Thinking about What Happened

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Since the 2016 election, many have speculated—woefully or gleefully—about what happened. How it happened. Clinton lost; Trump won.
There are theories based on experience, Party affiliation and personal opinion.
A few are total bullshit.

In her new book, which I recently finished reading, Hillary Clinton offers her thoughts, her theories, her perspective. 

Is she right?
Doesn't matter.

While many of us were devastated at her loss, and sickened that Donald Trump had been elected, she’s probably the one person most personally impacted by what happened. I think that reason alone entitles her to speak out. (I’m appalled at those who insist she should shut up and go away!)

As she states clearly: "This is my story of what happened. It’s the story of what I saw, felt, and thought during two of the most intense years I’ve ever experienced. It’s the story of what led me to this crossroads of American history and how I kept going after a shocking defeat; how I reconnected with the things that matter most to me and began to look ahead with hope, instead of backward with regret...I don’t have all the answers, and this isn't a comprehensive account of the 2016 race. That’s not for me to write—I have too little distance and too great a stake in it. Instead, this is my story. I want to pull back the curtain on an experience that was exhilarating, joyful, humbling, infuriating, and just plain baffling."

Disclaimer: This is not a book review, just my thoughts. I won't do a disservice to her perspective by seeking to impose mine, correct her assessments, or "mansplain" what she missed.
I went into the book with a great deal of respect for Ms. Clinton. I have long admired her for what I see as her selfless commitment to the disenfranchised and oppressed of our country, and for her decades of public service to our country. I have long appreciated her quiet, sincere faith—which isn't shouted as a badge of honor, or used as weapon against those who disagree, but as a source of strength and a motivation for making the world a better place. (It offended me that she’s had a lifetime of active faith, which was largely ignored by the media. It confused and annoyed the hell out me that a man who exhibits no religious inclination, character or behavior was embraced and revere by the Faith Community, while she was vilified by that same community. But that’s another story!)
I think preconceptions always impact perception, so how someone might read and react to this book will be based largely on how they felt about her at the start. (I’ve read some nasty reviews, similar to viciousness we saw during the campaign.)
I didn't read this book expecting, wanting or needing total objectivity. I think autobiographical exposition precludes such a detached point of view. As one who regularly writes about myself and my experiences, I’ve long contended that "objectivity" is not possible when we're writing our own story. (How do I remove my feelings, my thoughts, my personality? How do I take ME out of my story?)
If I wanted “objectivity,” I would read a biography rather than a memoir. 
I read this book because I wanted to hear her perspective, and what she thought.

I appreciate that Hillary waited nearly a year, an indication she’d taken time to give this some serious reflection. To me, that comes through in the book. As does her enduring love for this this country, and our election process. "The lessons we draw from 2016 could help determine whether we can heal our democracy and protect it in the future, and whether we as citizens can begin to bridge our divides."

Occasionally, I was able to sense her anger, her frustration…even her bitterness at the outcome. (She is clearly not a fan of the Electoral College—an opinion I share.) After all, everyone predicted she would win, and yet…
<shrug>

I sensed her grief at the devastating, surprising loss. (Who wouldn't be?) I didn't see it as “sour grapes;” she really felt she had something to offer. She truly believed herself to be the better candidate with the better plan. (As did I!) "I ran for President because I thought I’d be good at the job. I thought that of all the people who might run, I had the most relevant experience, meaningful accomplishments, and ambitious but achievable proposals, as well as the temperament to get things done in Washington."

I also sensed her disappointment. Not just that she lost, but that Trump won. She was…she is…clear about his lack of qualifications, his lack of leadership and his lack of a defined vision for our country. She had a proven past, along with a detailed, published strategy for progress; he had a history of outrageous, inappropriate behavior, bad business practices, rambling tirades, personal attacks and incessant lies. (Lies that were shown to be false, but didn't matter to him, and never recanted!)

She admits to mistakes, missteps and misspeaks, and she takes responsibility. (Trump never does!) She acknowledges her flaws, and even talks about how they've hurt her over the years and in this campaign.

Note: Disregard those who assert she “blames everyone but herself. That is just not true!! If you don’t believe me, I’ll include some actual quotes at the end of this post.

Granted, in addition to admitting her failures, she contends there were other factors/forces involved, such as Russian hacking (and their deceptive depiction of her), sexism, a deep divide in the country, racism, the endless (I think of it as "trumped up") email scandal, etc. Whether we agree or not, she offers valid information, as well as supporting research for her assessments.

I know some don't like her, for a variety of reason. Folks can quibble about trivial issues such as her personality or wardrobe, or disagree with her politics. But too often, when I talk to detractors, I find the “reasons” for their disdain to be baseless, or based in lies. I think we are only now seeing that so much of what we know about her…what we think we know about her…is the product of a well-organized cyber-terrorist attack on our country and our election process. The evidence is clear, with more and more corroborating details coming out daily.

There has never been an election like this one.
We should not...must not...forget that reality!

