The Washington Examiner has an article reflecting on the tendencies of politicians to pander to their audience.
Specifically, the article addresses the manner in which politicians adjust their accents to match their audience’s demographic.
Curiously, the Examiner, which is ultra-conservative, fails to note the tendency of Republican politicians to exhibit said pandering behavior, noting only occasions in which Democrats politicians have exhibited said pandering behavior.
Another Mistake? Kamala Harris Panders
The moment that inspired the piece was a recent Kamala Harris quip during Reverend Jesse Jackson’s retirement ceremony.
“I said to the congressman, I didn’t know he could preach like that!” Harris tells the crowd in an accent that, to be fair, is very clearly not her own and is very clearly meant to conform with the general audience. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but the Examiner implied that Harris was “acting like a racial stereotype straight out of South Park to try and win over a crowd.”
Well, it was a brief moment, a single line, but with respect to that line, I can’t disagree. It was weird and South Park-esque. You can watch the moment in question here, but I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. And I wouldn’t put as much stock in it as the Examiner who goes on to comb the archives for examples where Democratic politicians used vernacular or accents that was curiously aligned with their audience.
Examples include: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) changed her accent while speaking to an audience at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in 2019 saying there “ain’t nothing wrong” with being a bartender.” Alright.
“Sharpton seems to have this effect on politicians,” The Examiner reported, “with Pete Buttigieg chowing down on “fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and collard greens” during a 2019 meeting.”
“But who can forget the master of political pandering, Hillary Clinton? She whipped a Southern accent out of nowhere during a 2015 campaign event in South Carolina and has adjusted her accent depending on her audience on so many occasions that political pundits referred to her “black-cent” back in 2007.” Yeah, okay, it’s regrettable behavior.
How Politicians Change
Yeah, okay, that was a little weird, too. Watching Biden step up to the podium and click play on his phone, hearing the song play at low volume, and pretend to have any idea what song was playing.
I imagine Biden’s staff prepping him and coaching him on how to play a song on his phone, making sure the then-seventy-something-year-old knew how to pull it off without a hitch. It’s a weird moment. Remember this was the primary where Democratic candidates all took a moment to speak in Spanish. Remember that? Every time a debate would start the candidates would introduce themselves in Spanish, or say some other canned line in Spanish? It was lame, and clearly meant to court support amongst the increasingly vital Latino voting bloc.
The Despacito on the phone takes things too far. It was probably the result of Biden being unable to speak in Spanish like his younger colleagues. Can Biden speak in Spanish? I don’t know. I don’t care.
You know who else probably doesn’t care. Anyone, Spanish-speaking or otherwise, with student debt and low quality healthcare.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.