Bernie Sanders is nothing if not captivating. Even folks who find his leanings to be too liberal, often like and appreciate him as a person. He is intense, passionate, sincere, and a man of the people. But what about his opponent? Can’t the same be said of Hillary Clinton? She has an impressive record of working to bring about changes that ensure health care for all, rights and safeguards for children, and better wages and equal treatment for women. Isn’t she also a passionate, sincere candidate and a woman who is truly for the people?
Apparently many folks don’t think so. Yes, there have been past problems with her trustworthiness—going back to the time she was First Lady and the Whitewater scandal. Then there was her defense (denial/collusion) of her husband’s treatment towards women he was accused of sexually harassing. Most recently were Benghazi and her private email scandal while she served as Secretary of State. Then of course, her ties to Wall Street, which her opponent mentions frequently. Taken together, they could certainly provide reason for her low trust scores with voters—but are they enough to explain the rise of Bernie’s popularity and his greater appeal to youthful voters, and in particular, women?
Head to head, he and Hillary both have much to offer Democrats due to their similar platforms, years of experience and past voting records and accomplishments. In fact, they often point out how similar they are in what they think is most important and what changes they would like to make if they were elected President. So where is the difference? The answer might very well lie in everything they don’t say—which speaks volumes.
Bernie’s passion is seen in how he uses his hands, and in his facial expressions, that express a wide range of affect in response to various topics. He punctuates his sentences with finger pointing, hand gestures, and in how he uses his upper body. All of these convey strong emotion and sincerity, and tell those who are listening that he means what he says, because his message is a consistent, whole body one.
Contrast this with Hillary Clinton. She is polished, on topic, highly intelligent and articulate; and she speaks with knowledge, confidence and authority. However it is her facial expressions that convey virtually all of her nonverbal messages—but they are limited in affect, which can send a message that she is manipulating, holding back and/or hiding her true feelings. She clearly demonstrates anger, which can be seen in her tight facial muscles, closed and tense lips, and a certain expression in her eyes. She also expresses disgust and disdain with a certain half-smile, a narrowing of her eyes, and in the tone of voice she uses with them. Her hands extend out when she is making a point, conveying her intent for full inclusion of her audience. But there is no passion in her gesture and combined with her careful countenance this can offer a mixed message when her words are emotional and passionate.
When Bernie Sanders communicates, he does so with his whole body—and what he expresses verbally mirrors what his body is saying. Hillary Clinton uses words meant to convey force, energy and passion, while at the same time her body is communicating detachment, control, and an absence of genuine emotion. So what does Bernie have that Hillary doesn’t? He has an open, passionate, humble, and consistent message that says I am who I say I am, and I believe what I tell you I believe. This is sincerity, and it apparently resonates loudly with voters.