What Happened for me is kind of personal, because I feel like Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote this one for me (me being someone who has loved her since I even knew what a Hillary Rodham Clinton even was). Maybe other people don't want to hear her voice right now, or ever again, or about this election, or about anything. Maybe they think that after you lose a presidential election, you should just go away, and never be heard from again--become a ghost.
Jimmy Carter didn't become a ghost after the 1980 election. Al Gore didn't become a ghost after the 2000 election. They went on to do the things that mattered to them, and spoke about the things they cared about--you can't expect anything less from Hillary Clinton. She has spent her entire life in service to other people in many ways. Here's something I have gathered about everything I have seen regarding her--she doesn't ghost. She isn't going away--and I would never want her to. She has experienced life as an activist, a student, a politician, and a diplomat. Her experience is deep and real. And I love her voice in this memoir.
It's probably true that she had help with this book, because public figures have busy lives and often do have people who smooth out the rough edges of what can be a personal narrative. But I heard this book as I read in her voice--a voice very familiar to me, and not a voice I ever considered shrill or unpleasant. This book isn't about distributing blame--she owns her failures. But she has insights about a broken system that has been exploited by extreme partisan voices as well as cynical fake-news distributors. She is open in her estimation of her opponent, Donald Trump's, shortcomings, and her fears about what he stirs up as a divisive and rancorous demagogue.
She lays out a great timeline regarding her understanding of the Russian interference in this election, that tracks with my own observations and things that have later come to light. She is not deflecting the blame from herself--but acknowledging a political reality we do not yet have a system in place to adequately confront. But as I reviewed her marshalling of the facts, I saw what a legal mind was at work--she was laying a case.
She discusses misogyny and racism. I am glad she did. She speaks about drawing inspiration from the Mothers of the Movement, and acknowledges the reality of women experiencing harassment for daring to speak up. She speaks with great affection of her staff during this and the 2008 election, and about food! and about her family--Bill and Chelsea and her grandbabies. She complains (who doesn't?) about clothes and makeup and appearances. Through it all, this was the reflection of a person who isn't maybe the greatest politician ever, but a person so qualified for a job who cared so greatly about how things happened, who lost to a person so greatly not qualified and who so genuinely could not begin to admit how things happened.
This is, however much it is a book about Hillary Clinton, and her experiences about the 2016 election, also a book about Donald Trump. It's about Donald Trump looming behind her during a townhall-style debate, and her own internal debate with herself as to whether she should confront him for it. (I myself might have just gone with sarcasm in her place--look over my shoulder and ask "Are you lost?") It's about understanding that Trump awakened something in people that was mean and unforgiving, that was based on bad information and worse choices. It was about people saying "Screw the devil we know--we want a devil that will fuck shit up." Even the shit they depended on, like the ACA and a functioning State Department.
I also wonder, in a way, how this book impacts on Trump. I've joked before about how he doesn't seem to sleep often in the White House, because he's probably beset with the ghosts of presidencies past. But there is another kind of ghost--the kind who is still alive and talking, and who still begs people to compare what he's doing right this minute, with what she, the better-qualified candidate, would have done. This is why he still wants those "Lock her up" chants. For what definable crime, who even knows? Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie and Michael Flynn, of all people, made cases about that "Lock her up" issue at the RNC. But what was her crime?
The people who chant this thing don't even know. They think she is a liberal baby-killing gun-grabber, I guess, who somehow killed people at Benghazi by politically-correcting someone anywhere in the world who wanted to say the magic words "radical Islamic terrorism". Or some such appalling thing. The reality is, they want her locked up for being. Being right. Being liberal. Being feminist. Speaking out.
Trump needs Hillary Clinton even now as his nemesis, because he lost the popular vote, and he knows he isn't as popular as he could be--but he never, in all his advanced years, realized that sometimes, the answer to why people think he sucks has to do with his actual sucking.
The above photo is the Ghost of Hillary Clinton, her presidency that never was, the love of her supporters and the protests against Trump anywhere and everywhere, and the space she will always occupy in his head. Trump is haunted by Hillary Clinton. She is everywhere where the resistance to him wants to be. He wants to lock her up to lock her out of his headspace. She squats there, in a world where she won, and he gets to not have the responsibility of governing, but gets to talk shit about her on Fox News everyday, instead of having shit talked about himself. He wants her to stay his villain, instead of being one.
But this isn't Trump's World, even if he did win the electoral college vote.
What happened? Just you wait--we will. We are stronger together. She told us how. And there will be a post-Trump world. And the Ghost of Hillary Clinton will stay inspiring and teaching and caring and checking in and making sure we know she is with us.
And I am still with her.