The point of this piece is to point out where Hillary Clinton has stopped short at developing vocal skills for debates and stump speeches. As a public speaker she has trouble reaching beyond facts to the emotional "Why?" responses that generate persistent commitments. This weakness is critical. As a presidential candidate she will be vulnerable to cheap low-blow attacks all through this campaign.
Top level American politicians put resources to augmenting their vocal effectiveness. They work at it. Hillary Clinton is no different. Mastery of oratorical skills depends on a combination of coaching and many, many hours of practice. The problem, here, is how this effort was targeted -- specifically, what was missed.
Voters choose candidates who believe what they believe.
Every presidential candidate has done voice work since the second campaign of George H.W. Bush in 1992. Their custom tuned Politician's Voices show command of pace, tone and enunciation. With Clinton her accomplishments as a speaker are nothing to be sneezed at. She never embarrasses herself. But as a leader, not a spokeswoman, her skill set is not yet fully adequate to these tasks.
Consider what the very best female speakers can do from examples below. Love 'em or hate 'em, the best of the best reach their audiences' hearts.
Clinton communicates the "What" of political issues and the "How" of democratic policies. She is always clear. She listens well. Her voice avoids strident affect as well as the appearance of straining to force logical connections.
She is a professional among politicians.
Thing is, she will be vulnerable to go-for-the-throat counterattacks as long as she remains fundamentally ordinary in her connection to the emotional "Why" of her audiences. As "Granny Clinton" she is the no-brainer choice over any warmonger Republican. But so was Jimmy Carter in 1980. Ronald Reagan's line "There you go again!" was the election winner that November because Jimmy Carter had not connected emotionally with his audiences. Same for John Kerry and the phony Swift Boat attacks.
Carter and Kerry had not learned to use their voices to reach people's hearts. They had not done the work to acquire the fundamentals of stage craft.
The "Why" of human feelings is what matters.
That is, heart. And when the content of a campaign gets nasty this can be all that matters.
Great Female Speakers
Clinton is doing what she can to get there. Her public voice has lowered by about half an octave as compared with the 1980s. She maintains an even pace whatever the material. There is even a hint of a bell tone, a steady modulation inside her voice that supplies body for the sound quality during her public speeches.
Let's have a look at what the very best of this world have to offer.
Let's start with a speaker where very few in this audience will understand a word of what she is saying. Here is one young woman in China, speaking Mandarin. Things happen in Mandarin that do not happen quite the same ways in English. She speaks very quickly at times. Still, for quality of voice, for sharpness, for going over cliffs, for heart, for small explosions, behold....
By the 15 or 20 minutes mark, you should be getting a sense of what Chai Jing has done connecting with her audience and with China.
Then there is Emma Watson. "Hermione." Female lead in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." That Emma Watson. Her topic is not quite the life vs death poisoning of China's air. Close enough though: female equality. Standing up for women. At Davos:
Watson starts at the heart. She sells the emotions of her position, her arguments so that connection comes first. Again, the small vocal explosions make it work.
And then there's Sarah Palin. (Start at 3:50) Yes, Palin. A well defined subculture has sprung up around her. Damn near a cult. And it's not just the surgically improved face and figure. There's plenty of the same physical pattern out there. Dozens of middle-age competitors among the population of RWNJ Schlafly-clones.
The difference is Palin's voice. Palin was on air for years as a sports reporter. She watched her tapes. For Liberals, she is strident. For most rural Americans this voice works, big time.
Palin got her ticket a 9% bump. She hit rural America's "Why" buttons as effectively as Rush Limbaugh, Larry the Cable Guy or NASCAR races.
You don't have to like what she says to appreciate her tactical effectiveness. She's an idiot compared to the job of being POTUS. Content is not king; what Sarah Palin does is quite apart from facts.
Palin goes big. To understand her, start with recognition that her voice works same way as aggressive body language. She pushes a High-T testosterone overdose, masculinity, a worship of domination.
And that's what got McCain/Palin that 9% "bump" in the polls -- a triple on expected outcomes.
As an added perk for Liberals, do Liberals want to penetrate The Base pool of Republican voters ??? Give thanks for Palin's crudeness, then apply the lessons she shows us in the video. Palin makes emotional "Why" appeals to their Base voters; Liberals have much stronger connections to make, so adopt her attack patterns and drive it all home.
One nice thing here, we can do it honestly. I've yet to hear a Democrat come out with this self assurance, with her knock-out punch cadence.
For looks at where Hillary Clinton has placed her speaking voice, where she has significant opportunities for improvement, follow below the fold. Yes, Hillary can do well by enhancing her vocal technique. I'll end by hitting two specific items, effectively stage craft techniques.