I recently witnessed Kathleen Hall Jamieson give a presentation on the structure of presidential debates and the impact they have on the candidates’ campaign as a whole. Jamieson conveyed how this year’s candidates’ words at the debate influenced the general public, utilizing their social media, particularly their Twitter accounts, as evidence. She, for the most part, focused on how Trump’s erratic behavior, both on social media and during the debates, damaged his campaign and portrayed him in a negative light in the eyes of the media. She also highlighted how Clinton’s rehearsed speeches and more conservative approach on social media helped eliminate much of the harm that Trump received throughout the debates. Finally, Jamieson expressed her frustration with the handling of this year’s debates and with the election in general.
The presentation she gave was interesting and beneficial to my understanding of presidential rhetoric as a whole, and much of what she lectured on tied in directly to our discussions in class. Although she never explicitly stated the word “rhetoric,” she elaborated a great deal on how the candidates go about expressing an idea and how it appeals to the general public, which fundamentally is rhetoric. I found it incredibly fascinating when she mentioned how Clinton’s social media management team spends hours upon hours searching for the right combination of words. This simple fact suggests that every word said throughout a candidate’s entire campaign (and even words said prior to the campaign) have an impact on the way they are perceived by the public. It was also interesting to see that what is placed on social media is never gone and can come back to hurt someone in the future, as Jamieson evidenced through her many examples of Trump’s tweets. Through her many examples of Trump’s careless tweets, I got to see the potential harmful effects social media may have on someone trying to achieve something in the real world.
I actually found this presentation to be much more engaging and enjoyable than I thought I would going into it. I learned more about presidential rhetoric during debates and was offered a new way of viewing rhetoric through social media. I found many of the examples given to be entertaining, which I though helped draw out attention from the crowd, although she claimed the examples were not funny and should be taken seriously. Finally, while I felt her views on why this years’ debates were unsuccessful to be interesting and thought-provoking, I felt like I left the presentation a little hopeless and empty-handed because no possible solutions were given. I would have liked to see possible suggestions that could fix presidential debates in the future. Besides that fault, I found the lecture pleasing, and I definitely learned from it.