As Clinton Blames Comey & Russia, Authors of “Shattered” Expose Aimless Campaign

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Yves here. If you followed the election attentively, you’ll very much enjoy the book Shattered, which gives a remarkably in depth post mortem of the failed Clinton campaign. But if you have other priorities on your reading list, this Real News Network interview with one of its authors, Jonathan Allen, covers some of its juicier findings.

AARON MATE: It’s The Real News, I’m Aaron Mate. For many, the shock of the 2016 US election has not yet worn off, and major stories like the Trump/Russia investigation, and now the firing of James Comey, keep that historic campaign fresh on our minds. At a recent event, Hillary Clinton gave her most extensive explanation to date for her loss to Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON: It wasn’t a perfect campaign. There is no such thing, but I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off.

AARON MATE: Well, a new book offers a different take on Clinton’s loss. It’s an inside, extensive account of the campaign’s struggles and that starts with the failure to hone Clinton’s core message, including even her reason for running. The book is “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” and I’m joined now by one of its co-authors, Jonathan Allen, a columnist for Rollcall. Jonathan, welcome.

JONATHAN ALLEN: My pleasure to be here.

AARON MATE: There are a number of revelations in your book, but I’ve got to say the one that I was most shocked by was your reporting that the campaign couldn’t come up for a reason for Hillary to run. That’s just shocking. Can you talk about how you found that out and what you found?

JONATHAN ALLEN: Sure. We talked to a lot of people that worked on her messaging and other parts of the campaign, and they said they too were surprised that after running for President for almost 10 years, she still didn’t have a clearly articulable reason … Funny I hesitated there on the word “articulable” but a clearly articulable reason for running for President. The sort of, “Why her, why now?” questions. One of her senior aides even said to me and my co-author, “I would have had a reason for running or I wouldn’t have run.”

AARON MATE: He’s joking when he says that?

JONATHAN ALLEN: No, he means it. He means that it was not clearly defined even to the people who worked for her why she was running for President. The very simple thing, the one big idea or set of small things that fit into the same sort of bucket of why voters should look to Hillary Clinton now as the person who can lead the United States forward and provide the kind of change from the status quo that voters were looking for.

AARON MATE: And yet, the struggled so hard over policy, they focus grouped everything, tweets were extensively debated. Why was it so difficult to come up with a core message about why the candidate was running for President?

JONATHAN ALLEN: In some ways, I think it was over saturation of policy. This is somebody who sat down before she even really launched her campaign and worked out a whole set of policy ideas with her advisors, and I think she tried to build a message from all of that policy and tried to put some glue in between all of those things. Amy and I have said before that in the campaign headquarters, there was a wall that said, “Hillary is for” and then there were Post-it notes all over the place saying, “Hillary’s for the economy. Hillary’s for debt free tuition. Hillary’s for X, Y, and Z,” and the thing that somebody said to Amy was if you’re for everything, you’re for nothing.

I think that was the problem. If you look at Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump by contrast, each of them had a very easy idea to understand. For Bernie Sanders, it was that money and power should be moved away from the wealthy and toward everyone else. For Donald Trump, it was his brand of nationalism, cracking down on illegal immigration, building a wall between the United States and Mexico, coming back from foreign engagements and included in that, rewriting or canceling out trade agreements. It was pretty easy to figure out what those two guys were about, and most of their other policies fit into those ideas.

With Hillary Clinton, there were a million scattershot policy ideas, and she’s certainly a master of those details, but it was hard to really define what she was about in a simple and easy for voters to swallow way.

AARON MATE: There’s a really striking anecdote that you have in the book where Hillary Clinton is speaking to a close advisor and she says, “I don’t understand what’s happening with the country. I can’t get my arms around this.” How was it that someone who was so experienced in politics and so well versed in policy and what’s happening in the country couldn’t understand the prevailing anger with the political and economic system?

JONATHAN ALLEN: It’s really a telling moment in this campaign. Hillary Clinton has been walled off from regular people for lack of a better term, for quite a while, as Secretary of State, as a senator, as First Lady. I think she could tell people were angry but I’m not sure she was ever able to really get why or certainly was not able to offer them something that made them believe she was willing to break down the system rather than trying to change it subtly from within.

AARON MATE: Let’s hone in one one state where this dynamic plays out, Michigan. I first want to play a clip from Donald Trump during the Republican primary where he predicted that he would take Rust Belt states like Michigan. Here he is.

DONALD TRUMP: With me, I add a lot of states that aren’t even in play for anybody else. I mean, I add all of the Rust Belt states. I own states that … I will get states that are unbelievable, that are unthinkable for the Republican party.

AARON MATE: That’s Donald Trump saying he’s going to win Rust Belt states, and low and behold, he does, including in a place like Michigan. Jonathan, your book goes into detail about how the Clinton campaign handled Michigan and another one of your astonishing revelations is that the campaign decided that they didn’t want to contest in states like Michigan where they felt the more attention Hillary got, the more attention they’d call to the election, and the worse he chances would get because her message just wasn’t reaching voters. Can you talk about this?

