Hillary Clinton recently released a book entitled What Happened, in which she describes the 2016 presidential campaign and the factors she thinks contributed to her loss. In the book, she makes a number of unsound arguments and falsehoods that I'm going to break down and refute in this post.
Wall Street Donations:
Early in the book, Hillary attempts to address one of the core criticisms that she received during the campaign: That her ties to Wall Street had corrupted her. As she writes,
". . . like many former government officials, I found that organizations and companies wanted me to come talk to them about my experiences and share my thoughts on the world—and they'd pay me a pretty penny to do it. I continued giving many speeches without pay, but I liked that there was a way for me to earn a very good living without working for any one company or sitting on any boards. It was also a chance to meet interesting people.
I spoke to audiences from a wide range of fields: travel agents and auto dealers, doctors and tech entrepreneurs, grocers and summer camp counselors. I also spoke to bankers . . . Later, my opponents spun wild tales about what terrible things I must have said behind closed doors and how as President I would be forever in the pocket of the shadowy bankers who had paid my speaking fees. I should have seen that coming. Given my record of independence in the Senate—especially my early warnings about the mortgage crisis, my votes against the Bush tax cuts, and my positions in favor of financial regulation, including closing the tax loophole for hedge funds known as carried interest—this didn't seem to be a credible attack. I didn't think many Americans would believe that I'd sell a lifetime of principle and advocacy for any price . . . Especially after the financial crisis of 2008–2009, I should have realized it would be bad 'optics' and stayed away from anything having to do with Wall Street. I didn't. That's on me."
First off, notice that she groups in her paid speeches to Wall Street with these other seemingly innocuous industries. The implication, I would argue, is that it's only Wall Street bankers who are interested in lobbying and bribing politicians to represent their interests, but because she spoke to these other groups, this doesn't apply to her situation.
But I would ask: Why wouldn't the travel industry, the auto industry, or the grocery industry want politicians to enact legislation that would benefit them? Are these industries not also chasing profits and hoping to receive favorable legislative changes? Is there something unique about finance where only people in this industry want to see their interests represented in government? I don't think so. So pointing out that other industries have also thrown huge amounts of money at you doesn't somehow nullify the banking industry, specifically, doing this.
But the meat of her rebuttal is that accepting large amounts of money from certain industries doesn't necessarily mean that you've been corrupted by them. Technically this is true. If some oil executive knocked on my door right now, handed me a check for $3 million dollars, and said "do with this what you please," I wouldn't be under any obligation to start making YouTube videos extolling the value of the fossil fuel industry. Unless there was some kind of agreed upon quid-pro-quo prior to him writing the check, him giving me this money wouldn't necessarily change my views, plans, or priorities.
I think one thing we can all agree on is that, like Hillary said, it's bad political optics, more than anything, to accept money in this way. Even if it is true that she maintained her integrity and planned to crack down on these industries regardless of how much money they threw at her, voluntarily accepting their money creates the impression that you very well may have been corrupted by them. Your trustworthiness becomes immediately suspect the moment you go down this path.
Thus, it's no surprise that Hillary Clinton had low trust ratings among the electorate—especially when compared with Bernie Sanders. A February 2016 Quinnipiac University poll found that 67% of Americans did not view Hillary Clinton as honest and trustworthy. We see that only 6% of Republicans viewed her as honest as trustworthy, compared with 65% of Democrats and 21% of Independents.
Compare these numbers against Bernie Sanders. Here, we see that 68% of the electorate viewed him as honest a trustworthy, with 54% of Republicans, 87% of Democrats, and 69% of Independents answering in this way.
Hillary Clinton's low trustworthiness ratings are likely caused in part by the variety of scandals she's been involved in over the years, such as the Benghazi or the private e-mail server scandal, but I don't think it's up for debate that her financial ties to Wall Street and corporate America, generally, also partly explain them.
The New York Times reports the results of additional polling data in this area. As they write,
"One poll, from June, found that when informed that the Clintons had made $25 million in speaking fees since the beginning of 2014, slightly more than half of respondents said she 'does not understand' the 'struggles of ordinary Americans.' Another poll, from November, found that Wall Street campaign contributions to Mrs. Clinton made a similar proportion of voters less likely to vote for her."
