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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hillary Rodham Clinton's What Happened

For Christmas, my husband and I don't do a lot. I have written about my frustration with the commercialism of the holiday recently, and when a meme popped up in my Facebook feed suggesting a different tradition, I jumped on it. I don't care how true it is. We decided to exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the afternoon and evening reading a la Icelandic tradition. I got the hubby a book whose post is forthcoming, and he got me two books. Hillary Rodham Clinton's What Happened was the one I chose to read this past holiday.

I think it's fair to say that we all know what this book is about. If, for some reason, you are reading this in the post-apocalyptic world of 2543 and you have no access to what happened in 2016, first I say, you are a lucky ducky, and second, whoa. Long story short, Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college of the presidential election. Regardless of the historic implications of a female Clinton win, we are also facing some strange and frightening ramifications of the other candidate winning. However, this book focuses on Clinton's musings in the year following her 2016 defeat.

If you are new to this blog, this may surprise you, but for readers who have been around a while, you won't be shocked when I tell you I vote on the liberal side of things. I have no qualms telling you that I voted for Clinton, and I don't regret that vote. I actually didn't have any intention of reading this book any time soon, but when I received it as a thoughtful gift from my beloved, I wasn't disappointed. I was interested in what HRC had to say about her time on the campaign trail and the devastating loss. For the most part, my interest was sated, and I even put some new thoughts into action.

You can easily skip the first section (the first two chapters) and even some of the last section (the last two chapters). They bookend what we really came here for, which was to hear HRC's take on two years leading up to November 8, 2016. The sections I suggest skipping are a little too touchy-feely for my taste, and while I am all about a good rallying cry to bring the people together, at many points I felt it was too much. I also felt the salience of one of the liberal critiques with HRC, which is that the feminism surrounding her candidacy isn't intersectional. Unfortunately, that came through to me and made me a bit uncomfortable. I do have hope that we can turn around the embarrassing and devastating decisions being made by the current commander in chief, but I don't necessarily need to be patted on the head.

That being said, the meat of this book lies in the breakdown of HRC's time on the campaign trail, the investigation into her emails, Russian influence on the election, and the actual election night and immediate aftermath. These were fascinating chapters, and they gave me quite a lot to think about. Regarding Russian involvement, HRC clearly lays out the timeline of what she knew when, and I think anyone with any stake at all in our current electoral system should take note. There is no way, after triangulating (polygonning, if you will) just the publicly available data (not including anything classified) that Russian operatives weren't involved. I appreciate HRC breaking down, piece by piece, her experience so that those of us who are interested in what happened can read it for ourselves. That doesn't mean that her word is the defining word, but hers along with others provides a picture of what occurred over a two year time span.

I also appreciate her breaking down her campaign, since even those closely following it most likely missed a great deal of it. No camera can follow a candidate day and night for 18 months to two years. I also think that there was a great deal of insight in this memoir, especially around what it was that attracted voters to a man who was so far from ever being prepared to be the head of state of a world-dominating super power. I want to go back and read Hard Choices, because even though I am no policy wonk, I feel that HRC explains things very clearly for her reader when she is talking about what she loves most, which is policy and human relations. I feel that this book humanized her in a way that even I missed. It's not about lamenting what could have been -- and there could have been so much -- but instead learning lessons for all of us as we move forward to pick up the pieces in the next few years. 

1 comment:

  1. I also really enjoyed this book! There were two parts that have stuck with me. One was when she went door-to-door in Rhode Island to find out why kids weren't going to school and found that it was sometimes because the schools weren't meeting their needs. The struggle is the same today even if the issues are a little different. But it was frustrating that her take-away was that all we have to do is build ramps for children with wheelchairs to be included. Usually I love how she lets things be complicated but here she oversimplified in away that was frustrating. The second part that stuck with me was Alaska for America... some kind of dividend payout, which she mentions as an idea that might have captured people's imaginations if she had proposed it. I would love to hear more complicated conversations about that one!