JONATHAN ALLEN: It’s really astounding. During the primary, she and her husband were sent to population centers, to Detroit, to Flint, and not so much into the suburbs where you had white working class voters, and the more her … This is according to the people we talked to for the book, this is according to campaign staffers and people around the campaign. The more she went and focused on voters in cities, particularly African American voters and Latino voters, she ended up alienating some of the white working class and her message wasn’t resonating with them. They cared about three things: trade, trade, and trade, and her position on trade was much more nuanced than that of Bernie Sanders or that of Donald Trump, both of whom were basically just opposed to it.

After the Michigan primary, her team decided that it really wasn’t helping her to get extra voters at, particularly extra voters in the white working class suburbs outside Detroit, and so they decided that they really didn’t want to send her to Michigan, because they believed that the more she showed up there, the more people would be aware of the election, the more people who were loosely affiliated voters would actually show up and that that would be bad for her. She mostly stayed out of Michigan for the general election. I think she made a trip to Grand Rapids right at the end, but it’s kind of the same reasoning for them not having gone to Wisconsin at all.

AARON MATE: Yeah, the quote you have from a campaign staffer on Michigan is, “Every time there was a mention of the election there, we did worse. To make the election a bigger deal was not good for our prospects in Michigan.” But given that she lost the primary to Sanders so badly, was there ever thought to saying, “Hey, maybe we should rethink our message. Maybe we should come out more strongly against things like TPP?”

JONATHAN ALLEN: There were a ton of people on the ground in Michigan telling the campaign that they needed to do just that, and also that they needed to show up and that they needed to try to persuade people. The campaign manager, Robby Mook, had basically given up on traditional methods of persuasion, so instead of trying to persuade people who didn’t agree with her, he spent all of his time and energy and money on trying to find people who already agreed with her, getting them out to the polls. That didn’t work in a lot of states.

You could see huge follow off from Democrats in particular areas of the country, 70,000 fewer votes in Milwaukee, for example, in 2016, compared to 2008. They gambled big on turning out the base and abandoning persuasion, and those who defend that decision, they can say, “It was hard for Hillary Clinton to persuade people after all this time in the public eye.” There weren’t very many people, they thought, who could be persuaded, who were on the fence or even mildly opposed to her.

AARON MATE: That’s one of the fascinating things that I learned from your book, which is that the Clinton campaign approach is not to try to reach people to persuade them and try to speak to their concerns, but just to mobilize those who they feel were already on their side. You mentioned Robby Mook, the campaign manager. Let’s talk about his approach a little bit. Instead of trying to reach people with policy, he focused heavily on data analytics. Can you tell us about that?

JONATHAN ALLEN: Sure. I mean, data analytics actually means a whole lot of things, but one of the things it means is they’re essentially slicing and dicing the electorate, trying to figure out what the most efficient way is to reach voters, trying to figure out which voters are with them, how they can find all the voters who agree with them and mobilize them. They also learn about what’s most effective in terms of television advertising or on the ground efforts to get people out to the polls. Mook was obsessed with efficiency, he was always concerned the campaign was going to run out of money. They raised a billion dollars and still always felt like they were on a shoestring, so he thought that it was most effective to try to get people to turn out because it cost less money, and also because he believed it was difficult to persuade voters to come over to Hillary Clinton.

AARON MATE: You have a fascinating account in your book where former President Bill Clinton is trying to appeal to Mook and saying, “Listen, you need to campaign more in the Rust Belt and appeal to the concerns of working class voters,” and Mook responds, “The data run counter to your anecdotes.”

JONATHAN ALLEN: Yeah, I mean, this was a long running point of tension between President Clinton and Mook, and Hillary Clinton went with her campaign manager over her husband. Bill Clinton kept telling them, “You’ve got to get out there, we’ve got to talk start talking to people, we’ve got to acknowledge their anger and their fear,” and we saw that a little bit with President Clinton in October when he said that Obamacare is the craziest thing, and was basically talking about some of the premium spikes. People were feeling that all across the country, the campaign wasn’t really acknowledging it, I think in large part because they didn’t want to separate from Barack Obama or separate from the democratic orthodoxy which is that Obamacare was essentially perfect. Might need a tweak here or there, but really wasn’t [inaudible 00:11:18] and problematic.

Bill Clinton got his knuckles wrapped by the campaign. They said that this was a mistake on his part, when in fact it sounded like he was just talking to voters in the way they thought.

AARON MATE: Another way to reach voters could have been picking a Vice Presidential running mate who would appeal to the concerns of the working class more than Tim Kaine. You write that Elizabeth Warren was considered for this role, but ultimately was rejected. What happened there?

JONATHAN ALLEN: One of the revelations in this book was that Hillary Clinton was very upset with or disappointed in her shortlist for Vice Presidential candidates, which included Kaine and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and she was looking to shake things up a little bit, looking to put a little magic on her ticket, and she started talking to Elizabeth Warren more. She sat down with Warren more, went out on the campaign trail for her. There was a little movement inside the campaign for Warren, and ultimately, what we were told by people who were familiar with the decision making was that Clinton decided that she hadn’t enough of a background of transactions with Elizabeth Warren.