And, contrary to her portrayal of the matter in the text, it's more than just a couple of paid speeches that are problematic. As the BBC reports:
"three of [Hillary Clinton's] top five individual donors have been Wall Street banks - Goldman Sachs, Citibank, and JP Morgan.
And throughout her career, donors from the securities and investment sector have donated over $14m, while those classified as working in the finance and commercial banking industry have added another $7.8m.
Her Democratic primary competitor Bernie Sanders relies far more on small donations from individual donors. Nearly three-quarters of Senator Sanders's donations have been under $200, while only 17% of donations to Hillary Clinton have been under $200."
Where your true interests lie becomes a debatable question once these industries start handing over boatloads of money. And the question for a voter becomes: Is it worth taking the risk that she actually represents these industries that gave her so much money—rather than the general population that she claims to represent?
But I would argue that accepting large amounts of industry money does more than simply make you look bad. In addition to paying for the immense pleasure of hearing you speak for an hour, I think these industries are also paying for future access to that politician. Once you're elected and in the position to enact legislative changes, chances are, these organizations that gave you hundreds of thousands of dollars are at least going to have a seat at the table. As Kyle Kulinski once put it, you're going to take that phone call. I would argue that they're paying for the opportunity to have their perspective heard and considered by that politician—even if they may not see the results that they're hoping for.
Furthermore, I think there's an even more simplistic quid-pro-quo going on here: The message is: You scratch our backs, we'll scratch yours. Enact legislation that benefits our industry, or keep things close to the way they are if we're thriving in the current state of affairs, and we'll continue to throw large amounts of money your way.
But Hillary's argument is: I clearly support positions antithetical to the interests of these industries; so the argument that I've been corrupted by their money is absurd.
My response would be: You say now, during the campaign, that you will support these things as President. But given that your trustworthiness has now been called into question, how are we to know that you're not merely telling the public what they want to hear—and that you'll ultimately end up supporting legislation that will benefit these industries once elected?
I would also ask, if it is true that these industries should tremble at the thought of your regulatory zest, why would they throw such large amounts of money at you in the first place? Would it not be counter-productive to shower with so much money a person who is ultimately going to make things less profitable and more difficult for them? It'd be like me saying "I really don't wanna get kicked in the nuts, so now I'm gonna buy a plane ticket for this guy who says he's gonna come to my house and kick me in the nuts." This just wouldn't make any financial sense. How would I be looking out for my best interests by undermining these interests in such an obvious way?
She writes that:
"Later, my opponents spun wild tales about what terrible things I must have said behind closed doors and how as President I would be forever in the pocket of the shadowy bankers who had paid my speaking fees."
Right, because when politicians have closed-door meetings with industry representatives flooding them with money, the idea that they might be talking about something other than how to improve the country for the poor and middle class is just absurd!
How dare you impugn Hillary Clinton's motives. Here is how these closed-door speaking engagements with Wall Street bankers undoubtedly went:
Wall Street banker: "Hillary, thanks for joining us. Here's your check for $300,000. Now please, tell us all about your thoughts on how we can make the economy more fair for middle-class Americans."
Hillary: "Well, I just think we need to make America work again for all Americans, because we're Stronger Together. And anything you bankers are doing that's wrong, cut it out!"
Wall Street bankers: *uproarious applause*
That's how these meetings went down, ok? Anyone who suggests anything else is a kook.
Jokes aside, WikiLeaks released the transcript of one of her back-door, paid speeches given to banking executives, and in it, she basically confirms the suspicion that many of us have: that some politicians will tell the public whatever they want to hear, but deep down, believe and will push for other things. As The Washington Times reports,
"Hillary Clinton told top banking executives that she has 'both a public and a private position' on Wall Street reform and is reliant on wealthy donors to fund her campaign, leaked excerpts of the former first lady’s speeches seem to show, fueling claims of hypocrisy on the part of Mrs. Clinton at a crucial moment in the presidential campaign.
The release by WikiLeaks, which the Clinton campaign has said it will not confirm, appears to show Mrs. Clinton discussing how she seeks to 'balance' her public rhetoric on Wall Street reform with her actual positions, and with the reality that wealthy bankers and investors must partner with government to enact change. The documents also show the former secretary of state admitting that she’s out of touch with average Americans and is 'kind of far removed' from the lives of the middle class."
