Home > 1968-2008 Campaigns, 1992 Campaign > By Carrie Zambrano–Relating to the People, 1992

By Carrie Zambrano–Relating to the People, 1992

The 1992 election was notable for several reasons. First, the incumbent president, George H.W. Bush was running for re-election. Most presidents in his position face little opposition. But Bush received push back from some of his fellow conservatives after he famously pledged not to raise taxes in a speech he made during his first campaign in 1988. In addition, the economy was in a recession and his strength in foreign policy became less important due to the end of the Cold War and the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War. Secondly, the third party candidate, Ross Perot was a leading candidate. He self-funded his own campaign and ran as a one-issue candidate, focusing on the deficit. Although he was popular, he lost momentum after he dropped out and then eventually re-entered the race. Ultimately, Perot garnered 19% of the vote, which was uncommon for a third party candidate. Lastly, Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee, won the election, ending twelve years of Republican control. This was the third time in the twentieth century that a sitting president did not get re-elected. Clinton ran his campaign with a new Democratic ideology which allowed him to relate to a wide range of people. Clinton’s ability to relate to the American people is what ultimately won him the presidency.

The ability for a presidential candidate to relate to the citizens of the United States has always been crucial in order to gain votes. During the 1992 election, this was one of the key differences that separated Bush and Clinton. And throughout the campaign we see several rhetorical examples in which this difference is displayed. One of the most notable rhetorical examples of this can be seen towards the end of the second town hall debate. During this debate, a woman stood up and asked the candidates, “How has the national debt personally affected you?” Bush answered first, giving a very unrelatable response, stating that, “I’m sure it has.” He went on to say how as president he has seen people struggle and that he wants to help by stimulating the economy but avoided answering until the woman asked the question again. Bush then responded saying how “it’s not fair to say you can’t be affected because you haven’t been hit personally.” This statement shows that he is practically admitting to the fact that he does not know exactly how it is like to be affected by the economy. In addition, his tone seemed defensive and insensitive. Clinton responded to the question second. Immediately, the tone is different. He appears to be more caring and concerned. Although he, too, did not directly address how he was personally affected, the quality of this response made him more relatable.  He finished by saying, “we need to bring the American people together.”

Another notable rhetorical moment is Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. This speech further exemplifies Clinton’s desire to want to relate to the American people and bring everyone together. His fifty three minute speech is filled with messages of hope, change, and unity. He begins by accepting the nomination on behalf of “all those who do the work, pay the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules — in the name of the hard-working Americans who make up our forgotten middle class.” He goes on to say, “I am a product of the middle class and when I am president you will be forgotten no more.” These words allow him to really relate to a majority of Americans on an economic level. Clinton then moves on to salute the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end to the Cold War. He wants to see the success America has accomplished abroad, at home. He says, “Now that we have changed the world, it’s time to change America”. He continues to try and relate to the people on a personal level by sharing emotional stories of his mother and father and how he grew up in Hope, Arkansas. He makes a particular well known statement in regards to his mother, “You want to know where I get my fighting spirit? It all started with my mother. Thank you, Mother. I love you,“ Clinton said. Clinton had been vocal about women’s equality in the workplace and in regards to health care and his statement showed where his stance on women’s issues originated. One of the final most notable parts of the speech is when Clinton is discussing the current government. He says, “Frankly, I’m fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values. Our families have values but our government doesn’t.” Clinton is tired of the current system and wants to see a change. His comments sparked applause from the audience, who were agreeing with his messages. Ultimately, Clinton wanted to let people know that he is serious about change and that he wants to focus on the economy and other issues that were not addressed in the previous administration.



“1992 Presidential Election.” 1992 Presidential Election – Timeline – Slaying the Dragon of Debt – Regional Oral History Office – University of California, Berkeley. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

Levy, Michael. “United States Presidential Election of 1992.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

“Transcript of Speech by Clinton Accepting Democratic Nomination.” The New York Times, 16 July 1992. Web. 09 May 2017.


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