Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed campaign
Jonathan Allen and Amie Barnes, Crown, ISBN 978-0-553-44708-8, 464pp
The man Trump seems to dominate the news. He is a man who lives to be centre stage. He draws his energy from the fact that he has people’s attention. If he hasn’t got their attention then he will find a way to get it. In my opinion, the decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord was less about any view about climate change than it was to do with the opportunity to grab the headlines. The established order, whatever that is, was shocked when he was elected. I took the view that Trump did not win the 2016 US Presidential election; Hillary Clinton lost it. This book tends to confirm this view.
It is a readable account of the numerous challenges that Clinton faced as she came to the decision to run and, having made that decision, as she ran her campaign. The book’s authors are journalists and they build their story on interviews that they had before and during the campaign. These interviews were “on background” which means that they cannot quote sources. Now, you can take a cynical view about this or you can just enjoy the book. I enjoyed the book. There are a few things that struck me about the campaign story. The first was that Hillary Clinton was not clear about why she was standing. What was it she would do? How would she change the world? For Trump this was simple; Make America Great Again. The book’s authors were surprised when “sources started telling us in 2015 that Hillary was still struggling to articulate her motivation for seeking the presidency.” The second thing I read was that the campaign was not well organised. It seems to have been rife with divisions between the senior campaign staff. The result was a campaign that “was so spirit-crushing that her aides eventually shorthanded the feeling of impending doom with a simple mantra: We’re not allowed to have nice things.
The closest the Clinton campaign developed to counter “Make America Great Again” was the catchphrase “Breaking Barriers”. But it wasn’t a very catchy phrase. The campaign was, as these things are nowadays, data driven. That means that data is collected through polling and analysed for trends. Campaign strategy is developed and funds are allocated on the basis of that analysis. Yet not everyone wants to give up on the more traditional but slightly less objective methods of speaking to voters. Therein lay a conflict for the campaign.
As you read this book, of course, you know the ending. You know she is going to lose and on every page there’s another reason why she did. The book’s subtitle says that the campaign was doomed; it was. It’s a book that is full of characters, so full of characters that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. It’s a book about an American process, written by Americans probably for Americans and it makes some assumptions about the reader’s background. But it’s still an enjoyable read though I would not want to form any definitive opinion on the real reasons for Clinton’s loss without reading a more measured assessment. Nonetheless I would recommend this book as an easy read for anyone who is interested in the political process (I suspect it’s not a lot different in the US than it is here) and for anyone who likes to read something and then ask themselves “how could they have been so stupid?” Well, they could have been and they were. They lost fair and square. And we got left with The Donald.