate with the masses. They must be of good character and prove trustworthiness otherwise they will fail. (yimchristina) This is exactly what determined Hillary’s outcome in this election. Adhering to changing times requires a shift in rhetorics, and adhering to an audience is equally as important. Politicians struggle with trustworthiness, and Hillary certainly hindered her own efforts by acknowledging she is not deemed trustworthy by the masses. (yimchristina) In other words, her own established image damaged her own reputation.
Sarah Parente poses an important question in her Exploration of “The Role of Value & Belief in Clinton’s Candidacy.” She addresses the absolute requirement of Hillary’s campaign, which was appealing to socially progressive voters. By doing this she had to fully utilize ethos and logos. (sarahparente) It brings about how beliefs and trust are so important in regards to Hillary’s relationship with her supporters. Going back to Aristotle’s logic, a person must prove themselves as a good character through their rhetorical appeals. Hillary did establish her own rhetorical style but not strongly enough and not to match the political atmosphere of the 2016 election. Her delivery did not resonate with the masses.
As Professor Hayden states, women must “speak softly and carry a big statistic,” a statement once spoken by Teddy Roosevelt. (professorhayden) I think this axiom portrays the position Hillary is in as a female politician. Women are expected to follow society’s expectations of feminism, remaining nonviolent and calm while trying to make a name for themselves in society. With regards to Hillary, she remained calm, won the popular vote, but at the cost of the electoral college.
This election left us with more questions than answers. Hillary’s rhetoric still proves to be strong, considering how far she has gotten in her political career. Whether or not she reached her rhetorical limits during this campaign can be debated, but I think the focus should not solely be placed on Hillary. Supporters and opponents were affected by her rhetorics, and vice versa. Hillary Clinton has made history as a female politician, but her future now remains unclear as she moves on, and as we must somehow see her opponent into office.