Why I’m Not Interested in Being “Shattered”

Because I read so much news every day to do this job, I don’t have a lot of time or energy to read political books. That means that I need to have a pretty compelling reason do to so. I haven’t read the book that is the talk of the town right now by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes titled “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.” After reading a lot about the book, I’ve decided to give it a pass for several reasons.

First of all, it is clear that the authors got a few facts wrong. Some of those mistakes are minor, like the fact that they mis-stated Christina Reynold’s role in the campaign. But one of the revelations that has been highlighted in almost every review—that the Clinton team didn’t poll for the last three weeks of the campaign in key states like Michigan and Wisconsin—has been declared 100% wrong by Brian Fallon, the campaign’s communication director.

Second, on a related note, Pamela Engel documented that there has been a big push-back against the book from Clinton campaign staffers who say that it doesn’t describe their experience. There could be many reasons for this. But it is undoubtably true that each individual will have their own take on their own experience. So there will be thousands of takes on what did/didn’t happen. It seems clear that Allen and Parnes focused their book on a particular take from some of these people.

Third, Kevin Drum does a good job of challenging the book’s assertion that Clinton ran a particularly horrible campaign. Everyone has their own opinion about how to approach that question (i.e., “she lost to Trump!”). But given his insistence on data, Kevin looks at Alan Abramowitz’s model, which suggests that “Hillary Clinton did way better than any winning candidate of the past three decades, outperforming her baseline by 2.4 percent.”

Fourth, as I’ve listened to the authors talk about the book and read reviews like the one by Matt Taibbi, I am struck by the fact that they put a negative spin on things that actually impressed me about the Clinton campaign. For example, I think the fact that Hillary did a thorough autopsy of her 2008 mistakes was a good thing. I know that, for myself, the first question she needed to answer early on in the primaries was whether or not her campaign would correct what she got wrong last time. That was most notable in who she would bring on her team. Leaders like Robby Mook and Maya Harris were huge improvements over the likes of Mark Penn. For me, that signaled that Clinton had learned something, which is the only step towards growth.

Similarly, when the authors describe how ashamed Clinton was to call President Obama on election night and felt the need to apologize, I found that not only honest…but endearing. That is the kind of thing that an adult who actually cares about this country would do. And I’m sure that Obama felt her pain in that moment.

Fifth, there is no indication that the book was balanced. While they seem to have captured every mistake any member of the campaign articulated, they don’t seem to have looked at what she did right that can be built upon in the future. The truth is that Hillary took some risks. Not only did she hire a younger, more diverse leadership team, her entire staff was more diverse in terms of age, gender, race, and experience than perhaps any presidential campaign has ever been. They also took some innovative approaches to things like outreach for early voting. Of course, the mother of all innovations was the fact that Clinton was the first female presidential nominee of a major party. It would be helpful to learn what did/didn’t work based on those innovations and risks.

To be terribly cynical, I suspect that a balanced look at the Clinton campaign wouldn’t have garnered as much attention or sold as many books. But the approach taken by Allen and Parnes has done what any of us would have predicted…it has fueled the divide that developed during the 2016 primary. Authors like Taibbi, who were highly critical of Clinton, loved the book. Those who supported her have panned it. And the media, which has a very long history of piling on any hint of a negative look at the Clintons, swallowed it whole for the most part.

At this point, I’m not interested in anything that furthers the divide. That doesn’t mean that we should avoid talking about our differences. But it is also important to find common ground. I look to those who recognize that need and challenge us to come together. For example…

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.