As everybody knows, the 2016 presidential election was as close as it was controversial. That election will be the subject of many books, and American history instructors and students will dwell on it ad infinitum.
The loser, Hillary Clinton, has written her book on the election, “What Happened?” We have not read it. Don’t know if we will because it is self-serving — she was not to blame for her defeat by Donald Trump from what we read of reviews.
Another book that came out this year is “Shattered — Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.” It was written by two political writers, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Allen has covered national politics for “Politico,” “Bloomberg” and Vox. He writes a weekly political column for “Roll Call.” Parnes is the senior White House correspondent for “The Hill” newspaper and covered Clinton during the campaign and covers the Trump administration.
"Shattered” is a bit heavy on the coverage of the presidential primary elections and the general election. It really features an “insider’s” view of the campaign. The various personalities, and the clashes, in running her campaign are given light. There were many disagreements on strategies. Hillary had her favorites on her campaign staff and listened to some of them almost to a fault, and their advice was wrong in a number of instances.
At times, according to the book, her organization seemed to be in disarray. There were many ups and downs. The infighting was constant. “Every time it looked like she had hit her stride in the race, a new obstacle appeared in her path,” the authors wrote. However, through all of that, she still was the favorite to beat Trump.
The authors said early on “Clintonworld sources started telling us in 2015 that Hillary was still struggling to articulate her motivation for seeking the presidency.” In ways, she assumed she deserved the White House. The authors say the race was winnable for Hillary. “Her own missteps — from setting up a controversial private email server and giving speeches to Goldman Sachs to failing to convince voters that she was with them, and turning her eyes away from working-class whites — gave Donald Trump the opportunity he needed to win.”
It was somewhat like the 1948 presidential election when Democrat Harry Truman upset Republican Tom Dewey, the favorite to win. Truman connected with the general public where as Dewey was out of step with many Americans’ thinking. Hillary never made a connection with the people she needed to win.
The book is balanced, frank and fair. Hillary is criticized and at times the good side of her comes out. Hillary was stunned, bitter by her defeat. She was ready to move into the White House. She was overconfident at times. Several of her advisers were not that sure and tried to sway her to come up with a message that was fresh rather than the same old political verbiage.
Bernie Sanders saw an opportunity to advance his political chances because he had a message with appeal to many people. The book reported he was able to bring new voters into the process.
The authors wrote that Hillary, a few days after her defeat, still had trouble accepting the fact that she lost. “She put the fine point on the factors she believed cost her the presidency: the FBI (Comey), the KGB (the old name for Russia’s intelligence service), and the KKK (the support Trump got from white nationalists).”
Hillary has never expressed that she was to blame in the end. She did say she misjudged the mood of the people. That was obvious.
“Shattered” is a good read even if at times you are a bit bored with the reporting of some of the primaries and the details given. It should be read by political science majors and political consultants. It would be helpful to political candidates also. Political junkies will have trouble putting the book down once it’s opened.