The Voice of and for Women in the 1996 Presidential Campaign: Style and Substance of Convention Speeches
Karen Lane DeRosa
Transportation Improvement District, Ohio and Miami University of Ohio
Dianne G. Bystrom
Iowa State University
An unprecedented number of women ran for elected office in 1996 (Center for the American Woman and Politics, 1997); however, the novelty of yet another "Year of the Woman" candidate was ignored. Instead, popular and political attention to women in 1996 focused on their role in the presidential campaign--as spouse, child, campaign surrogate, "soccer mom," or member of the "gender gap."
The influence of women on campaign issues and rhetoric was evident in the 1996 campaign. It seemed that more presidential advertisements employed female voice-overs, more women stood at the podiums of the national conventions, and more political commentary focused on the role women voters played in the presidential election. However, the extent to which women's voices--literally and symbolically--sounded in the political dialogue of the 1996 presidential campaign in policy, rhetorical themes, elocution, and delivery requires more careful examination.
Analyzing 140 speeches delivered at the 1996 Democratic and Republican national conventions, this study investigates women's impact on the style and substance of the 1996 presidential race. Convention speeches articulate candidate, campaign, and partisan themes to the largest single speech audience in the course of a campaign, and these highly ritualistic orations often represent the larger campaign discourse. Although compared to infomer-