And despite the fact that Clinton portrayed herself, both during the campaign and in the book, as an unapologetic crusader against Wall Street, things are not nearly as simple as she makes them out to be. As ProPublica reports,
"Clinton in 2007 publicly decried a tax break for hedge-fund and private-equity executives — and continues to do so in her current campaign. But she didn’t sign on as a supporter of a Senate bill that would have curbed the break."
"During Clinton’s first presidential campaign, her official campaign website gave short shrift to financial or housing matters. In April 2008, the section of the website called 'Hillary on the Issues' listed 14 topics; none involved housing, mortgages or Wall Street."
"The most important action Clinton took related to the financial crisis may have been her vote in favor of the $700 billion bank stabilization plan, essentially a bailout of Wall Street. After a short but tumultuous debate the Senate approved the Bush administration’s plan, known as TARP, on Oct. 1, 2008. Nine Democratic senators, 15 Republicans and one independent (Sanders) voted no."
"Even if Clinton favors some amount of action to impose stricter regulations on the financial industry, her Wall Street donors must certainly prefer the approach she would take to the unabashedly punitive one Sanders would pursue."
There's also an obvious double-standard that Hillary puts on display in the book. When it comes to her own accepting of money from corporate America and the mega-rich, she's quick to explain this away and argue that she has maintained her integrity and remains uncorrupted. But when it comes to Republicans: they accept money from the mega-rich, and therefore, they're corrupted! As she writes,
"President Obama knew the challenges facing Democrats . . . We both saw ourselves as pragmatic progressives trying to move the country forward in the face of implacable opposition from a Republican Party that had been taken over by the radical-conservative Tea Party fringe and was in thrall to its billionaire backers."
Oh, so for them, it really is that simple? They're given money by billionaires, therefore, they're corrupt and that's the end of the discussion? She doesn't even make an attempt to justify the assertion that they're "in thrall to [their] billionaire backers"; she just takes this completely for granted and moves on. Wouldn't these Republicans, just like her, argue that they remain uncorrupted, that they represent their constituents and not their wealthy donors?
I'm not saying I disagree with her here; I just think it's hypocritical that in her case, it's complicated, it's nuanced, but with Republicans, it's straightforward.
Clinton also talks in the book about the important of compromising with Republicans. As she writes,
"Some activists and advocates saw their role as putting pressure on people in power, including allies, and they weren't interested in compromise. They didn't have to strike deals with Republicans or worry about winning elections. But I did. There are principles and values we should never compromise, but to be an effective leader in a democracy, you need flexible strategies and tactics, especially under difficult political conditions."
She also writes:
"In addition to getting big money out of politics, I thought we had to wage and win the battle of ideas, while also reaching across the aisle more aggressively to hammer out compromises."
I would simply ask: If it is the case that the Republican Party is in thrall to its billionaire backers, what room is there for compromise with these people? If this is your view of the Republican Party, the only reason you should be reaching across the aisle is to tape a "Kick Me" sign to Mitch McConnell's back.
What is the value of meeting in the middle with politicians who don't have the best interests of the general population in mind? Would a better strategy not be to focus upon voting them out of office instead of just meekly accepting their presence in government and giving them, and their billionaire backers, part of what they want when it comes time to craft legislation?
Now I would argue that many Democratic politicians are also corrupted by corporate interests, and I would apply the same argument to them: Why compromise with these people when we could instead focus on voting them out of office and replacing them? Easier said than done, of course, but it's certainly not impossible.
In the chapter entitled "Where Do Democrats Go From Here?", Hillary outlines a number of ideas and strategies that will help the Democratic Party moving forward. Glaringly absent from this chapter is the recommendation that politicians refuse to accept corporate money, where possible, that they don't follow in her foolish footsteps and amass a small fortune in speaking fees from the financial industry and various other special interests.
This should be one of the main pieces of advice for the Democratic Party going forward, because it would allow them to operate without the stain of corporate money tarnishing their reputation and trustworthiness. People are so disgusted at the obvious corruption in our political system these days that I think establishing genuine trust in this way gets you halfway to winning an election.
