Journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes recount in their new book, "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign
," that Hillary Clinton’s signal defeat at the hands of Donald Trump validated reporting that they had done for over a year and a half. They had uncovered “foreboding signs” that were at odds with the widely held belief that Clinton was the inevitable winner. Their book offers details and observations by insiders that are devastating.
They interviewed more than a hundred sources on background, who were promised that none of the material they provided would appear before the election.
“Shattered” reveals Clinton’s inability to sufficiently articulate a rationale for her candidacy (other than that she was not Donald Trump). It also uncovers a bureaucratic operation where staffers were reluctant to speak up and that fostered factionalism. Based on flawed data, the Clinton campaign has been compared to the sinking of the purportedly invincible HMS Titanic that ultimately fell victim to an iceberg that revealed deadly design flaws.
A series of avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate was matched by strife among members of the campaign staff. In addition, the campaign ignored advice and warning signs that field operatives in key states such as Michigan gave, along with concerns voiced by the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. In the words of "Shattered," a “winnable race” soon became “another iceberg-seeking campaign ship."
Dysfunctional, spirit-crushing campaign
A dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign embraced a flawed strategy based on flawed data that failed to adapt. Bill Clinton and party elders recommended that more attention be paid to persuade ambivalent voters such as ambivalent voters such as working-class whites and millennials. One campaign staffer is quoted as saying, “Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed.”
There were other factors, as well, that contributed to Clinton’s drubbing by Trump. The authors cited supposed Russian meddling in the election, the decision by FBI Director James Comey to send a letter to Congress concerning Clinton’s emails, and growing discontent with the status quo among many traditionally Democratic voters.
However, authors Parnes and Allen asserted that Clinton’s closest associates and friends believe that Clinton herself “bears the blame for her defeat.” Clinton’s actions, for example: the private email server, lucrative speeches, and entanglements with the Clinton Foundation, served to “hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t recover,” while ensuring that she could not “cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions.”
Parnes and Allen claim in the book that Clinton’s management style had not changed since 2008 and her defeat by Barack Obama: The campaign failed to respond quickly to circumstances and to appeals from Democrats. And campaign spending was immoderate: Clinton’s campaign staff spend twice as much as the Trump campaign.
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, focused on data analytics as opposed to tried-and-true polling, knocking on doors, and engaging undecided voters. “Mook had made the near-fatal mistakes of underestimating Sanders and investing almost nothing early in the back end of the primary calendar,” Parnes and Allen wrote.
The campaign failed to learn from its early mistakes. For instance, her loss in the Michigan primary in March highlighted the problems that would pursue her. While populism was growing throughout the Rust Belt, Clinton could not connect with blue-collar white voters for the general election. In addition, Mook failed to put enough campaign staff on the ground in Michigan. In addition, Mook’s inaccurate, “rosy” data failed to show that Sen. Bernie Sanders was leading.
Taking Michigan and Wisconsin for granted
The Clinton machine failed to make any changes in its race against Trump, according to Parnes and Allen. They report that Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile was worried about the lack of field staff in the swing states. Additionally, she felt that Mook failed “to use pollsters to track voter preferences in the final three weeks of the campaign,” despite pleas from advisers. Also, a scheduled appearance with Barack Obama in Wisconsin was postponed, thus doubling the effect of the fact that Clinton never set foot in the states.
It was the very states that Clinton took for granted (Michigan and Wisconsin) that would hand the victory to Trump. Instead, the campaign had focused on expanding beyond territories controlled by Trump and to swing states such as Arizona. “Shattered” offers a perspective on political ineptitude, coupled with arrogance and self-pity. Like one Clinton aide who was quoted in the book: “We’re not allowed to have nice things.”
Hillary was so mad she couldn’t think straight. She was supposed to be focused on the prep session for that night’s Univision debate in Miami, but a potent mix of exhaustion and exasperation bubbled up inside.
She’d been humiliated in the Michigan primary the night before, a loss that not only robbed her of a prime opportunity to put Bernie Sanders down for good but also exposed several of her weaknesses. How could she have been left so vulnerable? She knew — or at least she thought she did. The blame belonged to her campaign team, she believed, for failing to hone her message, energize important constituencies and take care of business in getting voters to the polls. And now, Jake Sullivan, her de facto chief strategist, was giving her lip about the last answer she’d delivered in the prep session.
“That’s not very good,” Sullivan corrected.
“Really?” Hillary snapped back.
The room fell silent.
“Why don’t you do it?”
The comment was pointed and sarcastic, but she meant it. So for the next 30 minutes, there he was, pretending to be Hillary while she critiqued his performance.