Hillary Rodham Clinton
Simon and Schuster, 2017
Geek god rating: Sky god worthy (5 out of 5 stars)
“Right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
We need to move on. We should already have done that like months ago. We should have done that on the night of November 8, 2016 when we stare at the once blue states that are now red. We should have done that January 20, 2017 when we watched in unbelieving horror as a monster stepped into the stage to be elected as the most powerful leader in the world, seemingly sealing the doomed fate of the world which began long ago in Cuba, in Venezuela, in Russia, in China, in the UK, in the Philippines, and else where. Now it reached America and we should move on.
But we can’t. Because in moving ahead, we need to find the answers to continue, or we will all be lost. There were countless articles, post election analysis, news reports and articles, documentaries, to watched and to be poured on, but this book, this one written by the woman who was the center of it all, is the only one left to be read before we could move onward, again, with our heads high.
This is a review of Hillary Clinton’s book, the former Secretary of State, first woman nominee of a major party, and a woman who attempted to break the highest glass ceiling, but failed at the very last moment. “What Happened” is the story of the election of America, but also the story of a world who is searching for its identity, lost in all the noise. “What Happened” is the story of one woman who we all rallied behind. Ultimately, this is our story, the story of our defeat, and on how together, we can move onward.
This is also a look back of what we did, here in geek god, the crunching of countless numbers to report a series of electoral maps that we thought would be the nearest come election night, the journey towards November 2016 and the signs that we saw as the fateful day arrived. We were shocked too, but we saw it coming, the numbers in the map were flashing red and we ignored it.
But what are we talking about? This should not be our concern. This is America’s concern, not ours. We will answer this in this article, but for now all we could say is: it should concern you.
“It is always best to trust that in time the wisdom of the majority of the people will be greater and more dependable and those who are in the minority must accept their defeat with grace.”
Our last electoral map projection was 298-240 for Clinton. We know it would be a tight race but we we were hopeful that we’re right. Our page for the live updates were ready one day before election night, mapping the states in order of the end of their voting schedules. And then we’re all set.
The red states were the ones to close their voting and so Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, soared early until the small blue eastern states started reporting their votes. But our focus is on the rust belt where we saw some alarming signs two days before, and of course on the battle ground states.
Ohio and Florida were the first signs that things were going bad. Ohio was +1 for Trump but we assumed Florida will be blue given the early voting results. Then the first serious sign emerged: Pennsylvania, which seemed to be going red. We’re shocked. From that point we recalculated the electoral college: Clinton still has the advantage but her path was narrowing.
Then California came in and Clinton leads Trump 209-194, but Colorado turning blue was the good sign we were waiting for. But another shocked emerged: the dreaded rust belt, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, were in a tight race but which should have been blue. If Clinton was to lose its 36 combined electoral votes, then we were facing a defeat. It’s the first time that we entertained the idea of a Trump victory. But we’re still hopeful. 12 states were yet to finish their tally, 4 states were sure for Trump (36 EVs), only two were sure for Clinton with just 8 EVs. Our calculations (including the sure red and blue states yet to have full report) showed 217-230 for Trump, the rest were still close. But then immediately, Trump gets Florida. We were devastated. Our calculations showed that he only has to get 11 EVs to win.
Then Clinton wins Nevada, the tally 215-245 to Trump and so all eyes were now on the rust belt states: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and in the eastern state of Pennsylvania. All have a total of 56 EVs. Including the four non battle ground states, our calculations showed 223-259 to Trump. He needed only Michigan (16 EV) or Pennsylvania (20 EV) to win. Clinton needed to win Michigan and Pennsylvania and either Minnesota or Wisconsin to win. All states were leaning red expect Minnesota.
But then Pennsylvania fell and became red and Wisconsin followed suit. It was over: 219-275 to Trump. As Trump said that night “that map was getting red as hell. That map was bleeding red…”
“and they helped me develop a message, Stronger Together, that reflected my values and vision and a clear contrast with Trump.”
Clinton’s debates with Sen. Bernie Sanders were a bore, but the Democratic primaries were exciting than the Trump-dominated GOP primaries. The inside look of how the Clinton team had prepared for the primaries, and way before that, were detailed in the book, which was both illuminating and impressive.
How she put her organization in place for the 2016 run was clearly laid out in the pages of the book. Despite mentioning almost all of her staff members, it was not boring, or dragging. The way she narrated it was like you were meeting these persons one by one. The programs they created together, from their road trips, was clearly narrated as well. It is informative in a sense that the data you knew during the extent of the campaign was supplemented by the data of the candidates, from the candidate herself, making your Primary experience complete. It might not be important when taken singularly, but on the larger picture, especially going to the end of the book, on the fatal election night, all of this will be important.
For some, the primary was of little importance to the outcome of the election. But Clinton, in her book, showed all the warning signs in the other side of the fence, in the GOP Primary, even if they were busy with everything else. In this book, Clinton tells us the bits and pieces of those warning signs, carefully placed in between the paragraphs, after which, in the end, it will be illuminating to readers. What happened to the election? Read the signs during the Primary.
