I just finished Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. We’ve been commenting on excerpts from it for weeks. This is my take on the book as a whole.
On the plus side: The subject is delicious. (Reading the story of Election Night was pure Schadenfreude.) Allen and Parnes, the authors, write fairly well. And they don’t blame “Russia, Comey and misogyny” non-stop. They report on actual flaws of the candidate and her staff, and how those flaws kept her from closing the deal with Middle America.
On the minus side: The book is overly-detailed. The authors do blame “Russia, Comey and misogyny” some of the time. In the end, they are liberals writing for liberals. They don’t admit the depth of Hillary’s flaws. For example, they never admit the genuineness of the scandals dogging her: the fact that she broke laws for which other Americans are serving jail time, that she obstructed justice, that FBI Director Comey really gave her kid-glove treatment, etc.
In short, Allen and Parnes miss the larger story of the Clintons’ corruption – and how, in 2016, half of America finally stood up to it and beat it back. Instead, they bury the reader in details about Hillary’s innumerable aides and the in-fighting that she encouraged.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Some key ideas (probably known to you already):
- From the beginning, Hillary didn’t have much crowds or grassroots energy; Bernie Sanders did. (I confirm this informally from the rarity of Hillary bumper stickers in my blazing-blue hometown.)
- Hillary defeated Bernie by courting Black and Hispanic voters. He hadn’t built relationships with them. She had.
- But, from then on, her campaign focused a bit more on minority voters and less on Bernie supporters or Bill Clinton’s working-class whites. This played into Trump’s hand.
- Also, Bernie undermined Hillary by staying in the Democrat race long after he could win it. (Reinforced her negative image, delayed her campaigning against Trump, etc.).
- None of Hillary or her crew ever thought of a positive, over-arching reason for Americans to elect her. They tried hard – sometimes comparing Hillary to FDR, “rendezvous with destiny” and all that – and they f(l)ailed.
- None of Hillary or her crew quite understood that Obama’s economic “recovery” was only good in Washington DC, Wall Street and Silicon Valley – and awful, in the rest of America. (Allen and Parnes themselves understand it weakly, or mention it only in passing.)
- Robby Mook’s greatest sin – much abetted by Hillary – was his focus on voter turnout models over voter persuasion models. He would rather figure out how to get another Hillary-leaning voter to the polls, than figure out the right argument to win over an undecided or opposing voter. In the end, the campaign bet on demographics and divisiveness over persuasion.
- And yes, within 24 hours of losing, Hillary and crew were plotting to de-legitimize the election.
My own view of Hillary was always that she was an exceptionally calculated, fake candidate: a “sh*t sandwich” whom political elites were foisting on everyone. The book often asserts that Hillary is a genuine, warm and caring person. But it tells a story that is far more consistent with my view.
For example, every Hillary statement or speech was intensely written and re-written by committee. The reason she didn’t campaign in Michigan is that her candidacy was so disliked, there (p. 368). In Pennsylvania, men went bigly for Trump (p. 396). Perhaps the real story of 2016 is America, especially American men, rejecting an unlikeable face of left-wing feminism?
The book’s content is also noteworthy for what it omits. It never touches upon:
- the Hillary campaign’s proven use of political violence and dirty tricks.
- Seth Rich, the murdered DNC insider who may have been a WikiLeaks source. (Allen and Parnes have committed to the “Russia did it” narrative.)
- Any mention of Hillary’s Saudi money, or of Saudi Arabia hacking our democracy.
- Hillary’s cheating in the debates.
- John Podesta and “Spirit Cooking” (a revelation from his e-mails that affected some voters).
- Ditto for Huma Abedin’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.