Appearances of the word “I,” “I’ve,” “I’ll,” or “me” in Clinton’s speech: 90 out of 2237 words.
Appearances of the word “I,” “I’ve,” “I’ll,” or “me” in Obama’s speech (me appeared once): 25 out of 2451 words
Appearances of the word “we” in Hillary’s final speech: 17 out of 2237 words.
Appearances of the word “we” in Obama’s final speech: 36 out of 2451 words.
I think a lot can be learned about the difference between the two campaigns by observing the simple difference in style, and while Bobby Jindal and McCain and others chuck out claims that Obama is substance free and just a good speaker, it is important to recognize that words matter (although I can’t believe we still have to debate this after the fateful inclusion of the phrase “axis of evil” in Bush’s speech years ago). There is a deep difference in the rhetoric from Obama and Clinton the other night, and I would argue it is emblematic of the difference between the two campaigns and their approaches.
I don’t want to go too deep in the psycho-babble, but I think it is not an unreasonable claim to state that many people who found themselves to be die-hard Clinton supporters identified personally with Clinton. For many of the feminists and older women who made up Hillary’s unwavering core of support, a rejection of Hillary was a rejection of themselves- they saw Hillary being subjected to the kind of abuse that they themselves have suffered, they identified with the concept of the glass ceiling and identified with much of the real and perceived sexism. In many cases, they saw things that I simply would not see (not that example, as even I could pick out what was offensive there, but check the whole archives and surely you will see some things you did not pick up), because of who they are and what they personally have experienced. In short, when Hillary lost, or they listened to some jackass on CNN debate whether it was appropriate to call Hillary a bitch, it was a personal loss or as if they had personally been called a bitch. When some idiot with a website named Balloon Juice said something nasty about Hillary, it was perceived as an attack on them. When the nonsense about Obama flipping off Hillary surfaced, it was perceived as yet another slight against the individual Clinton supporter- “He flipped me off!”
For Obama, many of the supporters identify with a movement, a need for something different, a need for change, and a sense of community. The Obama campaign recognized this difference, and masterfully used social networking to build a vibrant community. When Clinton made her fateful “white people” or “RFK assassination” remarks, it was an outright breach of community and societal norms (the latter RFK comments striking a nerve because this was a long-held fear of the community), which would help to explain why Obama supporters recoiled in horror at the remarks. When Republicans tried the hackneyed old “appeaser” nonsense, it was like the folks in the community who opposed the war in 2003 and beyond were being called traitors or in league with the terrorists again. When Hillary seized upon the “bitter” remarks for political advantage, it was as if the entire community was under assault for being “elitist.”
The question before us is how to merge the two campaigns and their supporters to beat McCain, but I would argue that while right now, tensions are hot, the fact that the Obama campaign has in large part been fueled by a movement mentality, there is a distinct possibility that it will be easy to quickly assimilate many of the Clinton supporters (and I dislike the negative connotations of the word assimilate, but I am hard-pressed to come up with another word). A piece I read yesterday discussed just that starting to happen:
Clinton supporters find evening filled with graciousness
The whole evening had been filled with similar graciousness and kindness, Stevenson said.
She had arrived at the building with Humphrey, and as they were taken to their seats, people kept stopping to hug them and thank them for being there.
Laughing, she spoke of how she decided she needed to make a trip to the restroom before Obama’s speech. Again, people kept stopping her to shake her hand.
“Finally, I just had to wave and leave or I would have missed the speech,” she said.
All of the other Clinton supporters received similar treatment.
In his speech, Obama had so many kind things to say about Clinton that her supporters often found themselves on their feet, applauding with the nearly 20,000 Obama zealots inside the arena.
It won’t be easy, and it is going to take some time, but Hillary has already signaled that she is going to ramp down things on Saturday at an event for her and her supporters. She started to do that yesterday with her glowing and admirable remarks in front of AIPAC, and for now, at least, it would be smart to simply let Clinton and her supporters have some space. They are hurting, and when you factor in that for years people had just assumed Clinton would be the next President, this is an especially tough loss. Even though I don’t identify as personally with Obama as many Clinton supporters do with Clinton, I know I would need some time had things gone the other way.
As a closing thought, this was just something I tossed around in my head last night while trying to fall asleep. Of course this does not apply to every person in either camp, but for the purposes of my amateur analysis, you have to break people into groups. As to how accurate the assessment is, I don’t know- you tell me. It is quite possible that those on the other side may view things just the opposite- it is the Obama supporters who identify with the candidate (Obamessiah is not an unfamiliar term to you all by now), and the reverse of what I am stating is more accurate. I think, however, that if someone were to perform a rhetorical analysis of the major speeches by the two candidates (something I have not done- I just counted a few words), I would bet there is some evidence there for my conjecture.