After the elections, if we would hold a Socratic Seminar to discuss Hillary Clinton’s unpredictable loss with regards to her rhetoric, it would definitely focus on the lost ethos or what we can call ‘The ETHOS Gap’.
Aristotle defined ethos as the personal character of the speaker. In his opinion, persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. Certainly at that time the pronoun ‘him’ was used with a total disregard of ‘her’ as rhetoric was an art of persuasion performed by men only.
Sadly enough, this presidential election proved that Aristotle’s male rhetoric supremacy still exists. Hillary Clinton’s persona as a rhetor or in Aristotelian terms ‘Ethos’ was always questionable. She was attacked for her femininity as well as attacked for her lack of femininity. She was attacked for listening more than speaking, and yet when she spoke she was also attacked for speaking and reacting to the rhetorical situation designed by her opponent. As mentioned in Kairos ,Rhetorical Situation, and How the Snark of Social Media has Entered the Political Arena.
The debates are more about an exchange of insults than actual policy, and more reminiscent of an internet flame war than the politics we may have come to expect. And though Hillary may be less a culprit of snark than her opponent (“You’re the puppet”) she hasn’t had much choice but to react to the rhetorical situation constructed by her opponent.
However, this constant cynical stance towards her forces us to try to find answers for the long asked question ‘Why is Clinton disliked ? It directly links with Aristotle’s ethos or the speaker’s ability to persuade us to think him, or in this case ‘her’, credible. Consequently people can’t be persuaded by someone they dislike.
Having asked the question confirms the ‘Ethos’ Gap which Clinton faced before, during and after her presidential campaign. Her questionable trustworthiness was always present in all debates with special reference to her previous inconsistencies both as senator and Secretary of State. This doubt was manipulated magnified by the media in the e-mail leaks. In the Gap , her foreign policy’s inconsistency had a clear negative effect.
The Iraq War mars her record, and the private email server and the Goldman Sachs paydays frustrate even her admirers. Polls show most Americans doubt her basic honesty.
Moreover, her questionable inconsistency was well discussed by our classmate nonzamo in a comment on What a Hillary Clinton Nomination Means for the Middle East.She drew the attention to the fact that Clinton’s rhetoric and actions do not match.Furthermore, her stances on a number of issues have evolved over time. This seemed interesting to nonzamo as Hillary’s rhetoric remained persuasive, although she is inconsistent.
I think our classmate foreshadowed the current situation when she wondered if the extended election campaign had influenced the effectiveness of its rhetoric. This turned out to be true , especially with regards to its negative impact on Hillary’s campaign.
Trustworthiness demands consistency and transparency. Hillary herself recognized this ETHOS Gap and tried to explain it in her accustomed composed manner.
There’s a lot of behavioral science that if you attack someone endlessly — even if none of what you say is true — the very fact of attacking that person raises doubts and creates a negative perspective.
Her campaigners tried to bridge the Ethos Gap and promote Hillary’s trustworthiness in the public’s eyes . The video Do You Trust Her ? was one of these attempts to spark her image with more credibility and present a diverse number of people from all sects declaring their trust.
However, ciaobellalou in her comment on the video Do You Trust Her? has another view with regards to its possible negative effect on the undecided voters.She assumed that the majority of undecided voters are somewhat cynical.The video was to her a lukewarm attempt at counteracting the widely-circulated claim that she’s untrustworthy.
This draws our attention to the great effect of the media on this presidential election.In 1,917/46 the question of ‘How does the media shape public perception?’ is answered statistically through providing a clear comparison between the 1,917 male senators in America’s history as compared to the 46 female senators.
Gender biased politics is a fact and it further, as Professor Hayden says , encapsulates the kind of rhetorical strategies women must employ in politics.
Speak softly and carry a big statistic.
As a public figure for many years, Hillary Clinton didn’t embody the ‘speak softly’ designed image. Her hawkish and military driven labels haunted her as Secretary of State as mentioned in Predicted Success for president Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy in the Middle East based on her voting for Iraqi war as a senator , pushing for U.S.
intervention in Libya and lobbying Obama to take military action in Syria. However, there was still hope for a new change in her stance towards international affairs had she become president.
This hope for change, unfortunately, was not shared inside the country. The questionable trustworthiness could not easily be redeemed. In Apologies to Hillary, hwinberg707 wonders why her achievements are overshadowed by those of Donald Trump. Why there are always people who will find some small fault of hers to deconstruct. Why Hillary is considered unattractive.
In her exploration Aristotle’s Virtues As Related to HRC’s Image of Untrustworthiness, yimchristina pin points the magnified importance of trustworthiness when the speaker is seeking a leadership position. If the speaker fails to get his good character across, the audience may regard him with suspicion.
Ethos is the area where she apparently misses the ball with most voters.
The sole goal for Hillary Clinton and her campaigners should have been to claim this missed ball through adopting a feminine style of discourse to make her more relatable and more trustworthy.
However, they failed to change and no one would have imagined the great negative effect of this ‘Ethos Gap’ on voters . An effect which exceeded the irrational divisiveness of her opponent’s rhetoric. Aristotle as always proved to be a great philosopher and the personal character of the speaker does reflect credibility and ability to persuade. Finally, our seminar ends with a note to politicians , “Achieve the Aristotelian ‘Ethos’ and master the art of persuasion to win any election.”