They hadn’t really gotten to know each other in the political world enough, and I think there was some concern that Warren might get into office and grandstand if she disagreed with Hillary Clinton. Of course, I think if she could go back, she wouldn’t think so much about who was her partner in office, and maybe more about who could get her into office.

AARON MATE: You write about how a major strategy for the campaign was to try to turn out African American voters, both in the primary and the general. This in some ways contrasts with the message that we got from Clinton in 2008, when I remember she bragged about her appeal to white Americans and the white working class during her primary run against President Obama, but for this campaign, she had a much different message and what’s interesting is that she actually started off her effort with a policy speech that addressed the issue of mass incarceration. Let’s go to a clip of that.

HILLARY CLINTON: It’s time to change our approach. It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration. We need a true national debate about how to reduce our prison population while keeping our communities …

AARON MATE: Jonathan, this was obviously a big issue for the Clintons. They faced a lot of criticism from Black Lives Matter activists because of Bill Clinton’s policies, overseeing an expansion of mass incarceration, also gutting welfare. It was striking that this topic of criminal justice reform was the Clinton campaign’s choice of topics for her first major policy speech. My question is, to what extent did this reflect an actual ideological shift on Clinton’s part? To what extent was it simply just polling, them trying to reach a base that they hadn’t reached before, especially in 2008?

JONATHAN ALLEN: I think it’s important to remember that during Bill Clinton’s presidency he was working with a Republican Congress so not all of these things were his policies. You mentioned welfare reform, I think he vetoed welfare reform two or three times before he signed it. The crime bill had provisions he liked, provisions he didn’t like, but no doubt he was somebody who was a tough on crime candidate in the early ’90s or tough on crime President in the early ’90s, and Hillary Clinton had some words that came back to bite her. I think she understood after watching Barack Obama in 2008 that if you could get African Americans to vote heavily in your favor, essentially as a block for you, that you would be able to win the democratic primary.

There’s tremendous advantage in the way the democratic rules are structured to getting a huge constituency like African American voters mobilized, and in high percentages in your direction. I mean, I think she just understood the politics but at the same time, what helped her win the primary, I think during that period she started to alienate, at least this is what people who worked for her said, started to alienate a lot of those working class white voters that she would have needed in the general election. At least one staffer said to me and my co-author, we talk about this in the book, that she might have been better off starting with that base of working class white voters that she had from 2008 and building out from that.

AARON MATE: Let’s go to the issue of emails. Very much in the news right now, with the firing of James Comey and the Trump administration claiming that it was handling of the Clinton investigation, Clinton email investigation that prompted that dismissal. Your book reveals though, actually, a different side of the Clinton email issue which is that after her 2008 loss to Barack Obama in the primary, she got staffers to give her the emails of her staff members to see who had possibly betrayed her?

JONATHAN ALLEN: Yeah. There’s a scene in one of the chapters of the book, I think it chapter four, opens with this moment in 2008 where she instructs one of her tech aides to go out and get the top senior staff emails from the 2008 campaign to look through and to see who was leaking to the press, who was stabbing people in the back. It helped give her a picture for an autopsy she was doing of that campaign, give her a picture of what was going on in her headquarters while she was out on the campaign trail. What it shows is that she’s somebody who’s very knowledgeable about information systems. I don’t mean that she’s going to be hacking into anyone’s computer, or that she’s even particularly familiar with her own devices, but she understands how information moves.

She certainly understands how vulnerable you can be if someone else is reading your email, which goes to that question of, “What was she thinking when she set up the private email server?” Which would have, if not found, would have precluded people from getting her records as Secretary of State. Ultimately it was discovered and there were lawsuits, and her email came out anyway, so if that was her intent, it certainly backfired.

AARON MATE: This book in my mind is not just about one candidate or one campaign. It offers striking lessons about our political system. After covering this campaign so extensively, speaking to more than 100 people, what do you think are the main lessons from your book about how our politics work and how future campaigns should be run in light of all the mistakes that you detail were made in this one?

JONATHAN ALLEN: Number one, it’s mostly about the candidate. You’ve got to have a candidate who bridges the divides within your own party and is able to reach out to the other party. That was not Hillary Clinton. Number two, you’ve got to have a candidate who has a message that’s clear and easy for the electorate to digest about why they should be President, what they’re going to do with the awesome power of the presidency, and it’s got to be succinct. Number three, we live in a time of increasing data and we’re always trying to slice and dice people in terms of trying to sell things to them, in terms of political campaigns, but the truth is in politics, victory is equal to both science and art.

The art of persuasion still matters in politics. You’ve got to be able to go out there, talk to people who don’t agree with you, and if you don’t win them over to vote for you, if you don’t make them agree with your point, you may at least win their respect.

AARON MATE: Jonathan Allen, the book is “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” and it’s now a best seller. Jonathan, thanks so much.

JONATHAN ALLEN: My pleasure.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.

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  1. Mathiasalexander

    this is a red herring. She lost a slice of the democratic base by the way she got the nomination. A big enough slice to loose her the election.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      If elections are supposed to be “fixed” by the right people, for the right candidates … then she was robbed. Same as McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012. Being the fair haired boy, getting an answer sheet handed to you before the un-proctored final, helps you excel.