News and Signs and the Culprits
“That order is now being challenged …more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets and open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. They represent the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.” -(President Barack Obama farewell speech, January 10, 2017)
It was really frustrating that despite all the shocking (and not shocking) things revealed abut Trump, he still got away with it, unscathed. This frustration was honestly conveyed in the book, as well as the annoyance on the ever present “Clinton emails.” The media’s coverage was blamed in here, and the case she presented on this regard could not be disputed. These were the news that dominated the election cycle, and which was discussed in length in the book, as well as some lengthy chapters for the FBI head who ruined it all.
Clinton also presented some indisputable facts about how evil the GOP is, and like the priests in colonial Philippines, we are sure that the GOP establishment were squirming in discomfort while reading this book, just like the priests who read Jose Rizal’s novels about their evil deeds. But the Democrats were not blameless too and like a patient on a doctor’s operation table, Clinton managed to bear her party’s faults and shortcomings, with all the honesty and dignity she could muster.
Though when it comes to the social media giants, she stopped short. Is it because of her friendship with Mark Zuckerburg? To Sheryl Sandberg? To Jack Dorsey?
The third party candidates were also mentioned here, in part because one of them was linked to Russia and its god Vladimir Putin. The case against Putin, the articles of the investigation on the Russian interference, on the frustrating way the Clinton camp tried to bring light of the issue, were all written in the book, making it a collection of evidence worthy of reading it to court.
The news about Clinton was negative to begin with, and she effectively conveyed how she was frustrated on breaking that negativity from the very start. But to say that Clinton didn’t blame herself is just plain wrong. She did and this book is proof, “What Happened” is a story of what she did wrong and the lessons she learned along the way and after all the votes were counted.
The Electoral College
“I blamed myself…I had been unable to connect with the deep anger so many Americans felt…and look what they’d thrown at me.”
Two days before election night and it’s all looking bad. One week before, we have projected a 305-117 win for Clinton, with 116 swing votes states. Clinton has 7% margin, 45% to 38% popular vote projection. Trump will be crushed, weeks after the fall of the red states wall of the GOP. Even our title for that release said it all: “It’s Game Over for Donald Trump.” Then we closed the release of electoral maps.
But then came the FBI news. We scrambled to redraw the map, see its effect on the overall projection. It’s bad, two days before the election. We projected a 235-170 win for Clinton with 133 swing votes. The 270 wall was gone and our final projection including the swing votes was 298-240 to Clinton. Clinton’s lead was cut to 5% nationally, 46% to 41% (which was the actual result). We projected a win for her but Trump’s jump from 117 to 240 was chilling (though the swing states were included here).
Months before, someone sent to us this book written by James H. Madison entitled “Heartland.” It was a comparative study of the midwestern states, narrating their cultural, industrial and agricultural history. Looking back it was chilling now to have missed the signs given to us. The midwestern states, includes the “Rustbelt”: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Minnesota and Wisconsin were the states which nailed the coffin of Clinton’s defeat.
We had dismissed the sign and continued to color these states blue, not even including these to the battle ground states. This was despite reading about its history, about its forgotten people, about its fallen industry.
Clinton on her part viciously defended her team on allegations of not focusing on these states. She cherished the paragraphs where he explained why these allegations were simply not true, all the while admitting that they could have done more to win these states. But this being said, they already knew that the states were red, or at least leaning red, why the complacency or lack of further initiative (instead of staging a massive campaign two days before the election, after the late polls are flashing ever red) to ensure that these states were indeed blue? Alas the book did not tell us.
The Brexit campaign happened months before the disastrous November election, and before that the fall of the Philippines to a dictator in May that year. The rise of populism began in 2016 and is still on the hot roll as of today, with the election of far right Sebastian Kurz in Austria. But the fall of the United States to the white supremacist was disappointing, albeit not shocking given their racist past.
The racism and the parallels of what was happening around world was also discussed in the book, to complete the cycle, and more importantly it tells us who we are really dealing with, so together we can defeat these evil forces and move onward.
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The book serves as a beacon of hope moving forward. We knew it before we read it. It was not because of Clinton, it was not because we wanted to blame the other side, and in a brutal fashion have their transgressions read in a book. It was because it included the many things we could do to make things right, what we could do to remain fighting, the solid and clear instructions and choices we could make today, for the future.
When you read the book, it was like Clinton was there beside you, talking to you, narrating her experiences, airing her side of the story, sharing her thoughts and theories, as if she’s really close to you, more than you feel when you watch her campaign speeches. Because this book is raw and true, so its voice is clear.
We especially like the mini stories about her famous flu back in September, her interview with Zach Galifianakis in “Between Two Ferns” and the funny debate preps where someone on her team impersonated Trump ( I watched that on Youtube while reading the part about it). Also worth mentioning was the way she described their day to day operations, how they spend their days airborne on a chartered plane and the food they eat along the way.
All of these were clearly narrated, but instead of dragging the book, Clinton showed that these were necessary acts to tell the whole story, like needing a paddle for you to row the boat.
There are some answers in this book, but ultimately we don’t need to know it all to move ahead. There will be more questions along the way, but what is important is that we know what we stand for, we know what we’re facing, and we know that onward, we’ll march together to face it.
(Eisenberg Rating: 1,850 out of 2,000 stars)