Smearing Bernie Sanders:
In the book, Hillary Clinton, on several occasions, attempts to drag Bernie Sanders through the dirt and smear him for alleged flaws and foolish views in a manner that frankly strikes me as motivated by bitterness. For example, she writes that:
"After the debate, my campaign team was thrilled. Finally, they thought I was showing the kind of passion they believed voters wanted to see. For months, we had been losing the 'outrage primary.' Bernie was outraged about everything. He thundered on at every event about the sins of 'the millionaires and billionaires.' I was more focused on offering practical solutions that would address real problems and make life better for people. But now, in defense of those sick kids in Flint, I was the one full of righteous indignation."
"Bernie was outraged about everything."
Good! He should be! Our country is in the shitter. She points this fact out as if it's a ridiculous attribute. "Bah! He's just so angry about all of the problems with our government and country." Sounds to me like he's my guy! And who the fuck isn't outraged about all of these things?
Contrast this portrayal of Bernie with Hillary Clinton's statement on page 39:
"I ran for President because I thought I'd be good at the job . . . America was doing better than any other major country, but there was still too much inequality and too little economic growth."
These are two starkly different visions of the state of our nation, but hers is actually the absurd one. To say that we're doing better than any other major country is delusional. Just look at our infrastructure, health care, education, gun violence, and worker benefits compared to the rest of the developed world, and you'll see that our nation is frankly an embarrassment.
And just to use her own words against her here, "Yeah, one half of our government is in thrall to its billionaire backers, but we're doing bettter than any other major country." Jesus Christ, if that's the case, I can't imagine what kind of a shithole these other countries must be!
This reminds me of her claiming during the campaign that "America never stopped being great."
If that's your attitude, why even bother running for president? And what is going to get people less excited to vote for you than appearing to downplay the serious problems that they and our nation are facing? This perspective makes you seem as if you're profoundly disconnected from the struggles of ordinary Americans.
She goes on, in her denunciation of Bernie, to describe how:
"He thundered on at every event about the sins of 'the millionaires and billionaires.' I was more focused on offering practical solutions that would address real problems and make life better for people."
Yeah, and so was Bernie. And how are these not real problems that he's talking about? When he complains about the wealthiest of Americans exploiting tax loopholes or corrupting our government, what about this strikes you as unreal, and how are his solutions impractical? These questions remain unanswered to the reader.
She also writes:
"Throughout the primaries, every time I wanted to hit back against Bernie's attacks, I was told to restrain myself. Noting that his plans didn't add up, that they would inevitably mean raising taxes on middle-class families, or that they were little more than a pipe dream—all of this could be used to reinforce his argument that I wasn't a true progressive."
"Bernie and I had a spirited contest of ideas, which was invigorating, but I nonetheless found campaigning against him to be profoundly frustrating. He didn't seem to mind if his math didn't add up or if his plans had no prayer of passing Congress and becoming law. For Bernie, policy was about inspiring a mass movement and forcing a conversation about the Democratic Party's values and priorities. By that standard, I would say he succeeded. But it worried me. 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.
No matter how bold and progressive my policy proposals were—and they were significantly bolder and more progressive than anything President Obama or I had proposed in 2008—Bernie would come out with something even bigger, loftier, and leftier, regardless of whether it was realistic or not. That left me to play the unenviable role of spoilsport schoolmarm, pointing out that there was no way Bernie could keep his promises or deliver real results . . .
Someone sent me a Facebook post that summed up the dynamic in which we were caught:
BERNIE: I think America should get a pony.
HILLARY: How will you pay for the pony? Where will the pony come from? How will you get Congress to agree to the pony?
BERNIE: Hillary thinks America doesn't deserve a pony.
BERNIE SUPPORTERS: Hillary hates ponies!
HILLARY: Actually, I love ponies.
BERNIE SUPPORTERS: She changed her position on ponies! #WhichHIllary? #WitchHillary
HEADLINE: "Hillary Refuses to Give Every American a Pony"
DEBATE MODERATOR: Hillary, how do you feel when people say you lie about ponies?
WEBSITE HEADLINE: "Congressional Inquiry into Clinton's Pony Lies"
TWITTER TRENDING: #ponygate"
Jesus Christ. I thought about killing myself at least four times while reading that section. Really Hillary? That steaming pile of dog shit "sums up the dynamic in which [you] were caught?" Gimme a fucking break.