      1. different clue

        Poooooor Hillary . . . all those fixes, and in the end they didn’t work.

        Lets call Campaign 2016 the Pottery Barn Campaign. She broke it, she owns it.

    2. Arizona Slim

      And the shenanigans of the primary, like those six Iowa caucus coin flips that went Hillary’s way and the electioneering in NY and MA, were not mentioned.

    3. RenoDino

      Yeah, and all she had to do to get the base back was make Bernie her V.P. No slicing or dicing required. Curious that the thought never occurred to them. The brief romancing of Warren was thrilling enough, like driving through the slums with the windows rolled down and the doors unlocked.

    4. Susan the other

      Hilary was too disingenuous and manipulative. Blatantly so. The episode with Warren was classic Hillary. It seems more like Hillary didn’t really know what she wanted except to stay the neoliberal course. That one she seemed to know. She never wavered from being for big banks, for the TPP and stubbornly against single payer. The Bernie show didn’t harm her until all the people who loved Bernie realized she was just using him. And Bernie seemed to be OK with it until he realized he had handed her the best gift ever and she just threw it away – it would have allowed her to imply that she was agreeing with him on those issues while all the time undermining those very issues. Instead she didn’t even try to pick up Bernie’s torch. Besides which it was clear the DNC was harming Bernie at every turn and I, for one, strongly suspected the vote count in both Virginia and New York. People could see right through her. I think it is as simple as that.

    5. sgt_doom

      Overall I agree, although they did run an inferior and highly substandard campaign also.

  2. Deadl E Cheese

    I read Shattered. It’s way too nice and, even worse, completely rejects a structural analysis of the campaign’s failings. There’s no attempt to connect Hillary Clinton’s failure to get a good message with that of the Democratic Party getting their dinners handed to them for the past 5-6 years. There’s the persistent sense of despair that Team Clinton wouldn’t do what needed to be done to capture marginal votes, with no real attempt to determine WHY they didn’t do it. It’s always painted as an oversight or a personal failing and never as something that was impossible for an orthodox liberal (not neoliberal, liberal) of the Democratic regime to do. Several times in this book they casually namedrop members of the donor class into the narrative like it’s perfectly normal.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Didn’t read the book, but this bit from the interview speaks to your point –

      But given that she lost the primary to Sanders so badly, was there ever thought to saying, “Hey, maybe we should rethink our message. Maybe we should come out more strongly against things like TPP?”

      This strikes me as extremely cynical in that they really feel that better PR is all that’s needed and the rubes will flock to their side. If only she’s lied just a little bit more she might have been president. No understanding that people simply hate her neoliberal worldview that is impoverishing a nation of 300 million people.

    2. PhilK

      I read somewhere, can’t remember where, that the authors began this book expecting it to be the view from inside Clinton’s triumphant campaign. I get the idea that they were almost as shocked by the results as the people they were writing about, and after the election they flogged the text into a hasty rehash containing some attempts to demo-splain what happened.

      1. Ivy

        One disheartening aspect of the recently deceased campaign is how close they came. Given the revelations of overall cluelessness in Shattered and the general revulsion felt by so many toward Clinton, what does that say about the overall process and the anti-republic elements? The citizens of our fair country deserve so much better than what they get, and their voices continue to be ignored is so many ways.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The Republican Party should be a Southern/Western rump party. The vile and incompetent nature is the primary obstacle. No, the Republicans didn’t discover gerrymandering in 2011 after they seized the House in 2010. Instead of simply dismissing the GOP Party, folk like Pelosi ended years of tradition of the majority party having more seats on committees and decided an even split would be appropriate.

          The Democrats seized the House in 2006 despite gerrymandering and losses in districts that went for both Gore and Kerry. Amazingly enough, those were Rahm Emmanuel backed candidates.

          The basic problem country is the country doesn’t have a market for two Republican parties. The Democratic Party’s elites problem is two fold:
          -too many people have recognized what they are and are done with Team Blue at least the current personalities.
          -the people who might fall for a pitch or appreciate being asked from Team Blue are often considered deplorable and aren’t the kinds of voters desired by NPR liberals. Democrats were warned repeatedly black turnout would decline and Hispanic turnout wouldn’t magically materialize because Dems were so “woke” and would need to go out and ask for votes from marginalized people. Twice now, Martha Coakley (yeesh, she looks like my mom’s sisters who identical twins; its creepy) has lost statewide campaigns in Massachusetts linked to low African American turnout. Instead of organizing and discussing issues relevant to black actors, Coakley preferred to focus on her personal story when she bothered to campaign (a person running for statewide office pushing their own sob story won’t go over well with people struggling to get by) her campaign was built on emotional appeals, claiming Martin Luthor King would be standing with us on the eve of her 2010 defeat. She offered no policy. She never made King’s critiques of society which with the glaring except of Jim Crow and certain LGBT issues (not poverty of course) are in many ways worse today than ever. Outside of this appeal, she didn’t reach out to black voters or working class voters in an practical way over two campaigns. The Democrats are too diseased to even try to win.

