What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Best for: Anyone who is a fan of Secretary Clinton; anyone who isn’t a fan of Secretary Clinton; anyone interested in learning more about how we can prevent something like Trump from happening again.
In a nutshell: First major-party woman nominee for President of the US loses to an ignorant charlatan and seeks to figure out why.
“Throughout the 2016 campaign, my staff would come to me wide-eyed. ‘You’ll never believe what Trump said today. It was vile.’ I always believed it. Not just because of who Trump is but because of who we can be at our worst. We’ve seen it too many times to be surprised.”
“Something I wish every man across America understood is how much fear accompanies women throughout our lives.”
“I’ve always believed that it’s dangerous to make big promises if you have no idea how you’re going to keep them. When you don’t deliver, it will make people even more cynical about government.”
“Many in the press and political chattering class marveled at how Teflon-coated Trump seemed to be, ignoring their own role in making him so.”
Why I chose it: I voted for Secretary Clinton, both in the primary in my state (which didn’t count, because Washington uses the horribly inaccessible caucus system) and in the general election. I was heartbroken when she lost. I bought this book the week it came out, but could only bring myself to start reading it this year.
Review: I think this book is mostly perfect for what it is. It’s a post-mortem but it’s also a celebration. It’s a glimpse into what we are missing out on because of 40,000 votes in three states, because the fear in the hearts of some outweighed the optimism in the hearts of others.
Secretary Clinton starts with Trump’s inauguration and then jumps back to deciding to run again after losing the primary to President Obama in 2008. She takes the reader through her decision-making process, and from there jumps from topic to topic, looking at what it means to be a woman in politics, what it means to be HER in politics.
She also doesn’t hold back when talking about her perceptions of how she was treated as compared to the men she ran against – first to Sen. Sanders and then to Trump. And I will say I have to agree with how Sen. Sanders seemed to be allowed to just say whatever and was fawned over, while Secretary Clinton would offer a more realistic version and be slammed for it. It was so frustrating. I also appreciated her discussion of gun violence and the stark difference between her position and Sen. Sanders.
The part that is most frustrating to read, however, is how she was treated by and in relation to Trump. She spends an entire chapter on the emails / private server issue, and frankly I wish everyone were required to read it before offering an opinion on the topic. And she gets into very specific detail about why, in the end, she ultimately lost.
I saw other reviewers in the media suggest she doesn’t take responsibility for her loss, but that’s not right. She takes responsibility for the part she should, such as not recognizing fully how much fear and anger were the focus of some people (and rightfully so). But she then appropriately points out how voter suppression, the Russian influence on social media, and the Comey letter less than two weeks before the election really did have a measurable impact. It’s frustrating and made me want to throw things more than once.
One area that she doesn’t talk about as much in the ‘why’ section is misogyny. She definitely devotes time to it throughout, but I do think that there were plenty of people who perhaps stayed home because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman. They might not recognize that consciously, but it’s there.
The book didn’t leave me despondent, although I was angry when I finished it. It, for me, was just another reminder of how much work we all have to do to keep the current president from causing more damage than he already has.