Since the mid 1990s I’ve been a follower of the Clintons, doing my PhD on Clinton welfare reforms, and then being ever hopeful that Hillary would run for President. I’ve read many of their books (see, for example, my blog on Hard Choices) and I campaigned for Hillary for a weekend in Miami in October 2016. So I was devastated by the US election result, not just because Trump got in, but also because Hillary didn’t become the first female US president.
Having heard much analysis of what went wrong on the podcast Pod Save America I was eager to read What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton herself. So eager that a few days before Christmas I found myself rooting around under the Christmas tree to figure out which parcel was most hardback book-shaped and opening it a few days early.
It’s an odd book. The structure jumps about from fascinating chapters on how Hillary dealt with losing, to insights from the campaign, to more general chapters on why she got into politics and what she cares about, which I already knew from her earlier books. It would have worked better for me if it was a run through of the campaign itself from start to finish, or issue by issue.
Having said that, it does go through the various contributing factors to Hillary losing the election (despite winning the popular vote), from Russia, to those emails, the FBI response and misogyny (it seems to me at least in part a classic case of a woman finding that being the best prepared for the job didn’t matter, as the rules of the game you thought you were playing had changed). She is candid about her mistakes, lays into Bernie as well as Trump, and gives you a behind-the-scenes feeling of what it was like to be on the rollercoaster that was the campaign. Most interesting of all was her honesty about the weeks after the election was over and how she pieced her life back together and got on with it.
Throughout it all is a constant reminder of just how close it was, and how just one of these things not happening would have meant winning the election. It’s an agonising reminder of what might have been. So, whilst this is a book that jumps around a lot, it’s definitely a book well worth reading.