She talks about how unrealistic, unacheivable, and unfinancible Bernie Sanders' policy proposals were, but tellingly, she doesn't give any specific examples of which policies she's talking about. I don't think this is an accident, because if she did give specific examples, we would have quickly seen how wrong she was to describe them in this way. Proposals like taxpayer-funded, universal health care or college education aren't some kind of crackpot, pie-in-the-sky fantasy; these are systems that currently are in place in other countries around the globe, such as Norway or Germany.
No wonder you lost to a clown like Donald Trump with this kind of smug, dismissive attitude towards your own political base! How can you expect people to be enthusiastic about voting for you when your mentality is basically: "Let's be center-left pragmatists who offer half-measure solutions and eagerly compromise with moronic, corrupted Republicans."
And she talks about how the math just didn't add up for these unspecified policy proposals. Once again she doesn't give any examples. I took a close look at Bernie's platform during the 2016 election and he had funding mechanisms outlined for each policy proposal that were available to the public on his campaign website. But don't just take my word for it; perhaps unknown to Hillary when she wrote this passage, his 2016 campaign website is still up and running. On there, we read in the section entitled "It’s Time to Make College Tuition Free and Debt Free," for example, that:
"The cost of this $75 billion a year plan is fully paid for by imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators who nearly destroyed the economy seven years ago."
In the section entitled "Medicare for All: Leaving No One Behind," we read about the detailed funding mechanism that includes:
"A 6.2 percent income-based health care premium paid by employers."
"A 2.2 percent income-based premium paid by households."
"Progressive income tax rates."
"Taxing capital gains and dividends the same as income from work."
"[Limiting] tax deductions for rich."
"The Responsible Estate Tax."
"Savings from health tax expenditures."
And I know that this is the exact information that was available to the public in the early stages of the 2016 campaign, because I made an insane study guide, last modified in February of 2016, when I was volunteering for his campaign to prepare me for the conversations and debates I was having with people during door-knocks and phone-banking, and it contains the exact same information, which was, of course, pulled from his campaign website at around that time.
So it is just flat-out false to say that the math didn't add up, or to imply that he didn't have funding plans for his proposals.
"HILLARY: How will you pay for the pony? Where will the pony come from? How will you get Congress to agree to the pony?
BERNIE: Hillary thinks America doesn't deserve a pony."
Talk about a strawman!
It's more like:
"How will you pay for the pony?"
"Excellent question. We're going to pay for the pony via funding mechanisms X, Y, and Z."
Now some economists have argued, as Hillary does here, that some his calculations don't add up, because the funding mechanisms won't actually generate as much revenue as the plan says they will. My response would be, even if that's the case, if other developed nations can make such superior health care and education systems work without impoverishing or bankrupting the citizenry with unbearably high levels of taxation, then I'm sure we could also modify the funding mechanisms to make it work in America. To say that that particular funding scheme is inadequate or otherwise problematic is not the same thing as saying that the ideas themselves are fundamentally non-financeable.
And it is beyond frustrating to see her basically portray Bernie as copying her political platform, but just one-upping her, because it was Hillary who repeatedly changed her political platform during the campaign to keep up with Bernie.
For example, as Think Progress writes,
"Clinton for months refused to say whether or not she supported the [Keystone XL] project, reasoning that her former position at the State Department — which oversaw the approval process — put her in a conflicted position. She would wait until President Obama made his final decision before making hers, she said.
Meanwhile, Sanders continually pressured Clinton on the issue. In speech after speech, he called on Obama to reject Keystone XL primarily because of its contributions to human-caused climate change, indrectly highlighting his policy difference with the former secretary of state.
Finally, in September — two months before Obama eventually rejected the pipeline — Clinton came out and opposed the project."
As another example,
"Sanders has long said he supports a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Clinton, on the other hand, launched her campaign calling for a boost to the minimum wage, but would not commit to the $15 number. In a town hall meeting in Iowa last November, she said she supported a $12 minimum wage on the federal level, but would allow cities and states to set higher floors if they had local support.
