Hillary Clinton approached the 2016 presidential election looking like a sure bet to win the big prize. She had an impressive resume, name recognition, a rich war chest, the support of her party's establishment, an electoral college advantage and no high profile opponents for her party's nomination. She had the potential to make history as the first woman to be the presidential nominee for a major party. Her opponent was a bombastic reality TV star who had never held elected office or high military rank, who was prone to making unfiltered spontaneous tweets, who appeared to have more baggage than Samsonite, and who was caught on videotape boasting about grabbing women's genitalia. What could possibly go wrong for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee?
The answers to that question are the crux of the April 2017 book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, entitled Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign
. The authors are two Washington DC journalists who previously wrote about the former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State in their 2014 book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton
in this community).
The book is both an insider's recounting of Clinton's 2015-16 presidential campaign, and a post mortem analysis of what went wrong, and where the blame for her loss to Donald Trump should be placed. Despite all of the apparent advantages that candidate Clinton enjoyed going into the 2016 presidential campaign, the authors point out how the Clinton campaign possessed a magnetic ability to attract bad luck in epic proportions. This included dysfunction and a lack of unity at the upper level of the management of her campaign. John Podesta, her campaign chairman (akin to a corporate chairman of the board) and Robbie Mook, her campaign manager (CEO of the campaign) came from different worlds, different generations and were polar opposites in their view of how a presidential campaign should be run. Podesta was old school, while Mook was a political sabremetrician, placing all of his eggs in the basket of political analytics, rather than polling or advice from those on the front lines of the campaign. It was something that worked well in winning the nomination, but which missed the mark for the election campaign.
Added to this mix were a series of email problems (both with Clinton's use of a personal server while she served as Secretary of State, and with the release of embarrassing emails courtesy of Wikileaks), bad timing for the giving of speeches to big banks for a huge price tag, a primary opponent who was able to tap into populist anger, a general climate of worldwide populism, some personal health issues, her husband Bill Clinton's personal baggage and occasional speaking gaffes, an October reawakening of the email issue courtesy of Anthony Wiener's sexting, and an FBI director with a penchant for saying the wrong things at the wrong times. Even with successful debate performances and some statements from her opponent that raised serious questions about his character and fitness for office, Clinton was unable to overcome the rising tide that was able to knock down what many had thought to be a solid "blue wall" advantage in the electoral college. The author's are critical of Mook's misreading of analytical data, his failure to perform timely polling and to allocate sufficient resources to critical battleground states, and his over-reliance on millennial number crunching of data to the exclusion and mockery of the political instincts of wiser and more experienced members of the campaign team.
But where the authors clearly place blame for the campaign's failure is in the candidate herself. The authors argue that Clinton was unable to present a clear vision for her candidacy beyond a personal lust for power. They blame her for not making adjustments in her campaign team, and for pursuing a flawed strategy that was blind to voter anger over the fact that recovery from the 2008 crash came quickly for the rich, but at a glacier's pace for the middle class and for the poor.
At times it is unclear whether the authors feel sorry for Clinton or loathe her. As they did in their previous book, the authors also name drop a lot, referring to the cast of characters in Clinton World who Washington insiders might be familiar with, but who are unknown to the rest of us. The authors' targeting of the Washington DC political savvy crowd as an audience to the exclusion of the average reader detracts from the book at times. This book's real strength is in its chronicling of the 2016 campaign for the Democratic nomination and presidential election, especially inside the Clinton campaign. From this, readers are better able to draw their own conclusions about where the blame lies for letting a Democratic election victory in 2016 get away.