I consider myself a political enthusiast. So much so, I got my degree in politics, picked US Presidents for my essay topics in high school, and have continued learning about US government and politics since I graduated. Was I going to read the book Hillary Clinton wrote on the election? You better believe it.
I spent most of 2016 glued to every headline like most Americans. As someone who loved the US presidency, I could hardly believe this man might be our next President. For every one part I was excited that a major US party nominated a woman for the first time, I spent 10 parts being terrified of him. I have a vivid memory of watching a rally during a trip to my parents house and turning to my mom, saying “We (my brother and I) would get deported if that law was passed.” Everything felt too real and threatening everyday.
What Happened is many things, but here is what it is not:
- A ‘woe is me’ book of complaining from Clinton. She takes responsibility for the loss, no matter what you’re hearing online.
“I go back over my own shortcomings and the mistakes we made. I take responsibility for all of them. You can blame the data, blame the message, blame anything you want – but I was the candidate.” – What Happened, page 391
- A book who’s only purpose is to trash the President, Senator Sanders, the GOP or Democrat party, etc. (See Author’s Notes).
This is her story. She talks about her campaign, her hope for the country, and what she thinks contributed to her loss. A lot of people I know haven’t be able to read it, but I knew I had to get through it. I didn’t expect to admire her more after reading this book and I was also disappointed I didn’t get to enjoy that a woman was close to shattering the glass ceiling to the Presidency.
Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t vote for her because she’s a woman. That’s not a smart use of a vote. Just like I didn’t vote for Trump because he was a man or against Clinton because she’s a woman. I did research of the issues before I voted like I always do, but I found out while reading this book that I was misled and ill-informed about the Clinton campaign. Some examples are:
- I was manipulated to believe she went in front of coal miners and told them she wanted them to lose their jobs.
“I’m the only candidate who has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into Coal Country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right Tim? And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people.” – What Happened, page 264
- I don’t remember her talking about the economy or seeing coverage of it.
“Unfortunately, despite the fact that I talked about these ideas endlessly, they never got much media attention, and most people never heard about any of them. I failed to convince the press that economics was more important that emails. But it was.” – What Happened, page 236
- I had no idea she met with voters one-on-one as much as she did.
“They radiated strength. They were proud women who had seen a lot, cried a lot, and prayed a lot. I walked around the room, introducing myself one by one to the dozen mothers who had come from all over the country. I listened to their stories and took in their quiet, fierce dignity.” – What Happened, page 173
As someone who advocates for voters to research the issues prior to voting, I’m not proud of this. I spent too much time being afraid of what was possible and not enough time fighting against it. I can only imagine how many other Americans are like me. Voters were trying to vote for the best candidate, but any positives were drowned by the latest mind-blowing headline. The policy discussed in this book was so exciting. I’m excited about the possibilities still for all Americans. Reading her words felt more like what was to come than what was lost.
I was also impressed by the depth of the research into all the reasons why she lost. Sexism, the war on truth, Russia, bots and trolls, and Comey are among many topics detailed in this book. The book feels like a series of essays with several smaller essays in each chapter. It made me want to add books to my to-be-read list on some of these topics so the next generation doesn’t have to go through what we did.
This book is for Clinton voters. It’s also from voters who regret their vote now. This book is for women. All women; even the white women that gave him the Presidency. It’s for people who still wonder what happened or just love politics like I do. This is for people who never paid attention to politics until now. Obama voters that turned out for Trump? Yep; this is for you too.
To the people who feel like we’ve taken 200 steps back as a country: this book is for you. One major theme of this book is hope and its reminded me that life doesn’t always have to be like this. There’s 2018 and 2020. A two term limit. A grassroots resistance building every day to fight what’s happening. There’s the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and increasing opposition to what the GOP is doing. Yes, this book is hard to read for anyone that lost hope in 2016, but I urge anyone who’s having trouble with it to finish it. The last two chapters are a salve for the 400 pages before it.
I think the next book I’ll read on this topic is Katy Tur’s book called Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. I heard her on the latest episode of Pod Save America called Bad Criminals and she was pretty funny and informed. She covered a year and a half of the Trump campaign and isn’t from a hyper-partisan political commentator like some of the popular Trump books as of late.
I’ve also heard about The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage from a friend. This book is also from a journalist who first-hand the anger that motivated voters in the 2016 election. It gives a clear picture of who the American voter is now and isn’t afraid to talk about the motivation of Trump voters. If anyone else has a recommendation on these topics, feel free to let me know! I’m always taking more suggestions.
I’ve been pondering about What Happened for the past week and I imagine I’ll revisit these issues again for several years. I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, but it’s only made me more passionate about government and fighting for what’s right. At the end of the day, if there’s anyone willing to do the research, speak up for their beliefs, and help everyday Americans, we should celebrate that.
Happy reading everyone,