'If not, $12 can give us a good, solid increase,' she said at the time, adding that a higher federal minimum would risk job losses.
But then in April, as Sanders became more of a threat to Clinton’s campaign and as he continued to inspire progressive crowds by calling for a higher boost for low-wage workers, Clinton appeared to change her position. During a debate in New York, a moderator asked Clinton if as president, she would sign $15 minimum wage legislation if it reached her desk.
'Well of course I would,' Clinton replied. 'I have supported the Fight for $15,' she continued, before Sanders pointed out the contradiction."
We also unfortunately read the following in the book:
"Because we agreed on so much, Bernie couldn't make an argument against me in this area on policy, so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character. Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros, took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist. When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution, he couldn't come up with anything. Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump's 'Crooked Hillary' campaign."
Right, his "attacks" were the problem—and not your actions that motivated these attacks. It's just like that time I took a shit on my friend's kitchen floor at a party. The next time somebody was hosting a house party and I was disinvited because the word got out that I did this, I reacted by telling my friend: "How dare you besmirch my reputation with these malicious attacks!" Him simply warning other people about what I did was the problem—not me shitting on his kitchen floor.
Hillary, I've got news for you: You impugn your own character when you fundraise from Wall Street. You and your actions are what caused the lasting damage—not Bernie simply calling attention to your actions.
She goes on to write the following:
"Bernie and I may have had different views about the role of policy—a road map for governing versus a tool for mobilization—but Donald Trump didn't care about policy at all . . . Bernie proved again that it's important to set lofty goals that people can organize around and dream about, even if it takes generations to acheive them."
Here, she presents a false dichotomy, claiming that Bernie used his political platform merely as a tool for mobilizing supporters, whereas Hillary was the one actually interested in applying her policy to government. These are not mutually exclusive options. Campaign platforms can—and should—be used for both: energizing potential voters, and serving as the framework to bring about real changes in government.
And once again, she portrays his proposals as extremely unrealistic and unacheivable, claiming that Bernie's goals were so "lofty" that it would take generations to acheive them. Nowhere in the text does she provide a clear explanation of how Bernie's goals were unacheivable, and she doesn't even make clear which goals she's talking about. She just makes the assertion and takes it for granted.
She later writes:
"Some supporters of Bernie Sanders have argued that if I had veered further left and run a more populist campaign we would have done better in the Rust Belt. I don't believe it . . . Sanders himself had a chance to test out his appeal during the primaries, and he ended up losing to me by nearly four million votes—including in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And that was without any pummeling by the Republican attack machine that would have savaged him in a general election."
She says this as if the two of them had a level playing field, when in reality, Hillary had many considerable advantages over Bernie Sanders. First and foremost is just her name recognition. As former First Lady, Secretary of State, and as a previous presidential candidate, more people just knew who she was compared with Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Then there was the role of the supremely undemocratic superdelegates, 602 of which supported Hillary compared to only 48 which supported Bernie. If these were divided up according to how people voted—that is, democratically—Hillary would have received 359 compared to Bernie's 291.
Not only did the superdelegates have a massive bias in favor of Hillary, but hundreds of them had already decided to support her in the earliest stages of the 2016 election. As The Huffington Post writes,
"Hillary Clinton entered Super Tuesday in March in a virtual tie in pledged delegates with both candidates holding just about 50 pledged delegates, yet she held the support of nearly 400 super delegates. This early lead created the visual that Sanders could not defeat her for many voters, clearly affecting the race."
And hopefully you'll recall that, early on during the primaries, the media often reported the delegate totals with the superdelegates and the ordinary delegates simply combined, giving the false impression that Hillary Clinton was dominated Bernie Sanders in the actual vote count among Democrats. This undoubtedly discouraged many people from going to the polls and supporting Bernie because it appeared that Hillary was going to inevitably win.
But when you look at the actual vote totals, Hillary only beat Bernie by about 12%—far from the inevitable Clinton dominance that the media described early on in the primaries.
And superdelegates, however, don't officially cast their votes until the Democratic National Convention, before which they're free to change their minds about who they're supporting, so if the vote count itself was more in favor of Bernie, perhaps more of them would have supported Bernie.