We've learned that American voters were systematically and malevolently fed a persistent stream of lies (alternative facts?) designed to (1) misrepresent and malign candidate Clinton, and (2) manipulate the outcome of our election. This Russian narrative…this fake news…was utilized and broadcast by a willing and willful right-wing propaganda machine unconcerned with facts. (Breitbart comes to mind!) The goal was to essentially install a president approved (chosen?) by the Kremlin.

The end-result?
Puppet-president Donald Trump!

She talks honestly about this concerted crusade of defamation, and the emotional impact it had on her personally. I felt such empathy for her and her family.
It's one thing to disagree with her policies, but to be accused of murder, or being involved in slave trade. 
Who would want to endure such vitriolic attacks?

Sadly, it worked.
I think she handled it...continues to handle it...with poise and grace.

Some of the book is almost prophetic. Not in a mystical, Nostradamus sense, but in the way an insightful person with a practiced grasp on people and politics could forecast. While the book probably went to press months ago, parts of it read as if it was pulled from the daily news feed.

She speculates on the extent of Russia’s involvement, and so much of it is now proving to be correct.

She worries about Trump’s temperament and how it could affect our relationship with world leaders. (Hello, North Korea!)

She expresses concern at his administration’s inexperience, and his failure to fill many key positions if a natural disaster hits our country. (Uhm, you know, like three major hurricanes in a row!!)

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Reading the book was enlightening, but ultimately, it was sad, and I was disappointed.
Not in her, her explanations or her observations. 
I was sad because what I read came from a woman...a leader...who was thoughtful, skilled, experienced and qualified. She is a woman of faith and vision.

I'm sad because she could have...should have been…our president. My president. She would have brought those useful leadership abilities to the highest office in our country. Instead, we have...Trump, who couldn't be more opposite if he'd been drawn by a hack comic book writer. 
That makes me sad.

Of course she has flaws; it would be naïve to pretend she doesn't. And it would be equally as silly to presume I agreed with her on every policy. As I told folks during the campaign, I don't support Hillary because she's "likable." We're not voting for Prom Queen or Miss Congeniality. I voted for her because I thought she was immensely qualified. (And because Donald Trump scares the crap out of me!)

Overall, I found the book engaging and thought-provoking.  (The signs of a good book, regardless of the content or author, right?) It was serious, but at times, funny! 
I appreciated her transparency.
I was moved by the sincere tone of her account, the dignity of her reflections and her obvious love for this country. 
I took comfort in how her faith sustained her. 
I took hope from her optimism about the strength of our democracy.

"Campaigns are full of minor annoyances and major frustrations, but at the end of the day, it’s inspiring to watch our democracy whir into action. When all the arguments are made and rallies are finished and TV ads have aired, it comes down to regular people lining up and having their say. I’ve always loved that quip from Winston Churchill about how democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others. I still believe that, even when our system feels totally nuts. (Electoral College, I’m looking at you!)"

Long before reading the book, I’d made…and written about…my commitment to continue working for my ideals and values. 
She makes the same plea, even providing specific suggestions on what and how to do that effectively. She calls us to Resist and Persist!

As I was in the campaign, I’m (still) with her!

 

For those who've dismissed this book with the sweeping accusation "she blames everyone but herself" for her loss, I offer these quotes I collected while I was reading:

"Right off the bat, let me say again that, yes, the decision to use personal email instead of an official government account was mine and mine alone. I own that. I never meant to mislead anyone, never kept my email use secret, and always took classified information seriously...

During the campaign, I tried endlessly to explain that I’d acted in good faith. I tried to apologize, though I knew the attacks being lobbed at me were untrue or wildly overstated, and motivated by partisan politics. Sometimes I dove deep into the tedious details. Other times I tried to rise above it all. Once I even told a bad joke. No matter what, I never found the right words. So let me try again:
It was a dumb mistake.
But an even dumber 'scandal.'

It was like quicksand: the more you struggle, the deeper you sink. At times, I thought I must be going crazy. Other times, I was sure it was the world that had gone nuts. Sometimes I snapped at my staff. I was tempted to make voodoo dolls of certain members of the press and Congress and stick them full of pins. Mostly, I was furious at myself."


"I blamed myself. My worst fears about my limitations as a candidate had come true. I had tried to learn the lessons of 2008, and in many ways ran a better, smarter campaign this time. But I had been unable to connect with the deep anger so many Americans felt or shake the perception that I was the candidate of the status quo."


"I’ve spent part of nearly every day since November 8, 2016, wrestling with a single question: Why did I lose? Sometimes it’s hard to focus on anything else. 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. It was my campaign. Those were my decisions."


"I do think it’s fair to say there was a fundamental mismatch between how I approach politics and what a lot of the country wanted to hear in 2016. I’ve learned that even the best plans and proposals can land on deaf ears when people are disillusioned by a broken political system and disgusted with politicians. When people are angry and looking for someone to blame, they don’t want to hear your ten-point plan to create jobs and raise wages. They want you to be angry, too. You can see the same dynamic in a lot of personal relationships. I have friends who often get frustrated with their spouses who, instead of listening to them vent about a problem and commiserating, jump straight into trying to solve it...That was my problem with many voters: I skipped the venting and went straight to the solving."


"I also know that it was my job to try to break through all that noise and convince the American people to vote for me. I wasn't able to do it."


 

 
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