Friday, September 9, 2016

Hillary’s Hard A

Try as she may, Hillary Clinton is still not connecting at the gut level with much of the American electorate. I have struggled to analyze why, and think I have the answer. Try as I may, repeatedly, I have been unable to get anyone in the Clinton camp to pay attention to this suggestion. So, time to go public with my thesis in a kind of Hail Mary pass. Here goes:

In the last few days of the Presidential campaign, we have heard much about “softening”, and “hardening” of positions.  I can’t figure out if the Republican candidate is really softening his position on immigration or not.  One minute he sounds softer, then the next he is hard at it again.  Kellyanne Conway, his new campaign manager, has obviously brought out a softer side of Donald Trump, as long as he reads words from a teleprompter.  The problem resurfaces when he goes off script, and his normal tendency is to go from soft to hard edged rhetoric.  That’s just how he rolls.  His opponent, Hillary Clinton, however, has her own soft vs. hard thing going.  After watching many of her speeches, I finally figured out why so many people find it difficult to believe what she says.  It is all about the way she says it.

     Hillary uses the hard pronunciation of the indefinite article “a”.  Hillary almost always pronounces “a” as “eh”(which rhymes with hay), not “uh” (which rhymes with duh).  According to most grammar experts, the hard “A” is properly used when denoting something unique, or singular, or formal, like a book title, as in “A” bridge too far" as opposed to “uh” bridge too far.  Over use of the hard “A” results in the speaker being perceived as formalistic and defensive, which is how Hillary comes across.

      I would be interested in seeing the reaction of white men over 50 who read what she says, as opposed to listening to it.  I think you might get an altogether different reaction.  It is often not the content of her speech, but the quality of it that annoys many. How we say things does matter, and with her overuse of the hard “A”, Hillary comes off as someone who is simply not genuine. Translate that to not believable. It is as simple as that.  I find it hard to understand with all the political pros she has on her side, why no one seems to have told her what she needs to do to fix it.  Message to Hillary Clinton:  drop the hard “A”.  “What A great campaign we had” should become what a (Uh) great campaign. A hard “A’ is often too formalistic. It is as simple as that. I am not a linguistics expert, but I am a student of political speechmaking , and have been for over 40 years, and I can spot a problem when I see one. Hillary has A problem.

  Every time she is asked why people just don’t believe her, she struggles to answer the question.  Well, there’s the answer.  Soften the use of the “a’ and see how her poll ratings would soar.  When you are running for President, or any office for that matter, how you say things, tone, accent, inflection, is often as important was what you say. Hillary has  “A” problem.

    Accents, colloquialisms , and regional nuances of speech have historically played a very important part in shaping a politician's success. Take JFK for example. His "pahk your cah in the yahd " accent seemed to elevate his electability , and ability to endear himself to the American people. Somehow. and for some unknown reason, Boston accents are often just, adorable in ways that Chicago hard A’s and upstate NY flat A’s are not. If you don't believe me, consider the success of the guys on NPR’s “Car talk” ( The "tap fort" brothers ). People just love the way they sound, and how they laugh, in addition to the comedic things they say.

     People do not much like the way Hillary sounds at times, because of her overuse of the hard “A”.  She just seems disingenuous. It is this school marmish way of condescendingly talking to her errant pupils that tends to upend her. She adopts the affect of a hall monitor,  which is very off putting. She needs to change the way she speaks, and pronto. She has already taken some steps to stop the shouting from the podium, and sound more conversational.  This is the next big step she needs to take.

     Bernie Sander's Brooklyn accent, which turned out to be unendearing to some heartland voters, actually worked in his favor with many, by building his believability quotient. When he says " Enough already!", people get it. They hear and they get him in a deep seated kind of way. He is , above all else, believable. If what you say doesn't ring true, or doesn't sound true, it will not be perceived as true. You have to own what you say for people to believe in you, and Hillary just doesn't sound like she owns what she says, much of the time.

     When Hillary ran for the senate in NY, she became a great student of everything Upstate, and she won. She can fix this problem too. But first, she, and her staff have to recognize the nature of the problem, before they can turn it around. Hello Houston. Hello Brooklyn. Hello Hillary. We've got a problem. Let's fix it.  Say goodbye to the hard “A”.  Softer, at least in this case,  is way better.