Book Reviews

In Review: What Happened

What HappenedWhat Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My Bias

First of all, I, like many people, was shocked when Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. I wouldn’t say that I was in love with her as a candidate, but I liked her. I voted for her over Trump and did not once question that decision. I have a generally favorable opinion of Clinton as a politican. So if you’re looking for a grain of salt to take the rest of this review with, there it is.

What I Expected from This Book

I genuinely wanted to know what went wrong for the Clinton campaign. My expectation was that this book would provide data, and perhaps other insider information, to explain what her campaign expected vs. what actually happened. I’m talking about things like voter turnout, how voters in different areas received her message, and what the polling said throughout. I was looking for a strict analysis of what happened.

What I Got from This Book

What I expected isn’t at all what I got. This book is more like Clinton’s attempt to get over her own loss and to help her voters get over their disappointment in her loss through personal stories. I felt that the title of the book was a bit misleading.

More than anything, Clinton took this book as an opportunity to show people her human side. She was unhappy that people thought she was some kind of robot and she tried hard to convince/prove to people that she is actually a human and that she had nothing but good intentions when she ran for president. I’d say that she tried too hard. So hard that it felt awkward and forced.


There’s a point where she describes an outing with her friends where they take turns explaining how she is a great friend. And after she lists all the great things they say about her, Clinton says, “They knew me well.”

She once describes herself once as “Struggling with the subway card like a typical commuter.”

Wait. So… What Happened?

What happened is actually quite simple. Clinton said it offhandedly pretty early in the book: She isn’t a natural at politicking and she struggled to get her message across to voters. Of course, some things were also out of her control.

Some of Clintin’s struggles were her own doing. She didn’t seem to understand why certain things didn’t work and she shifted blame a lot. On multiple occasions she explained how she was working hard to present cogent arguments, but people only wanted to hear someone yell at a podium. (As she said, “I wish I had known this campaign would be about derisive language like what Trump said.”) And Clinton said that she couldn’t play that yelling game because she was too set on presenting honest, realistic goals. And so, according to her, there really wasn’t anything she could do.

At one point she blamed the entire American electorate for not being receptive to her story as a pioneer of women’s rights. She says the politicians that we elect have interesting stories just like she does, but voters just weren’t receptive to her story.

Some things also weren’t her fault. It’s true, without question, that women face an unfair standard and sexism is pervasive in our society. (Truthfully, I’d be surprised if a woman won the White House presidency anytime soon.) The way Comey and the FBI handled her email investigation was, to say the least, unfortunate for her. And naturally some people have a bias against her just because they don’t like her husband.

Should You Read This Book?

I think that ultimately, this was Clinton’s attempt to do two things: help herself process her failure and show people the human side of her that she failed to show during her campaign. (She spends A LOT of time talking about things like why she chose her pantsuit, how she feels about doing her makeup, etc.)

If you are a fan of Clinton and want to know how she got over the loss, read this. If you just want some closure, this may or may not help you. If you want an analytical look at why and how Clinton lost the election, don’t read this because you absolutely won’t get it from this book.

Key takeaway: Clinton has two brothers. I had no idea.

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