What would you do if you were offered a ton of money to write a book defending your defeat in one of the most unbelievable political battles this world has ever seen? Hillary Rodham Clinton went for the prosaic remedy. It was a ridiculous battle, one between a compulsive liar and an overeager ideologue. Donald Trump, the promoter of division and aggression, of egomaniacal ideas of government, somehow ended up as its winner. Perhaps there were other forces involved in the making of this champion (we hear he likes Russian politics a lot), but until proven I’m afraid we need to stick to what we know to be true facts (otherwise we’re running the risk of playing the same risky mind games as Trump).
I picked up Clinton’s autobiographical account of the events leading up to election day and her consecutive reasoning for her loss, what she is doing now – purely out of interest in what the buzz was all about. I had few expectations, but expected her to write with as much dignity as she addresses her opponents on stage.
People might not have asked for this soliloquy, and they are free to stay away from it. It certainly won’t hurt her bank account. However, I was positively surprised by her personal narrative. Obviously, I take everything with a grain of salt, since essentially she can only tell one side of the story, but hers is compelling until the very end. Spoilers are redundant. We know how this story will end.
Although Chilton herself might not be a knight in shining armor, I would have liked for her to win the Game of Thrones and follow Obamas’s abdication. Certainly, neither of the final major-party candidates really were ideal for the position, but which president ever is? It is not the time until the election that defines a presidency but the four consecutive years the Chief in Command has the power to change the world. Trump showed his game face early on, long before the election. And he continues along the same delirious lines. Trump used his time in office so far to sow terror and confusion in his country and around the world. His actions affect more than his home, they have the dangerous potential to affect all of us. While a nuclear war might just be another business venture to gamble on for Trump, the rest of us dread a wrong investment. It takes a village to change lives (to adapt one of Clinton’s favorite lines), it only takes one Trump to destroy a country’s reputation.
Clinton’s book arrives just in time for the president’s first reckoning. 10 months after Trump’s triumph, Clinton tries to make amends with her supporters, nay, with herself. In “What Happened” Clinton gets personal. As a non-US-American, I never really knew about her academic, political, and economic achievements. In her book she introduces herself as a woman who always tried to be somebody society didn’t expect her to be: a successful lawyer, a tough stateswoman, a forgiving wife. This would have come full circle if she was indeed elected the world’s most powerful leader. Alas, it seems like although the US primes itself for being at the forefront in almost every single aspect of life, gender equality still poses a pitfall for the nation. While Clinton’s gender might not have mattered to some voters, it might nonetheless have influenced the election and ultimately may have decided it. Although the first female US-President might still be elected during my life time, Hillary Clinton had to deal with a wave of disappointed (third wave) feminists who were counting on her win. Living in a country that is experiencing a similar, yet, fortunately, not completely successful invasion of Alt-Right parties, the US-American development from global leader to bad-tempered child in a candy shop is one Germany needs to observe while re-evalutaing its own government. Chancellor Angela Merkel, an unbending authority who has retained in her position for the past 12 years (and counting), demonstrates that gender equality in politics is possible. Here goes a nod to Thatcher and all the other female leaders of countries whose history I had no time to research but who should not be forgotten. Big Players do equality. So, why does the transatlantic super power fall short in this area?
Gender aside, Clinton questions the media coverage in view of her defeat. One word dominated negative news on her: e-mails. Her alleged abuse of private e-mail programmes to communicate with other government officials was the most discussed issue surrounding Clinton. It even made the news here in Germany! Although she was proven innocent shortly before Election Day, there was a new wave of superficial allegations. Meanwhile, Trump’s relentless flood of new headlines made it impossible to find one single issue one should make him accountable for. While Trump’s core was surrounded by a membrane of soft, growing bubbles, Clinton’s core was only covered by a thin permeable membrane (including some biological terms here, the eager biology teacher that I once wanted to become). Political ideas suffered from over-coverage of personal headlines. In an era of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat dominating especially young people’s lives, particularly in the US, “fake news” briefed eligible voters.
Yes, Clinton should have won this election. Not because she was the best choice, but because she was the only one in this final battle. Clinton’s past political and economic decisions led to terror all over the world (Osama bin Laden’s murder – if that wasn’t a terrorist attack, what is? Check out Noam Chomsky’s “Who Rules the World” for an insightful account of so-called anti-terror missions). These were crimes for which she, obviously, has been granted a verdict of non-guilty. Her private economic endeavors might look good on paper (a foundation she established with her husband supporting multiple charitable organizations), yet doubtful deals led to her large economic success and her accumulated wealth.
Granted, she is smart, charming, a power house. She is not what America needed but what America should have chosen in a battle of stoic anarchists and idealistic capitalists. Her book is a testament to her ability to defy expectations. It is not a personal vendetta, a feisty revenge poem, but a self-evaluation – albeit heavily redeeming of her own qualities for the Presidential office. It’s a read that necessitates a healthy dose of skepticism – as with every autobiography you cannot believe every word. It’s not necessarily alternative facts but a one-sided perception of reality Clinton is selling. She is no martyr that blames solely herself for her defeat, but she could have lost a couple of layers of self-adulation.
This book is no revelation but an interesting read that entertains and gives insight to political analysis tools. After all, a presidential campaign is a bunch of marketing strategists, sociologists, and speech writers coming together and trying to sell one person as the most competent individual to a pile of wandering individuals. “What Happened” is not a page turner or a Nobel prize worthy story, but it is an attempt to make sense of reality. Sometimes that means ignoring certain parts to make us feel less pain than we do already. But maybe that is what readers, but mostly importantly, Hillary Clinton would have needed.
Maria was listening to leaves falling down the trees outside her window while writing this review.