Kirchner’s Public Discourse

By Bryan Weiner

One of the key elements of a leader’s personality is their ability for public discourse. The Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech dealt with the issue of a leader who had a stutter and a fear of public speaking. Many claim that President Obama’s surge in popularity and his eventual unlikely presidential candidacy came from the moving keynote speech that he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as well has a very distinctive and passionate style of public speaking and social media presence that highlights some key aspects of her persona and her character.

Many political speeches given by Latin American leaders are filled with fiery and passionate rhetoric. The charged speeches of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara’s call of “hasta la victoria siempre” resonate in the political discourse of the region. Kirchner is no different. Many of her speeches are passionate calls to her nation and her people to fight for what is right and for a better future for Argentina; a future that is in line with her Peronist/Kirchnerist populist and nationalistic vision for the country. In an analysis of Kirchner’s speeches conducted by Victor Armony, a researcher from the University of Quebec, he highlights the 10 most commonly used words in Kirchner’s speeches. What is unique about her speeches is the use of the word “creo” meaning, “I believe,” which he claims simultaneously shows the “force of her conviction and the possibility of her error.” He does however, also analyze that her “emphasis on ‘message’ and ‘vision’” can be powerful, but it can also come off as contrived. This is very noticeable in some of her other speeches and the criticisms they have drawn; they are moving and powerful, but they have a sense of a having a very carefully crafted message. One other noticeable element of her speeches is that they are very much directed at the average people and citizens of Argentina (generally not an unusual tactic for politicians). She uses this to reinforce the populist values of her overall political message.

With social media, however, leaders have an entirely new platform with which to connect to their citizens. This is a platform that has served Kirchner very well and ties directly in to her speaking style. Colin Docherty analyzes the unusual twitter presence of Kirchner and makes many interesting connections. Kirchner often doesn’t use the typical style of Twitter: condensing down information into a concise 140-character message. She will give the full text of speeches she has made over the course of 30-40 tweets or will speak conversationally over a series of tweets (the only time she makes stand-alone tweets are when they contain pictures or links to articles). Docherty theorizes that she is trying to connect directly to her base in her very open and conversational manner, and use that to carefully deliver her often-controversial message. When reading some of the tweets and their comments, this becomes very apparent; she is making casual connections and getting people to respond to her (although she never responds back to them).

What does this say about Kirchner’s persona, though? It tells a great deal about who she is as a leader and who she is as a person. Her passion and her conviction come through very clearly in both her speeches and her tweets, but they also reveal her to be a savvy politician with a very calculated message.