First Name Game

By Kendall Silwonuk

In Tuesday night’s Presidential Debate, the first of this election season, Hillary Clinton referred to Donald Trump by his first name twenty two times, while Mr. Trump only addressed her as “Secretary Clinton”. Liberal-leaning magazine Slate is calling Clinton’s jargon a “tool for undermining” Trump’s image as a respected candidate. But this can’t be the case. Clinton’s campaign is titled “Hillary for America”. She is marketing herself by her first name. She couldn’t try to undermine “Donald’s” image while using the same strategy to promote herself. What is going on with first names in this election?

Clinton might be using “Hillary” because America has already seen a “President Clinton”. But it could be argued that to campaign as “Clinton” in her own right, as someone independently accomplished, who has served the country for years, who has earned the right to use her own name, would be a powerful feminist statement. Instead, she and her team chose “Hillary”. 

Secretary Clinton has been criticized for her unapproachable nature, for her upper-class status, for her career as a politician. Maybe using her first name in this campaign is a way to counter these arguments and show that she is one of the people. Senator Bernie Sanders was affectionately known as “Bernie” during his campaign; “Hillary for America” could be Clinton’s use of the same strategy. 

However, it is still important to examine the reason Clinton’s campaign is forced to use “Hillary”. Trump’s team doesn’t refer to him as “Donald”. Mr. Trump very clearly does not portray himself as a man of the people. He will tell you of his hundreds of millions in profit this year. “Trump” is a name associated with hotels and casinos and clothing lines, all exclusively tailored for the upper class. Voters know he is not like them, they know he is a powerful businessman. They do not need a “likable” candidate in him. 

Then why do voters need a likable “Hillary”? Because she is a woman. She is a grandmother (and her team won’t let us forget that). She is not solely a career politician. She isn't stuck on a high, unapproachable hill in Washington; she is a kind, neighborly woman we can all call “Hillary”. At least that’s what her marketing team wants us to believe. 

Yes, “Bernie” ran on his first name. But he did not have to. Senator Sanders, with his charisma and appeal to young voters, stumbled upon the use of his first name. Voters chose that for him, as they saw him as charming. Clinton, on the other hand, was forced to craft her image into this kind, neighborly candidate. Because she is a woman, and that is what voters want in a woman. They are okay with a lofty, arrogant “Trump”, but they need “Hillary” to be approachable. 

Clinton may have used “Donald’s” name in the debate to undermine his image, but this move is contradictory to her own campaign. The fact that a woman cannot take pride in her name and the reputation she has built for it, while a man is praised for doing so, shows our country’s bias in this election.