The tragedy of 2016 hasn’t quite settled in. The shock and confusion hasn’t yet depleted. Clinton lost. Trump won. As I type, the notion still seems unbelievable. The bombardment of magazine covers and headlines with the phrase, “President-elect Trump” still feels surreal; unreal. We went from the initial obvious contender of the Democratic party to the what seemed like a consistently obvious choice in the major election – Hillary Clinton – losing. Over 1.7 million voters have been left bemused and unsatisfied at the electorate win. However, solely wallowing in the loss fairs equally as destructive and divisive. The silver lining lies within the lessons to be learned (some repeatedly learned) from the decision.
1.7 million voters and counting! Clinton’s loss doesn’t really indicate less favorability among those that voted, as she currently leads the popular vote with 1.7 million votes. As this post suggests, she still accomplished a huge feat, despite the outcome. Clinton moved many, but not enough. There was a disconnect, a huge disconnect, that should be taken as a huge wake up call to the democrats and liberals of America – from Clinton, to the DNC, to the voters. Despite the 1.7 million, Clinton wasn’t able to garner the essential votes that mattered – those swing state votes – those necessary (though debatable) electoral votes. she, and the Democratic party, the Republican party, and Trump, all failed to invigorate nearly half of the American public, over 90 million eligible voters to be exact. Spear-heading the Democratic party, Clinton failed to reach those same voters and same states that just four years ago, voted, and decided on Barack Obama. She missed the mark on those crucial votes that Democrats and liberals needed and once had. She missed the mark on the prized “Obama Coalition” – the youth and minorities. She missed the mark on the left-swinging states, Michigan, Pennsylvania (a state she had won over in the 2008 primaries), and Wisconsin, all states also amongst the “Obama Coalition.” Something shifted in the minds of these voters, these left-swinging states and voters between the 2008 and 2016 elections. Much of it had to do with the disconnect between the voters and Clinton’s campaign.
Clinton’s campaign was clouded by a lot of Trump nonsense but was also very telling for the voters that were also disinterested in Trump. Many of those that belonged to the “Obama Coalition” or other left-leaning liberals, felt alienated by Clinton and her camp. Her rhetoric and public persona didn’t speak to those voters enough, to at least practice what they intentionally registered for – to vote.
Clinton’s Racial Rhetoric and Public Persona
Much of the discussion on Clinton’s past rhetoric points to her shift between her conservative and liberal rhetoric, with much of it fairing closer to much more conservative appeals. These particular posts (Hillary Clinton: Believer in conservatism or exploiter of its ideals? and Hillary Clinton: Conservative ideas or Conservative Rhetoric?) specifically point to the many inconsistencies within Clinton’s rhetoric throughout the years. The article, Hillary Clinton: Believer in conservatism or exploiter of its ideals? in particular, briefly summarized the cause of Clinton’s rhetorical shift from liberal to more conservative. It was a way to initially garner and satisfy the necessary constituents for Bill Clinton’s win as Governor of Arkansas. As an attempt to win over the majority conservative southerners, Clinton took on a more conservative identity. The post then synthesized various other notable speeches by Clinton from, past to present, to focus in on the distinctly conservative-leaning language and content of Clinton. The post notes, “She dressed more femininely and she embodied more conservative thoughts in her speeches. Bill was able to win the next time he ran for the position, but did Hillary’s changes help achieve this? Or was her change in rhetoric all for naught, somewhat of a betrayal to herself?” The last question rings truer than ever. Did her conservative switch, initially made to garner more constituents in the past, come to hinder her potential to garner her own constituents in the present?
The post also summarizes and synthesizes more speeches in Clinton’s political career that were distinctly liberal in rhetoric, yet still conservative at heart. Her “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” speech is widely and notably considered one of her most liberal speeches, as it honed in on the social deficits across the globe when it came to countries providing equal opportunities and rights for women. However, despite the content being one of the most progressive speeches addressed to women at the time, it alienated a group of women who too were struggling for their rights not only as women but as women of color. As noted in the post, her speech “did not acknowledge the struggles of women that can only be discussed when talking about intersectionality.” As a minority, as pointed out by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the article “To the First Lady, With Love”, you have to be constantly aware of yourself as both an individual and minority. There are shared issues and values as well as unique concerns that come along with this unavoidable double consciousness. As a minority, or person of color, you want your issues fully addressed and discussed. You want to also be fully a part of the conversation to bring equality to all women. The lack of addressing these unique issues only further removed Clinton from past and future left-aligned liberal constituents.
For many, Clinton’s Keene State University Speech, shown in this post, is arguably one of her most conservative speeches.
