During their first face-off at Monday night's debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump switched roles as Clinton addressed Trump as "Donald" and Trump, surprisingly, called his opponent "Secretary Clinton." Changing his tack from the overly familiar "Hillary" — or the shockingly un-catchy "Crooked Hillary" — Trump took care to address Clinton with her actual title. Since Trump began his campaign in 2015, he has referred to Clinton as "Hillary," disrespecting her full name and refusing to use her title of Secretary Clinton. Why did both Clinton and Trump change their tactics Monday night?
The first significant instance of the surprising change reared its head early in the debate, when Trump stuttered over his first direct address to Clinton:
Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that okay? Good. I want you to be very happy. It's very important to me.
Though he struggled to finish his sentence after calling Clinton by her official title, Trump continued to use the title while attacking his opponent. He referenced "people like Secretary Clinton" who "have made such bad decisions in terms of our jobs." He also mentioned a group he described as "politicians like Secretary Clinton that have caused this problem" of national debt.
Unlike Trump, Clinton referred to Trump as simply "Donald," turning the tables and making The Donald's self-made brand into a somewhat mocking address. Here are some samples of her new, first-name basis with the Republican candidate:
- "Donald, it's good to be with you."
- "I've heard Donald say this at his rallies, and it's really unfortunate that he paints such a dire, negative picture of black communities in our country."
- "I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing."
Twitter users noticed the discrepancy between Clinton and Trump's tactics, both in their differences from each other's previous strategies, and in their nature as mirror opposites. Some users commented on Clinton's switch to Trump's first name, characterizing it as Clinton flipping the script on the gendered tendency to refer to women by their first names.
Clinton's decision to call Trump by his first name was highly anticipated by Vox, which published an article yesterday suggesting she "get under Trump's skin" using a method that is "bizarrely easy": calling him Donald.
What does it mean for Trump's campaign that he switched to Clinton's official title during the debate? Trump supporters certainly noticed the change and vocalized their anger against Clinton for "disrespecting" her opponent in not calling him "Mr. Trump" when he took such care to refer to her as "Secretary Clinton."
Trump's resistance from the "Crooked Hillary" nickname also proved useful when Holt asked the candidate about his statement that Clinton did not have the "presidential look." While he tended to become defensive, claiming that moderator Lester Holt was quoting incorrect sources with quotes planted by Clinton's campaign, his rhetorical strategy favored a slightly more formal and respectful address of his opponent.
While Trump denied well-documented quotes exemplifying his misogyny, his newfound seeming respect for his female opponent served him well: he passionately denied facts, but at least he called her Secretary.