I let the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration slip by without comment. It seemed better that way. However, I’ve been reading Hillary Clinton’s account of the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, What Happened, and it seems like a good time to weigh in with a few thoughts on the book.
In 2008 I read the works published by Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama in the run-up to that year’s presidential election. To me it seemed McCain was the most qualified to be president (and Obama the least) but the voters didn’t see it that way.
Clinton’s book, Living History, surprised me then, revealing a woman with far more substance, humility and faith than I had gleaned from media coverage. I found myself liking her, even though I disliked a lot of her policy positions (and have questions as to how she squared some of those with being a Christian).
In 2016 she was the Democratic Party presidential nominee, winning the popular vote but not the Electoral College in the November election. Donald Trump is president because Clinton and her team didn’t get it done. The book supposedly tells us what happened.
It doesn’t really. I don’t think Clinton knows what happened. Maybe no-one does. Donald Trump probably wakes up every morning surprised to find it isn’t all a dream. Most Americans wake up every morning horrified to discover that it wasn’t just a nightmare – Donald Trump really is their president.
The behind-the-scenes book of the 2016 election that would be riveting to read would come from political strategists and war room operatives. Candidates don’t have a complete view of what is going on. They can’t if they are to be effective campaigners; they just have to trust the staff knows what is going on and can handle whatever comes their way.
The Hillary Clinton that comes out in this book is the same one I read about in 2008. Someone dedicated to public service as a person of faith. She’s not running for anything anymore, so she can be herself. American politicians all make lip service to Christianity, but often that seems to be something said to get elected. This seems genuine, and Clinton comes across as the sort of person I wouldn’t mind sitting down to chat with. I can’t say hat about Donald Trump: narcissists bore me.
Clinton does come across as still bitter about the election loss (and even more concerned with the direction of the country under Trump). I suppose that is in some way understandable – she got the most votes and still managed to lose the election. There were many factors involved, it wasn’t fair, but the bottom line is her strategists (in my opinion) completely lost sight of the goal. They believed the hype about Clinton being unbeatable and manages to lose an election they should have won. America (and the world) is dealing with the consequences.
This book has too many inconsequential names, people who are being thanked for their service to the campaign, and not enough nitty-gritty details of what makes a political campaign tick. I understand Clinton wanting to acknowledge those who worked so hard for the cause, but I had hoped for more insight or analysis.
This is getting long, so I am going to wait until tomorrow to give some more thoughts on the book and the American political system. Just one last one for today though.
The book is called What Happened, but the contents don’t really deliver that information. It might have been better to include a question mark in the title.
If you want the definitive book on the 2016 US presidential election, this isn’t it. What it does provide is an insight into the mind of a woman who has dedicated her life to public service. I may not agree with a lot of her policies, but she has earned my respect.