          Why Coakley was running statewide again in 2014 in Massachusetts is baffling. There are plenty of Democrats who could be sobered up enough to run state wide. This is a candidate who lost Ted Kennedy’s seat to a guy who did nude modeling a few months after the 2008 election.

      2. Montanamaven

        Obama repeated this stupidity after the election by saying that he would have beaten Trump because he’s better at delivering a false message than Hilary. Yup, he can sell snake oil and she can’t. People were looking for a cure and not only did they see what was being sold was more snake oil but they saw that the salesman/woman was incompetent and didn’t give them credit for being smart enough to see the con.

      3. ChrisPacific

        Yes, I had the same sense from reading this. Count how many times the phrase “white working class” shows up, for example.

        I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Hillary didn’t stand for anything. If she really was such a policy blank slate, then she should have had no problem compromising on some positions in order to bring somebody like Sanders or Warren on board as an ally if she felt the campaign needed it. There was never any question of doing that, so she was obviously quite capable of digging in her heels hard if her values were threatened. I would argue that she did have a fairly clear set of policy positions if you were paying attention. Some of them she even laid out publicly, like forcing everyone to hand over a percentage of their income to Wall Street for “management” (i.e., siphoning off opaque and exorbitant fees in return for average to indifferent performance). She just didn’t stand for anything that she could sell to a majority of the American people, and wasn’t as accomplished at lying as Bill or Obama were.

  3. edmondo

    “One of the revelations in this book was that Hillary Clinton was very upset with or disappointed in her shortlist for Vice Presidential candidates … and she was looking to shake things up a little bit, looking to put a little magic on her ticket…”

    So she chose Tim Kaine? Kaine is a lot of things, but Mr. Excitement isn’t one of them. As bad as Trump is (and will be), the country dodged a bullet when they voted against her last year. Her judgment is horrendous.

    1. pat b

      Tim Kaine is Human Khaki…

      HRC wanted someone compromised and taupe. Someone who would neither outshine her nor
      cast a shadow on her and could be knifed in a second.

  4. Pavel

    Notice how Hillary blithely says “Russian Wikileaks” although there is no real connection between the Russian state and the Wikileaks organisation. And she and her team steadfastly refuse to concede that it is the content of their own emails that was the problem, not the leakers.

    It boggles my mind that anyone pays attention to that woman any more, let alone thinks she should be given another chance to play any role in politics.

    1. ChrisAtRU


      … and this is why the rehashing of much of this – as entertaining as it is – seems unnecessary to me. There has never been an admission of guilt or an apology from her or her cohorts with respect to the Dem primary. She and her advisors were so tone-deaf on everything that mattered most to voters they ultimately took for granted and lost to Trump (or Did-Not-Vote). I’m surprised Robby Mook hasn’t been beaten to a pulp by Bill Clinton; but I’m more surprised that the collective failure of Clinton and her team has yet to relegate them all to irrelevance.

    2. hunkerdown

      That’s a trick the likes of her puppeteers use in the New York Times all the time: mentions of the heads of state who won’t sell their natural resources to the USA for the price they demand are invariably prefixed with the word “authoritarian”, corporate shills who sing humanist hymns on-key are prefixed with the word “liberal” or “progressive”, those who don’t are prefixed “moderate”, and many of those who dare to dance while singing are prefixed “leftist”, none of which has anything to do with delivering universal concrete material benefits to the whole body public.

      In the “market-firm-spook” model of reality in which Democrats live, the emails are tantamount to Party national security information and “need-to-know” trade secrets; to acknowledge their content diminishes their strategic value, and (especially in the case of the “aspirational class” shills online) makes them unreliable servants who “know too much” to be trusted with the Liberator power they’ve wasted their entire lives kissing up to (moment of silence and pour a forty for Seth Rich).

      The peaceful operation of liberalism depends on, inter alia, the people’s interest in what soi-disant bien-pensant exemplarchs think or feel, and their willingness to mold their own beliefs and reactions after those exemplarchs: the people’s willingness to sit on daddy’s lap and be instructed. When those “leaders” aren’t respectable enough to be Respected, all they have left is force, whether it be ostensibly random police terror or the mighty Wurlitzer air horn drowning out reasoned discussion in the people’s interest. That’s why I tend to respond to their ardent moral pleadings with extreme and fearless mockery of and disregard for their self-esteem and exemplarch status. Reality-creation works both ways.

  5. Carey

    Did HRC even want to win? Herself was always tightly scripted, yet with the “basket of deplorables” and “never, ever” comments, I have a hard time being certain that she did.

    Could it have all been theater? I dunno.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Don’t forget her narcissism (anyone who runs for President is by definition a narcissist) and sycophants. What is brilliant to the brown nosers dependent on Clinton largess might not fly outside of her inner circle. At this point, Hillary’s inner circle is so large she will never have to meet anyone who doesn’t want to slavishly tell Hillary what an “experienced” candidate she was. Bill Clinton’s encounter with a 23/24 year old MALE Sanders supporter was telling. Bill talked to the kid for almost 45 minutes. The idea of someone not worshiping Bill clearly bothered him.

      Mittens after the election in 2012 said he never even considered he could lose until the returns started to come in.

