What Happened.

Books Hillary Clinton doesn't answer the question implied in the title of her book until page 392. The tl;dr version of what's laid out in that chapter will be familiar to anyone who's been listening to the FiveThirtyEight podcast for the past twelve months (and indeed its founder Nate Silver is quoted extensively throughout) or just paid attention during the campaign. The Comey letter, Russian interference, her message being swamped by the coverage of her emails and whatever scandal was engulfing her rival that hour, the electoral college causing not all votes to have equal worth, systematic voter suppression, people wanted change no matter the cost and the general fact that what was the Obama coalition hated her so much they prefered to vote for a third party candidate, write in Bernie Sanders or not turn up to vote at all.

All of this is presented with plenty of statistics and wonk but ultimately, and this is true of the whole book, there isn't a single explanation for why sixty-two million people voted for her opponent despite her qualifications for President significantly outweighing his.  Perhaps an investigation will uncover some fraud which dwarf all of this, that voting tallies themselves were hacked in key states, that the polls which suggest Clinton would squeak through were correct but another agency effected the number of votes cast.  That voters who were expected to turn up and vote actually did but their democratic right was deleted by a third party.  Even if this is proved it doesn't mean Clinton will become President anyway.  The US constitution has nothing on what happens if a Presidential election is compromised in this way.

Outside of that chapter, What Happened is a curious entity.  Unlike the Katy Tur book Unbelievable, this isn't a straight memoir of everything which happened during the election from the inside.  There's a sense of what campaigning was like, travelling the length and breadth of the country, meeting people, attempting to understand their needs.  There are sections which cover how the candidate was feeling at key points notably in the pre-released passage about the resultant POTUS looming over her on the debate stage.  Election night is given just a few pages (perhaps its still too difficult to talk about for her) or when Comey letter was released.  Such passages are surprisingly frank and there's a sense that if the campaign had been more open during these moments and in this style it might have made a difference.

There is much analysis.  Anyone who watched the primaries will recognise how like her later opponent, Sanders and his supporters were able to contribute to a general sense of paranoia against Clinton making it about personality over policy, feeding assumptions that she was going to be somehow dangerous to the country.  Clinton enunciates how difficult that was to fight against.  If people assume you're a crook, despite all evidence to the contrary, they'll stop listening.  The chapter "Those Damn Emails" is gold as it unpicks the deficiencies in the reporting like an episode of Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver, how it was treated as though it was the greatest scandal in US history because it was assumed Clinton had some nefarious reason for it which simply wasn't there.

But for over half of the pagination, What Happened reads like an extended stump speech, reiterating and litigating the messages which were stagnated or ignored in the campaign.  In places it becomes a suggested policy document for the Democratic Party, a list of suggestions as to how they might organise or engineer their message so they can have a chance in hell in the future.  Some of this, it has to be said, is a slog for this British reader because its being direct at a different audience across the pond, especially since much of it seems like common sense and it's difficult for me to see how people can't have come to these conclusions themselves, why it needs to a Presidential candidate to write them in a book.  But it does and she does and hopefully somebody will heed it.

The general emotion on completing the book, hell on completing the first page is sadness.  How could a person this articulate, sensitive, intellectually stable and capable of such thought and empathy have lost in that election?  As with any autobiography there is an element of ego and of punching up your own identity.  But there's also a laser focused self-deprecation which indicates that in becoming a candidate she thought she would be able to overcome whatever shortcomings she perceived herself to have.  It's obvious, despite the evidence, that she blames herself even though history demonstrates that no candidate is perfect.  It's just that on this occasions the rivals were held to completely different standards and that there wasn't a lot she could do about that.

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