What Happened – Hilary Rodham Clinton

Like many, I followed the 2016 US Election, particularly as I was teaching US Government and Politics for most of the election period – though I would probably follow it closely anyway. I found the result difficult to accept -as the leader of the US has a global impact.

This book begins by Hilary providing a summary of her book; in the introduction, she states: “Now when people ask how I’m doing, I say that, as an American, I ‘m more worried than ever-but as a person, I’m doing okay.” She goes on to say “I will always be grateful to have been the Democratic Party’s nominee and to have earned 65,844,610 votes from my fellow Americans. That number – more votes than any candidate for President has ever received, other than Barack Obama – is proof that the ugliness we faced in 2016 does not define our country.”

She quotes Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” We can disagree about policies and values, but claiming that 2+2=5 and having millions of Americans swallow it is very different.

She talks about making mistakes and says: “The truth is, everyone’s flawed. That’s the nature of human beings. But our mistakes alone shouldn’t define us. WE should be judged by the totality of our work and life. Many problems don’t have either/or answers, and a good decision today may not look as good ten or twenty years later through the lens of new conditions. When you’re in politics, this gets more complicated. We all want- and the political press demands – a “storyline”, which tends to cast people as either saints or sinners. You’re either revered or reviled. And there’s no juicier political story than the saint who gets unmasked as a sinner. A two-dimensional cartoon is easier to digest than a fully formed person.”

She talks candidly about Donald Trumps debate performance: “Trump wouldn’t answer any question directly. He was rarely linear in his thinking or speaking. He digressed into nonsense and then digressed even more. There was no point in refuting his arguments like it was a normal debate – it was almost impossible to identify what his arguments even were, especially since they changed minute to minute.”

She talks about changemakers, explaining “Change might be the most powerful word in American politics. IT’s also one of the hardest to define. In 1992 and 2008, change meant electing dynamic young leaders who promised hope and renewal. In 2016, it meant handing a lit match to a pyromaniac.” “It was sad to watch the Republica Party go from Reagans Morning in America to Trump’s Midnight in America”.

Hillary discusses her slogan for the primary campaign “Stronger Together” and how this was meant to be a direct challenge to Donald Trump’s divisive campaign. However, she also talks about the mistakes she made, when she said: “We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”. This was an unfortunate soundbite, however, it was actually part of a much longer quote which was about how the move to clean energy was going to put coal mines out of business and as such their needed to be an economic plan for them.

She puts part of her failure down to the state of the United States and its failure to recover from the Recession. A lot of working-class Americans were hurting and frustrated. Unemployment was down and the economy was growing, but most people hadn’t had a raise in fifteen years. The average family income was $4,000 less than when my husband left office in 2001. Since 2001 half a million jobs in department stores have disappeared, that’s many times more than lost in coal mining.

Hillary quotes Jill Abramsom, former New York Times Editor saying “This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest”. She found that Hilary told the truth more than any other presidential candidate in 2016, including both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who was the most dishonest candidate ever measured.

Each chapter in the book begins with a quote, and my favourite is:

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right-for you’ll be criticised anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

The penultimate chapter is entitled ‘Why’ and in it, Hilary gives a number of reasons why she lost the election. This is exceptionally honest and well written, and I can’t really summarise it effectively for this post. It is worth reading in itself.

The book ends on a positive note giving examples of what people can do to avoid feeling helpless, the some of the examples given are:

  1. Make a contribution to the ACLU
  2. Look ahead to 2018 and get involved in the Democratic party
  3. Join a church or synagogue
  4. Volunteer
  5. Teach your children to love all people.