Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
Anyone debating the outcome of the 2016 election will normally have an individual interpretation of why Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won. The arguments usually fall along the lines of Russian interference, a populist turn in the electorate, gerrymandering of congressional districts, Clinton’s reputation, third-party draw off, and a dozen other reasonable influences that helped to surprise even seasoned pollsters when the dust settled.
All the arguments are fair and all contributed something to the election’s outcome. However, few arguments have laid so much weight on a flawed campaign and candidate as this book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. This book had originally been intended to be a document of what the writers assumed would be Clinton’s path to the White House. They traveled with the campaign and interviewed people throughout the course of the primaries and general election, a majority of interviews done on “background”, the journalistic promise that opinions and accounts would remain anonymous at time of publication.
Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have had their share of both controversy and abuse during their lives spent in politics. Despite Bill’s infidelities these served to bond the couple together in unique ways. Both Clintons demand a great deal of loyalty, according to the book, and they also use their positions to reward and punish accordingly. While this may be a thread in the careers of most politicians it seems especially powerful in a couple who have been the subject of attacks and bizarre conspiracy theories for the 40-plus years they’ve spent in the political spotlight. Shattered discusses Hillary’s demands for loyalty and her canvassing people inside and outside the campaign for advice on almost every issue and challenge. Perhaps most fundamental was her lack of ability to distill her ideas and the reasons for her candidacy into small enough bits to communicate easily with voters.
About three-fourths of the book deal with her initial candidacy and the long primary battle with Bernie Sanders, including information on Sanders’ decision to run in a party he’d kept at arm’s distance for most of his own career, as well as the ever-looming concern that Joe Biden might enter the race. This primary also set the organizational groundwork that contributed to her loss. Her campaign organization had poorly delineated lines of command, especially since people outside the campaign committee would often call Hillary with advice and concerns that would sway her more powerfully than anyone within the organization could. This was also due in part to the perception within the campaign that confronting Hillary would seem disloyal and would ruin the chance for potential appointments once Hillary won.
The book also puts much of the burden of failure on Robbie Mook who had been named campaign manager and held the purse strings (as opposed to campaign chairman Podesta). While the campaign was always flush with funds Mook refused to use Clinton’s campaign money on elements that are now seen as essential to any successful run for office. Many states, even important ones, were never organized and supported. Along with a lack of a ground team (the people who put out signs, go door-to-door, and get people to the polls on election day) many were never even given funding for a state office or state-level chairman. Money also wasn’t allocated for a social media campaign, which would have been especially useful to battle what later turned out to be a foreign-sourced campaign of libel against Clinton. Mook was even reluctant to spend on TV advertising in many swing states.
The remaining “villains” and sheer bad luck are also included: congressional hearings on emails and Benghazi, Putin, the troubles of Huma Abedin (one of the closest Hillary advisors) with the continued sexting by ex-congressman spouse Anthony Weiner, the Pulse Club shooting in Orlando happening the day before Clinton was going to launch her campaign, Bill Clinton’s determination to stick to campaign techniques that were now 25 years out of date and his hot temper on the campaign trails, the hacking of the campaign’s email, and the anger of the Bernie supporters that Debbie Wasserman Schultz of the DNC had pushed behind the scenes in Clinton’s favor.
The list is vast and well-known to anyone who paid any attention during 2016. But ultimately the blame sticks to a woman who, despite her many years of public service, could not define herself and could not see the extent of the backlash over the email scandal and her lavishly-paid speeches to Wall Street bankers. Clinton knew her own motivations (even though she’d been warned about both) and couldn’t accept that the public might fail to see things the same way.
By the time she finally faced Trump the die had been cast. Despite her ability to bait and anger Trump in the debates she still lacked his ability to articulate and understand the anger of voters while her push to regain the trust of the black and hispanic communities alienated her from white voters.
There’s plenty of blame to go around but few have been so willing to lay so much square in the lap of the candidate herself. This is an eye-opening “how not to do it” guide for anyone involved in politics at any level.