  6. RepubAnon

    When I heard that Hillary Clinton was running largely unopposed for the Democratic nomination, my thought was that Donald Trump was the only possible Republican candidate that she could have a chance of defeating. The press hate Hillary, especially the DC cocktail party weenies (who hated her ever since Bill Clinton’s arrival in Washington). The Republicans have been making up lies and fake scandals about the Clintons for over 20 years – and the Clintons have become so accustomed to getting dumped on that they’ve given up on wondering what something looks like from the outside (an area where they were weak to start with).

    Worse, Hillary was seen as the “inevitable” candidate, so all the Democratic campaign consultants whose expertise has lost so many winnable elections flocked to join up and start invoicing Hillary’s campaign. Indeed, I’ve long felt that the key to President Obama’s successful presidential run was that all those top-tier Democratic campaign consultants were hired by Hillary’s campaign run.

    The story of why Hillary lost can be summarized briefly as:
    * Hillary’s never been able to overcome 20+ years of bad press related to various scandals, real and imagined. Any time anyone accuses Hillary of anything – she stands pre-convicted in the press. (Plus, there’s money to be made in anti-Hillary scandal stories. Scandal: Page 1 – retraction or admission that something’s a nothingburger – page 20 below the fold.)
    * Bill Clinton’s “triangulation strategy” worked in 1992 – but the world is very different today. The triangulation strategy worked when people felt safe and comfortable enough to forget about why Roosevelt’s New Deal was popular. Today, we’re in more of a 1930s mode.
    * Hillary hired losers to run her campaign. These were the same type of folks who helped Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Wendy started with a fired-up base. Rather than listen to the locals, they acted like seagulls in the classic consultant cliche: they flew in, ate up all the resources, crapped everywhere, and left a terrible mess. If Hillary’s campaign was poorly run, it speaks not only to her bad judgement in hiring them – it also speaks to those consultants being incompetent. Where’s the evidence that anyone told Hillary about picking a single, simple message and sticking to it?
    * The Democratic Party has, as an organization, failed to adopt a core message. Democrats were united by the New Deal principles through the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. As the folks who remembered the bad times passed on, and the Vietnam War split the blue collar workers away from the hippies, people forgot why we needed the New Deal. This lead to the “Republican Lite” New Democrat messaging, which has been losing elections for quite some time now. Bernie’s success in the primaries showed the fatal weakness in the Democratic Party’s post New Deal marketing.
    *Titanic Principle: The Democrats have gotten so used to saying that the demographics make eventual victory inevitable, they make their defeat unavoidable. (If you think your ship is unsinkable, you’ll ignore the icebergs.)

    Democrats had the chance to lock up victory for a long time to come in 2008: all they needed to do was go after the Wall Street con artists who destroyed the economy. They’d have had to get around the problem of Bill Clinton signing the legislation repealing Glass Steagall, but that would be doable: simply admit that deregulation turned out to be a terrible idea, and re-regulate.

    Instead, they stayed with the philosophy that worked in 1992, but has consistently failed since: appease Wall Street and the donor class… the folks who want Republicans to win. We’ve seen how that turned out.

    The path forward is now clear: propose re-regulation, make sure the Republicans own the upcoming economic and international disasters, and (most importantly) concentrate on local and state-level elections.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      A few quibbles.

      -Hillary’s bad press is also her own fault. Betting on racist and war mongering policies to remain popular was stupid. Her healthcare group was a disaster in the 90’s. Were declines in minority and youth voting due to cable news and talk radio which are largely listened to by old people? This is a stretch.
      -Bill’s triangualtion strategy without mentioning Ross Perot and defections from the GOP base of “conservatives” to Perot. 43% is historic in how low it was. I believe its the lowest percentage of a winning candidate since 1860. Its well past time we stop pretending Bill was a political juggernaut. In the primaries, he had to face Moonbeam who wanted to abolish the Department of Education and kick teachers. Bill was arguably the lefty candidate.
      -Hillary hired her and Bill’s cronies and people with careers that largely revolve around loyalty. They may be “losers,” but its important to recognize the importance of loyalty to the Clintons. Their success in life is based on being attached to the dominant force in the Democratic Party. Its fairly Bill and Hill don’t take criticism well and don’t listen to it. Even if they were to have “good” advisers, they would ignore it.

      1. paintedjaguar

        No, Bill Clinton was not the “lefty” candidate in the 1992 Dem primaries when he ran against Jerry Brown. One of them ran on single-payer healthcare and campaigned wearing a labor union jacket. One of them wanted to keep employer based health insurance and “reinvent” government (corporate-speak). Guess who was who?

    2. hunkerdown

      > The path forward is now clear: propose re-regulation, make sure the Republicans own the upcoming economic and international disasters, and (most importantly) concentrate on local and state-level elections.

      So, better PR is the answer, when no small portion of the electorate (certainly one larger than their “aspirational class” market demo) is on to the scam you propose and wants the Democrat Party to drink bleach and make room for a leftist party — not liberal, not progressive, but social democratic at the very least.

      1. sierra7

        All a crock! HC lost because of who she is/was. Period. End of discussion. Put it to bed for Keerissakkes!!!!

