by Natalie LaScala
The third presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, moderated by Christopher Wallace, demonstrates a great struggle and competition for power. Power, in this case, refers to the ability to make one’s voice heard and have control over the direction of the conversation. The debates are meant to serve as a platform for discussion and giving the candidates an opportunity to persuade voters to agree with their position on issues (Friedman, 2012). A speech community is created in the setting of a presidential debate, in which there are certain expectations. One of these expectations, is that moderator will moderate the debate and have jurisdiction over who speaks and what they will speak about. The candidates are expected to listen to the moderator and their ideas and policies. However, throughout this debate, and particularly in this instance, the momentary power over the conversation frequently shifts between Wallace, Trump, and Clinton. Clinton is being accused of having a faulty policy on border security and uses both verbal and non-verbal communication as a means of restoring power in her favor. While she is making attempts to redirect the conversation, Trump and Wallace are also trying to keep hold of their power.
Jamie A. Thomas is a sociocultural linguist and digital media producer. Her forthcoming ethnography Zombies Speak Swahili is all about the undead, videogames, and why language and communication matter. She teaches at Swarthmore College.