Hillary Clinton is perhaps the best candidate for analyzing rhetorical strategies. Her long resume has helped her to master ethos; she always ameliorates any accusation of bad politics. In the Democratic debate on January 17th, Clinton showed these political skills off in front of her opponents. Clinton used Martin Luther King’s legacy to her advantage, appealed to pathos, and effectively attacked the reliability of her biggest adversary all within the first fifteen minutes of the debate.
As the candidate with the largest voting base of black and Hispanic voters, she used the continuation of Martin Luther King’s campaign for justice as a reason for her presidency. Clinton asserted that, “[King’s] moral clarity, that message he conveyed that evening really stayed with me and helped to set me on a path of service. I also remember that he spent the last day of his life in Memphis, fighting for dignity and higher pay for working people. And that is our fight still.” All of the candidates mentioned Martin Luther King in their opening remarks during the debate, but Clinton made an implicit statement about continuing King’s fight for equality in the United States. This resonating argument simultaneously boosted her ethos and appealed to pathos; she is saying that she is the only president that can and will continue the fight for working people.
Additionally, Clinton discredited her opponent during the discussion of gun control. She stated, “I have made it clear based on Senator Sanders’ own record that he has voted with the NRA, with the gun lobby numerous times.” Subsequently, she listed specific examples of the event which provided substance for her claim. This rhetorical strategy bolsters her own image by creating an appearance of a more reliable, credible candidate. Later in her response to the gun control issue, she specifically appealed to pathos using a local example of armed violence. The Charleston shooting served as a way to connect with the sentiments of the crowd and show that she, personally, will try to prevent these shootings in the future.