It served to only deepen the disconnect between people of color and Clinton. It helped to lock her fate with the “Obama Coalition.” It has become one of her most infamous speeches, recently used in the Ava-DuVernay documentary 13, that explores the ties between the 13th amendment and mass incarceration of countless Blacks and Latinos in America. The documentary highlights the destructive and divisive nature of the term she used, “super-predator,” for Black and brown communities, identities, and race relations in America. From the very beginning, Clinton’s nature gives off conservatism and femininity. The article synthesized her discussion on family, children, and her frequently quoting (as noted by my peers’ comments) Bill Clinton to address Clinton’s authenticity. This lead to two of the post’s essential questions, “Is it fair for people to focus on this one part? Why are other parts of the speech ignored?” However, though Clinton’s style of dress/look definitely contributed to her more conservative public perception, it was more so her rather lengthy stance on the issues explored in the speech – protecting the family unit – that really stamped her identity for many as shifty, inconsistent, and non-inclusive. Not too different than her speeches of the present, Clinton stuck to her more liberal focused “middle class” rhetoric, that I noted frequently in my exploration, addressing them directly several times in the speech. Her concerns on educational opportunities and access were addressed with notions of increasing technology and creating more opportunities for those to afford higher education. Her issues with increasing children safety were addressed with suggestions to increase uniforms within the schools and police within the streets. She incites/perpetuates fear in the audience as she powerfully and even sternly, focuses attention on street gangs and “super-predators.” Clinton invokes rhetoric that connects her to her listeners, using pronouns to emphasize unity “we” and “our” – aiming to address the everyday American about their everyday concerns.
However, as in the “Human Rights” speech, Clinton failed to be truly unified and inclusive. When it came to educational opportunities and access, Clinton failed to note that even beyond technology, there are millions of youth that not only lack access to technology but access to the same rigorous educational opportunities on the secondary level and below, as well as school equipment and resources, things as small as textbooks and books for reading. Minorities are never distinctly addressed, their issues are never distinctly addressed, but she very distinctly finds solutions for the (white) middle-class families that have the opportunity to even weigh out their financial options for higher education. Her language about people of color, without addressing people of color or their concerns and lack of rights, is inherently divisive. She notes at the top of her speech, “Our fourth challenge is to take back our streets from crime, gangs, and drugs.” Very quickly you understand who seems to belong to the “our streets” and who they are being taken back from. She continues, “We also have to have an organized effort against gangs. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids called super-predator. No conscious. No empathy.” These are the same “super-predators” or “gang” members that she promotes as the prime perpetrators of her husband’s 1994 crime bill (mentioned in the speech), a crime bill that is one of the major contributors to mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos then and today. These Black and brown youth and adults are painted as almost non-human and inherently evil and destructive, having “no conscious. No empathy.” Their needs inadequate to address as she mentions, “We can talk about why they ended up that way but “First” We have to Bring them to Heel!” Strengthen Drug Wars. Anti-Gang effort.” She paints Black and brown America as one that can be fixed through policing their dress and streets – through uniforms and increased police forces, while the rest of America worries about upping their technology use and financial aid in college. While the middle class’s concerns were addressed, Clinton distinctly decides to dismiss the millions of minorities (middle class or not) and those below the poverty line. For the Black and brown communities, she’ll and America can, “talk about why they ended up that way” later. She lacks noting the significant number of minorities whose access to college/pathway to college is blocked by more severe circumstances than technology, uniforms, and gangs. So when we wonder: why such a particular part of her speech dissected? Why her speech highly contributed to future public perception and future votes? Or Why the “Obama Coalition” didn’t feel connected? It was her continuous dismissal of racial relations and racial disparities in America. She was promoting a view for all, yet lacked the true inclusive language to back up her desired liberal constituents. What Clinton refused to address then, just couldn’t be ignored by the millions of voters that were/are affected or passionate about the effects of race and racism in America.
Her rhetoric on race began to become more consistent, however, because of her conservative-leaning rhetoric on race clouded and conflated in her liberal-leaning discussions on women’s rights and working families, her votes, or lack of votes, become clearer.
When the post begged the question, “Has Hillary’s rhetoric in this speech been altered during the past 20 years?” The issue is for many it hadn’t. As noted, the media played a huge role in shaping/reshaping Hilary Clinton’s recent public perception and eventual loss. They began to tie the dots for the American public, frequently pointing out her flaws, as synthesized in this post’s discussion on sexist remarks on women candidates/women in general on the news. In their race to erase a democratic woman candidate, the outlets also managed to allow us to see the consistencies in her rhetoric on race relations and equality then and now. Her more liberal public perception began to wane, as the campaign trailed on. Her identity/public perception as a liberal, began to reshape into an always conservative-leaning democrat, who has consistently appealed to the “intelligent worker,” but not to the minorities, the youth, those that don’t belong to the middle class, and those that lack higher education, hindering her finality as the definite pick for the “Obama Coalition” and beyond.
Hilary Clinton’s continuous conservative rhetoric, inconsistent rhetoric on inclusiveness, and divisive rhetoric on race, heightened by the media coverage, created a public perception of Clinton that did reflect a, as these posts noted and Bill Clinton said “change-maker,” for the 1.7 million voters, but for those over 90 million registered voters, she represented the same conservative ideals that have continuously been upheld. For them, she didn’t represent real, effective, and inclusive change.