“Why Bill Clinton’s speeches succeed”

James Fallows has a fascinating column today in The Atlantic. Here’s why he thinks Clinton connects:

Because he treats listeners as if they are smart.

That is the significance of “They want us to think” and “The strongest argument is” and “The arithmetic says one of three things must happen” and even “Now listen to me here, this is important.” He is showing that he understands the many layers of logic and evidence and positioning and emotion that go into political discussion — and, more important, he takes for granted that listeners can too. . . .

He compares Clinton’s style to Sports Radio Talk, where it’s assumed listeners understand the nuances and finer points of rules nad strategy and analysis. He goes on:

It’s the difference between clarifying, and over-simplifying. Clarification, with the confidence that people can understand the back and forth, lies behind passages like this, which characterized most of the speech.

I think he’s got it exactly right.

11 responses to ““Why Bill Clinton’s speeches succeed”

  1. And isn’t it nice to be treated that way. It also makes one feel on the inside and in the know, and therefore want to be a part of the whole thing. As if our government actually related to our lives. Who knew?


  2. I think he’s got it exactly right.

    Me too, Moe.


  3. How much longer can we hope to have an educated audience. By whatever measure, it is less so today than 10 years ago. I don’t even want to think about 10 years from now. Here in Florida we have a governor who says he wants to bring business and jobs to the state yet cuts the very programs which would create an employable workforce. And why would a business move here if it meant placing the children of the executives in our public schools? I saw a bumper sticker yesterday “Education Cuts Do Not Heal”. Kinda says it all.


    • Well Ed, we can hope that our ethically challenged almost indicted Medicare thief who bought the Governorship for himself is tossed out of office in two years!


  4. Beneath The Tin Foil Hat

    Information without condescension; a refreshing contrast to the smug layer of manure that was spread last week.


  5. I don’t remember seeing/hearing any recent speeches of Bill Clinton, but just from a short excerpt I could tell his speech was different than any of the other political soliloquies I’ve heard over the years.


    • welcome iarxiv (hmmmm,, something to do with ‘fourteen’??). It’s worth trying to see the whole hting – although in typical Clinton style, it’s LONG – 48 minutes I think.


      • I’m not sure about watching all of the 48 mins, but maybe. Anyhow, if you were wondering about iarxiv, that would possibly make more sense if I spelt it like
        ‘i archive’… the Greek letter ‘x’ is transliterated as ‘ch’ so it ends up as ‘i arxive’… and then as ‘iarxiv’… hope that makes a bit of sense…


  6. Okay, iarxiv, now it makes perfect sense and I can now see it’s a perfect name for your blog.


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