I just read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. For anyone who is, like me, a political junkie, it is mandatory reading. Two good reporters, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, set out to tell the inside story of how Hillary Clinton became America’s first female president. They had amazing access and interviewed over 100 people after the campaign. This was going to be their 21st century version of Theodore White’s classic about Kennedy, The Making of the President. Instead, they wrote the much-needed autopsy of one of the greatest failures in American electoral politics.
The book is a meticulous timeline of the entire campaign. For them, it started with the stunning realization that the campaign was a mess from the beginning and didn’t get better. Most importantly, from the before the primaries even began they identified the reason that it would fail. Hilary Clinton did not know why she was running for president.
Let that sink in…. The Clintons had been running since Obama defeated them in 2008. For 8 years they had conducted a relentless infanticide of the Democratic leadership bench. And from beginning to end of the campaign, Hilary could not clearly communicate why she wanted to be president. In fact, she continually raged at her staff to tell her why she was running.
I have been a relentless Clinton critic. My old blog in 2007 was full of my complaints about dynastic presidencies and the relentless, incestuous drama of Clintonland. I too saw this train coming down the track.
Allen and Parnes, write in detail how Hilary and her clan were determined not to make the mistakes of 2008. They were going to use what worked for Obama, detailed analytics of the electorate. But as one interviewee said, what they forgot was that behind the Obama machine was a great candidate who always knew why he wanted to be president. No matter how they overcompensated with technique, the Clinton campaign had one of the worst candidates ever to mouth a talking point.
Hillary and her campaign staff make the points that Bernie was a surprise, the Russians had it in for her, Trump got almost all of the free media, misogyny is real, their voter models were wrong…. I’ll stop. Valid? Sure. But here is why you have heard these points. This was the excuse messaging created in the empty Clinton campaign headquarters immediately after the campaign. What almost no one talked about was the candidate herself. Even now, Hillary briefly takes responsibility and moves quickly to the talking points. The hubris is strong with this one.
The inside the bubble tales in the book are wonderful. There was constant infighting between the millennial wonks and the old guard Clintonistas. Hillary was afraid of firing anyone on the campaign so just kept creating shadow power centers each with a different view of decision-making. We also see Bill, the aging, hobbled lion whose political radar was always just a bit off except when it came to the need to do more in the rustbelt states. (She didn’t go to Wisconsin…AT ALL!)
I am glad that Hillary isn’t president. She simply has awful judgment and no vision as a leader. As with my own vote, all that saves her in context is the frightening reality of Donald Trump. As an independent, I depend on the simple competence of the party whose values more closely align with mine. What we are seeing now is a collection of old, out of touch leaders sending out a declared independent, Bernie Sanders, to unify them.
With the Clintons finally gone, America needs a refreshed Democratic party. Color me skeptical and deeply worried about the future of our liberal democracy.