We all know that political campaign speeches are full of rhetoric, but of course voters can be swayed by the right choice of words and phrases that touch on topics close to their hearts. Using words that focus on sensitive issues with subtlety is a coup that spin doctors always aim for. In last week’s speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the Black community, this was very evident.
In the presidential debate last Monday, 26th October, Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful yet very subtle message to the Black community, which is a far cry from her pronouncements a decade back. Now Mrs. Clinton spoke to these Black voters in a speech with substance, using a language that’s carefully chosen.
There were plenty of skeptics within the Black community because the Mrs. Clinton of the 1990s was not pro-Black. She termed teenage gang members as “super predators” and asked for harsh penalties. But in last week’s forum, she was very determined to persuade the Black voters to support her, using a language that liberal Whites and young Black activists embrace. She made a very positive mark when she used the language of the racial justice movement.
Here are some of the terms Mrs. Clinton used:
- Systemic racism.She used this term when she said that it should be addressed when tackling the issues of the American criminal justice system. The activists from Black Lives Matter have been asking that this issue be addressed because it fosters inequality among races. Mrs. Clinton said that addressing the issue would help heal the racial divide in the country, which drew a lot of praise in social media sites.
- Implicit bias. There is a proliferation of news about Blacks being mistakenly shot or caught by police even if in the end they are found to be innocent of any crime. Mrs. Clinton said that implicit bias is a problem faced by everybody, not just within the police ranks. She earned a lot of praise from academics and activists when she said that the conversation about this should be broadened beyond the police force.University of Florida assistant professor Kate A. Ratliff said that a large group of Americans of all colors want the nation’s leadership to discuss race, the role people of color play in the country, the criminal justice system and the policies. She said she was both surprised and happy when she heard Mrs. Clinton discuss the subject. Ms. Ratcliff is Project Implicit’s executive director. It is a non-profit composed of scientific researchers who devised a test for measuring implicit bias.
- Black Businesses. Clinton scored a major point when she mentioned that Black businesses, churches and communities are hubs of vibrancy. She pointed out the role and contributions of people of color to communities.
Decades ago, the government provided support and filled up deficits in an effort to rebuild inner cities that were impoverished. However that model was scrapped because it created dependency. The new model focuses on identifying the strengths of a community and building upon those strengths. Mr. Trump on the other hand was presenting a dismal portrait of the inner cities. He said most of the businesses owned by Blacks were single proprietorships, which cannot provide sufficient employment opportunities or even have a great impact on the development of the community.
- This is not a word that is openly said or discussed. But during this presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton directly accused Mr. Trump of being a racist, which she said was the foundation of her opponent’s political activities, which included saying that the first Black president of the United States is not an American citizen. People who were watching the debate in clubs, bars or wherever, were rendered silent when Hillary started discussing the issue of birtherism.
Jason Johnson, Morgan State University in Baltimore School of Global Journalism professor of political science and The Root political editor commented that the language used by Mrs. Clinton showed that Mrs. Clinton has reacted with the times. It showed that she has greatly evolved from who and what she was during the 1990s. He added that now Mrs. Clinton was able to project her adroitness and dexterity in talking about racial issues.
Takeaways from The Debate
There were many points that indicated Hillary Clinton as the winner in what CNN dubbed as the Debate of the Century. Donald Trump started out strong, but struggled later in their first appearance together. In the fiery battle, Clinton had the upper hand, putting the Republican nominee on the defensive.
Clinton attacked Trump on several issues – his attitude towards women, his previous racial comments and his continued refusal to release his tax records. In a poll run by CNN, 68% of respondents said that Clinton has a clear grasp of the issues. Also in that poll, 55% believed that Trump could not handle the presidency. The milestone presidential debate showed the huge contrast between the two candidates in terms of where they want to lead the U.S. and in their policy, character and temperament.
Several analysts also had much to say about the candidates’ body language. Patti Woods, an expert on body language said that Mrs. Clinton had more energy during the debate and sustained it. She also showed her confidence with her smiles and laughter and she was not bothered by Trump’s attempt to distract her with his interruptions and yelling, which, according to a count, he did 51 times over the course of the debate.
She pointed out that Hillary’s voice was low and full which means that she was strong and grounded. Vibrancy and energy were shown by the lifted and firm muscle tone of Mrs. Clinton’s face, which was in sharp contrast to Trump’s predominantly sour and scowling face. His facial muscle tone was sagging and downturned, indicating anger, unhappiness and tiredness. He was also continuously sniffling, which Trump denied when asked about it after the debate.
Drinking water while an opponent is speaking is a show of disrespect that candidates were coached to do. Ms. Woods said that it did not work in Trump’s favor on Monday’s debate. In fact he looked uncomfortable doing it. She added that Trump sounded and looked powerful because of his interruptions, loud voice and large gestures, but was “trumped” by Mrs. Clinton’s show of confidence and control. Her opponent’s body language showed that he was powerful yet angry.
Last week’s first presidential debate showed Mrs. Clinton as the real winner. Trump was whining about his microphone being defective. He was clearly not having a good night.