      1. TheCatSaid

        . . . “with free-market economics understood as the state of nature, plutocracy as the default social condition, and, enthroned as the nation’s necessary vice, an institutionalized corruption surpassing anything we have seen for 80 years.”

        1. Lambert Strether

          Frank is rather like Sanders, isn’t he? Always on message, and always on the same message. Since IMNSHO the message is good, the persistence is good. Frank writes:

          Everything I have written about in this space points to the same conclusion: Democratic leaders must learn to talk about class issues again. But they won’t on their own. So pressure must come from traditional liberal constituencies and the grass roots, like the much-vilified bloggers.

          That was 2006. Eleven years on, and here we are. Thanks, Obama! Thanks, Hillary!

  7. shinola


    “They raised a billion dollars and still always felt like they were on a shoestring,”

    says something about, not only Clinton’s campaign but, the the state of politics in the USA.

    1. Ratios

      What percentage of that billion went to the campaign and what percentage is on some off-shore account?
      Clintons are grifters after-all

    2. Ernesto Lyon

      She had a campaign staff of 800. High burn rate. Trump’s headcount was 120-130.

  8. TK421

    Of course she didn’t try to persuade voters to support her. She won the nomination by disenfranchising people who didn’t support her, so why would she believe in changing minds?

  9. John

    Not to mention 1000 legislative seats lost to Dims under Obama. Divine Right Royals do not bother with minding the store.

  10. George Phillies

    The book also notes that increases in ACA premiums were rolling out in October, for example in Pennsylvania. That may have hit home more than abstruse arguments about computer files.

    Massachusetts is 8% African-American. Blaming Coakley’s losses, in a state that is 3-1 Democratic in Party registration, on weak African American voter turnout is probably overstated.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Not in low turnout elections. When we get down to the difference between losing and winning campaigns, those margins matter. Its remarkable how often Democratic losses can be chalked up to declines in minority and youth voting.

      I know Democrats look for an excuse whenever their plans of winning “white flight” Republicans in the suburbs never pan out.

      1. Vatch

        Thank you, NTG. Prosperous people and Republicans are far more likely to vote in midterm and off-year elections than other people are. That gives an edge to conservative and Republican candidates in all states, in addition to the gerrymandering advantage they have in about a dozen states. People need to vote in primaries and general elections, and not just every four years when we choose the electors who will select the President!

  11. TheCatSaid

    Blatant corruption, criminality, and impunity–over decades–might have something to do with it.

    Play along, be loyal, or else. . .

    There was too much visible to continue covering it up with PR and media control.

  12. DJG

    For a while, I have been thinking that Hillary Clinton as the master of policy is about as credible as Barack Obama as the constitutional scholar. Counterexamples from reality: Lyndon Johnson was a master of policy. Akhil Reed Amar is a master in analyzing the U.S. constitution.

    Just as Italian politicians have sobriquets, Berlusconi as the Cavaliere (the cavalier cavalier) and Matteo Renzi as the Rottamatore (the disrupter of structures), so the U.S. Democratic Party has been desperate to shellac its candidates with an aura of seriousness and a kind of shorthand version of their seriousness.

    Thus, Nancy Pelosi is Institutional Continuity b/c Impeachment Off the Table. Obama is also the Scandal-Free President unless one looks at those wee problems of torture, extrajudicial drone killings, and the surveillance state.

    In fact, though, Clinton is lousy at policy. I was reminded of this recently in a Facebook exchange. I posted an article (probably from Naked Capitalism) and commented that single payer is the only solution to our health-insurance crisis. One of my friendses, who is active with the liberal wing of the Democrats, commented that incremental change is the only possibility, especially because the labor unions had invested pension funds in pharmaceuticals, which meant that no economic restructuring is possible. This is what passes for deep policy analysis among Democrats. Note how two constituencies that the Dems hang out to dry, unionists and pensioners, now become the policy concern that won’t allow single payer. Endless learned helplessness: And the friendses commenter is a woman.

    So it isn’t that Hillary Clinton has many good policies that can’t be conveyed to an angry public. It’s that she has many half-baked yet predictable impulses that the public rejects. Her policies are misguided (especially her foreign policy) or nonexistent (do either of the Clintons have any serious ideas about labor, work and production?). So she is like the famous princess who was reminded that the workers and peasants are angry about not having anything to eat and responds that brioche is so cheap because the price of wheat is subsidized and healthy because the medical school sent her a note to tell her so.

    1. perpetualWAR

      Why do people who point out Obama’s scandals always forget the biggest one?

      14. Million. Unlawful. Foreclosures.
      Zero. Prosecutions.

      And. Upending. The. Rule. Of. Law. To. Allow. Banks. Win

    2. hidflect

      I would think much of Madame Clinton’s policies were hamstrung by her multiple obligations to her owners. She sold all her positions for cash like a butcher, ending up only with an assortment of cuts lumped together, take it or leave it.

    3. Jeff W

      In fact, though, Clinton is lousy at policy.


      We can rightly criticize Clinton for being a lousy politician—which seems to sort of be the take of Shattered—but the public is in no mood for lousy policy, no matter how well it is sold, either.