It's important to take into consideration the role of the media in shaping the outcome of the election based upon both the quality and quantity of their coverage, especially in the early stages of the election. As Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting writes in a New York Times opinion piece,
"Who is and isn’t a 'serious' candidate in our modern public relations-driven democracy is largely tautological. Whoever the news media say is important early on typically becomes the most important. This leads to a feedback loop that anoints the 'frontrunner' in the 'invisible primary,' where success is measured by name recognition, money raised, party insider support and a host of 'serious' accomplishments, all before the most essential of feedback has been provided: actual voting.
This dynamic helped create the artificial consensus around Hillary Clinton early on. According to one tally of nightly broadcast network news during the 2015 primary season, Sanders received a total of 20 minutes of coverage, compared to Clinton’s 121 minutes and Trump’s 327. This gap would narrow once Sanders began to gain parity in early primary states, a feat Sanders achieved not because of media coverage but despite it."
Hillary also implies that Bernie Sanders would have been a much weaker general election candidate than herself, but this is just flatly untrue. All of the available polling data showed that Bernie was, in fact, a much stronger general election candidate than her.
Sanders vs Kasich? 3.3 points. Clinton vs Kasich? -7.4 points.
And that February 2016 Quinnipiac poll cited earlier also found the following:
"Presidential matchups among American voters show:
Sanders over Trump 48 - 42 percent;
Sanders tops Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas 49 - 39 percent;
Sanders leads Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida 47 - 41 percent;
Sanders beats Bush 49 - 39 percent;
Sanders edges Kasich 45 - 41 percent.
Clinton with 44 percent to Trump's 43 percent;
Cruz with 46 percent to Clinton's 43 percent;
Rubio topping Clinton 48 - 41 percent;
Bush at 44 percent to Clinton's 43 percent;
Kasich beating Clinton 47 - 39 percent"
So anybody who tries to argue that Hillary Clinton was the stronger general election candidate just doesn't know what they're talking about. This claim is plainly and unequivocally refuted by the available polling data.
In the book, Hillary Clinton tells us about the one thing that she most regretted saying during the 2016 presidential election. As she writes,
"'We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.' Stripped out of their context, my words sounded heartless. Republican operatives made sure the clip was replayed virtually nonstop on Facebook feeds, local radio and television coverage, and campaign ads across Appalachia for months.
I made this unfortunate comment about coal miners at a town hall in Columbus just two days before the Ohio primary. You say millions of words in a campaign and you do your best to be clear and accurate. Sometimes it just comes out wrong. It wasn't the first time that happened during the 2016 election, and it wouldn't be the last. But it is the one I regret most. The point I had wanted to make was the exact opposite of how it came out."
She goes on in the text to make clear that there's absolutely nothing scandalous about this quote when it's viewed in context, because she stresses the importance of looking after the people who work in the coal industry and not forgetting about them while we're in the process of transitioning away from fossil fuels. Just read the quote in full and you'll see that it's the most reasonable thing you've ever heard.
So how is it that this is the one statement she most regrets making when she herself says "if you listened to the full answer and not just that one garbled sentence pulled out of it, my meaning comes through reasonably well"? My understanding is that we should regret the things that we do wrong. When people are deceptive and they take your words out of context to distort your views, they are the ones doing something wrong—not you. So I think it's just a misfiring of her brain to say "This is what I most regret." And it's not like this is an untrue statement, so what is there to regret about it?
I also think this showcases the weakness of her self-analysis and her retrospective capabilities, because there were things she said that, in context, almost certainly lost her some votes. For example, when asked during one of the debates if she'd release the transcripts from her private, paid speeches, she basically just shrugged it off by saying "I'll look into it." When asked what she's going to do to earn the votes of Bernie Sanders supporters, she basically just said "I won, we have a lot in common, and I didn't put down conditions when Obama beat me"—translation—I'm not going to do anything different, and our political platforms are close enough that you should just vote for me.
If you ask me, these are statements that should have neared the top of the list of her campaign regrets.
I also have a few points to make about the basic style of her political campaigning—although these are criticisms that apply broadly to modern campaigning.
First off, she writes that:
"The day after I accepted the nomination in Philadelphia, Bill and I hit the road with Tim Kaine and his wife, Anne, for a bus tour through factory towns across Pennsylvania and Ohio."
