What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, won’t fix anything. It won’t change the weaponization of social media we saw used so effectively (even now) by Russia and mercenary allies. It won’t change or fix the crushing misogyny and racism that is choking us as a society. It won’t fix that America’s always-flawed system has been irretrievably and possibly irreversibly damaged by the election of the least competent person to run for President in a hundred years to the highest position in the land. It won’t and cannot fix any of those things. Nor does it attempt to do so.
But as a clear-minded and reasonably balanced look at the many factors that loomed large in the 2016 USA Presidential election, this is a book that will be mandatory reading for decades, possibly centuries, to come.
It begins with Clinton thanking and praising so many people; the village that helped her campaign. And it never stops thanking her friends, her supporters, the people she spoke with, who canvassed for her, the press who traveled with her, her peers and coworkers in the government, her friends, family and all the folks who helped her make history as the first-ever female major party candidate for President. That achievement has been wholly ignored by everyone, but it’s an achievement, nonetheless.
Clinton breaks down all the mistakes she made even, and especially, ones she thought she managed to do right that were turned against her. She holds the media and Former FBI director James Comey accountable for their behaviors that contributed, both directly and indirectly, to her loss. And she speaks plainly about the ongoing “active measures” Putin is taking in elections around the western world. We’re seeing it in drives to secession from the successful Kurds to Catalonia, from Brexit to the ridiculous California secession movement – anything to fragment and destablize the west. And of course, she recognizes the decades-long hate campaign against her, personally, from days when she was the Arkanasas’ governor’s wife, through her days as First Lady right through the campaign. But the person she blames the most is herself.
After the stress of election night, she talks about how she put herself back together, about her new activism and about her renewed desire to be and stay active for women and children. Clinton’s voice is so distinct, I don’t know how one could read this book and not hear it as she would speak it.
This was not an easy book for me to read. It hurt – it hurts again right now as I review it. Every round of golf, every racial baiting tweet, every day that incompetent is in the White House, it hurts. Which is why I had to read it. But it also has moments of laugh-out-loud humor. And it ends with love and kindness…and hope.
This is a chronicle of the day the west fell. We all should know what happened.
Overall – 10
The weaponization of social media Clinton speaks of is still in full-force. Before the book even was available, hundreds of 1-star ratings appeared on Amazon and thousands of nasty comments appeared on the 5-star ratings. It’s not just bots – it’s people manipulated by propaganda spread by bots and partisan politics. On my review I commented that I had cried and laughed reading the book. The angry angry person who commented told me that no, I hadn’t. So much anger because of 30 years of lies about a woman who worked so hard to serve her country. It’s terrifying. And we still have to live in it.