  13. mrtmbrnmn

    the best explanation of Hillary’s election fate I have read:

    “Truth: World Class sore loser Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Money Party’s Queen of You Owe Me, didn’t lose the election because of the Russians or the Martians. She lost the old-fashioned way: She EARNED it!

    For all the million$ in moolah mooched and the huge home team of “experienced” enablers, alibiers, fixers, surrogates, apparatchiks, coat carriers, political pimps and backstabbers on the payroll, the ginormous “Stronger Together” / “I’m With Her” Clinton campaign juggernaut succeeded only in meeting the definition of a camel: a horse put together by a committee.”

    here’s the link:

  14. b1daly

    I don’t feel these pile ons of Hillary are offering much of anything, in terms of understanding what effective political leadership in the US would look like.

    I’ve always found the concept that a politician should have “princles,” ideally simple ones, to be problematic. (Thus, I’m annoyed by accusations of a politician being a “flip-flopper.” Or denying the sincerity of a stated policy position, because they supported a policy 20 years ago, that apparently conflicts with current position.)

    The notion that such a person will be an effective leader of the most complex, wealthy, powerful nation-state in the history of the world, is not well supported.

    Hillary’s biggest problem as a politician is that she simply does not have the skill to sell the bullshit messaging required to win people over. Essentially, a politician seeking election needs to span the interests of whatever coalitions of voters might be sufficient to win.

    I don’t think Hillary can lie with the gusto required to win over a given interest group. So her speech comes across as being the worst kind of “political speech,” with confusing and complicated grammar.

    My (lay) opinion about the roots of this issue is that our human psychology has a strong bias for being persuaded by simple narratives. This conflicts with the fact that many problems in the world are complicated, and will not simply yield to strong declarations of simpleminded “faux-solutions.” Pointing this out seems to be a perennial losing strategy.

    Trump has run into this problem like a buzz saw. Maybe he will pull it together, but the scale of his ongoing disaster of an administration seems highly proportional to the nonsensical policies he campaigned on.

    1. hunkerdown

      b1daly, I infer that your opinions on the purpose of government are at odds with those of many of us in the commentariat. So, if you could help clarify your position: Why should a Presidential candidate lie instead of delivering what the people demand? What use is a President that does not serve the people’s material needs, and in particular, to whom?

    2. beth

      I don’t think Hillary can lie with the gusto required to win over a given interest group.

      I guess this ruled out Bernie?

    3. Jeff W

      This conflicts with the fact that many problems in the world are complicated, and will not simply yield to strong declarations of simpleminded “faux-solutions.”

      I think I agree with Ian Welsh that many of the US’s problems, if not the world’s, are not complicated—they’re hard and they’re hard because many people benefit from the way things are done now.

  15. Lambert Strether

    > [ALLEN] essentially slicing and dicing the electorate, trying to figure out what the most efficient way is to reach voters, trying to figure out which voters are with them, how they can find all the voters who agree with them and mobilize them.

    Dovetails neatly with identity politics, eh?

  16. Deloss Brown

    Thank you for this post, Yves. As a deeply addicted political junkie, I find the accounts of what my party did wrong fascinating–even if the result is turning out to be even worse than everyone foresaw.

  17. Ep3

    Yves, from on the ground here in Michigan. It seemed to most people that hillarys message was “obama continued”. That she was going to be a continuance of obamas policies and “change”. Well most whites people hated obama and his change. Either because he was black, or Obamacare, or whatever, they didn’t want more of that. Not to mention, think of all the people, myself included that thought Obama was gonna bring change. But he didn’t. He lied and stabbed us in the back. So what were once loyal democrats, we see the Democratic Party still does not get what’s wrong and what we want. And then, for the other white folks (I call them white trash – they are working poor, but vote against their own interests 99% of the time). They already disliked a black man as president. And then they saw anything he did as “reparations” for his fellow minority (even tho that is far from true). So Hillary again messages more of the same. And then their hatred of gays, and politicians, see this woman (who should be at home cooking & cleaning instead of working) running for president. Then of course she has a tremendous history, going back to Hillary healthcare and then “stand by your man” when he obviously cheats on you. She is viewed as the typical politician that robs you while telling you great things.
    I will finish by questioning the logic and purpose in her visit to Grand Rapids. It is the only city in the state showing growth. The remaining cities are in mass decay, yet major investment is happening there. Yet the city is a republican stronghold. Home of Betsy Devos and Mr Prince (the Iraqi mercenary). The city is seen “doing the right things”. Only because republican governors and republican controlled legislatures have shifted state investment to the area. Only to demonstrate that “Detroit, Lansing, Flint, those are homes of blue collar, union, and minorities, and are showing the results of those policies: collapse. While Grand Rapids is built on free market thinking and hard work (Devos, ahem, Amway, ahem, pyramid schemes. Not to mention heavy right wing Christian beliefs). By going there, I see her only purpose was to raise further money from the only people in the state with money and believing she could convince some of the residents to switch from trump to her.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Adding to your point about Grand Rapids, I did a study for a regional brokerage firm many years ago and was told there was a lot of wealth in Grand Rapids, way more than you’d assume. I suspect this is still true.

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