Whenever I hear about politicians making visits to factories and stuff like this, I always find myself asking, is this style of campaigning not extremely antiquated? What kind of an uninformed jerkoff doesn't have a clue who they're voting for and only gets persuaded when they see a candidate in person? These just strike me as cheap PR stunts. Who falls for this shit, anyway?
"Oh, Mitt Romney's gonna roll up his sleeves and talk to us on the factory floor! He's got my vote!"—"No, fuck you, Mitt Romney! Why don't you back to your mansion and read the Mormon Bible or something?"
(As an aside, does anybody else remember Mitt Romney's pitifully bungled plain-folks appeal made during one of the Republican debates in 2012? The candidates were asked what they were going to do after the debate that evening, and Romney, trying to seem like he's just a normal, average-Joe American, said he was gonna watch the big game that night, but he ended up getting the sport completely wrong. I think it was a football game, and he said he was gonna watch the big basketball game, or something like that, making clear that he was completely full of shit and he was just pretending like he shared the interests of everyday Americans. Hilarious. I can't find the clip anywhere online, but that moment will be forever burned into my brain. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.)
Another thing I would ask is, wouldn't most rally attendees be people who are already supporters, anyway? I've attended a number of political rallies over the years, and from what I've seen, the vast majority of these people that attend these events already support the person and plan on voting for them. So are politicians not misspending their time, energy, and resources when they go on tours like this?
She also writes in the book that,
"By contrast, the Democratic National Committee was badly outgunned. Tom Perez, the new DNC chair, has said, 'We've got to up our game on technology.' He's right. Perez pledged to 'do a better job of building the data analytics platform that will enable us not only to succeed in elections today but to be the state of the art for decades to come.' That's crucial."
This approach makes it seem like you're more interesting in pandering—saying what people want to hear to get more votes—doing whatever it takes to simply win—as opposed to actually just standing up for your own true beliefs and being genuine.
"What do the focus groups think about this or that issue?"—"Fuck the focus groups: here's what I think."
This is the kind of authenticity that I think people are starving for in American politics. And ironically, I think this reliance upon the polling data and the focus groups can hurt politicians as much as, if not moreso, than it can help them, because when people get the impression that you're not being authentic, that you're just telling them what you think they want to hear, they're going to find it hard to trust you and really get behind your campaign. As Sam Harris once put it, Hillary Clinton focus groups every third sentence, and you can feel that when she speaks.
And she expresses her bewilderment, in the text, at the fact that so many people view her as fake when she's in the public spotlight, but then she says the following on p. 170:
"I have spent so much of my life in the public eye, keeping a tight hold on what I say and how I react to things, that it is such a relief to have friends with whom I can be vulnerable and unedited."
This basically confirms what many of us feel when she talks in public, that she's being fake, that she isn't being her true self.
She also complains about how little of media coverage focused on policy. As she writes,
"According again to Harvard's Shorenstein Center, discussion of public policy accounted for just 10 percent of all campaign news coverage in the general election. Nearly all the rest was taken up by obsessive coverage of controversies such as email. Health care, taxes, trade, immigration, national security—all of it crammed into just 10 percent of the press coverage."
I could not agree more that the media should focus much more on policy differences and specifics than petty scandals or the day-to-day happenings of campaigning. But it's hypocritical that Hillary bashes the media for this when her campaign is guilty of the exact same offense—to a unique degree. As Vox reports,
"Hillary Clinton’s campaign ran TV ads that had less to do with policy than any other presidential candidate in the past four presidential races, according to a new study published on Monday by the Wesleyan Media Project.
. . . only 25 percent of advertising supporting her campaign went after Trump on policy grounds, the researchers found. By comparison, every other presidential candidate going back to at least 2000 devoted more than 40 percent of his or her advertising to policy-based attacks. None spent nearly as much time going after an opponent’s personality as Clinton’s ads did."
Hillary Clinton's book What Happened is brimming with unsound arguments and outright falsehoods. Her attempt to explain away her financial ties to Wall Street is unconvincing. Her attacks against Bernie Sanders are without merit. And the way she campaigned was flawed in a number of important ways. Hopefully, going forward, politicians can learn from her mistakes and try not to repeat them.