Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series on the shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. It features a conversation on Liberty Nation Radio with Amie Parnes, co-author of the definitive book on the Clinton campaign, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.
In just one skinny month, Hillary Clinton would break the biggest, highest glass ceiling of them all. She would become the first female leader of the free world. She would vanquish the rising reactionaries on the right. She would be hailed even by progressives who never trusted her as the one who would close the deal on Barack Obama’s fundamental transformation of America from a constitutional republic to a European-style social democracy.
Here she sat, thirty days out from fulfilling her lifelong ambition, and now the beneficiary of the vilest revelation from Donald Trump’s past at the most opportune time. Indeed, when the infamous Access Hollywood video was released – and was so disturbing that even Trumpists had to avert their eyes – that would surely be the end of the race.
And yet, come November 8, 2016, Hillary Clinton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Theories on why she suffered a devastating, career-defining loss have abounded. But few people are in a better position to make a sound judgment on the reasons than the authors of the newly-released and definitive account of the Clinton campaign, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.
We spoke with co-author Amie Parnes on Liberty Nation Radio, and in the first part of this series, she discussed the scandals and miscalculations that wrought severe damage to Hillary’s campaign – most notably the never-ending email scandal – but also her lack of a simple, clear message, unlike Donald Trump. Today, she discusses those last 30 days of the presidential race, and the roles Campaign Manager Robby Mook and Bill Clinton played, or did not play, in the campaign.
LN: Now, the moment when most everyone figured this election was over, was the release of the Access Hollywood video one month before election day, that showed Donald Trump in the worst possible light. Hillary’s lead in the polls soared, she appeared more energized than ever on the campaign trail, and then it all crashed and burned. What happened in that last month, that turned what seemed like certain victory into defeat? Or did this just prove that nothing Trump could do or say was going to prevent him from winning?
Ms. Parnes: That’s funny. They had a saying inside the campaign, “We can’t have nice things.” So, just as she’s winning the debates, and I think she was a pretty clear winner in at least two of the three debates, she had problems going forward – John Podesta’s emails happened, the… written investigation into her emails, less than two weeks out from the election. All of these things at the end weren’t good for her. The timing was, perhaps, the worst timing in the history of elections, in terms of October surprises. So I think all of those kind of weighed down on her campaign at the end.
LN: It seemed that no one listened to the one person in the Hillary campaign who had won a presidential election. Actually two of them. And that would be Bill Clinton. He was the one who kept saying the campaign was ignoring those blue-collar voters in Michigan, and Wisconsin, and vast stretches of Pennsylvania…the ones who wound up putting Donald Trump over the top. Was Hillary’s young campaign manager, Robby Mook, threatened by the president, the presence of the former president, or did Mr. Mook actually believe Bill Clinton was more of a liability than an asset?
Ms. Parnes: I think they were just heavily reliant on data analytics, and Hillary Clinton herself, she wanted evidence-based material. She felt like that was essential, that they needed evidence of this kind of thing. And the data provided them that. I think Robby, who was also very data-driven, fought back against President Clinton, because he felt like they knew what they were doing with this data that kind of led them in the right direction, when in fact Bill Clinton was sounding the alarms repeatedly that he was getting a different feel on the ground. But I think, ultimately, when you look back, you realize that the former president, who has a real feel for this kind of thing – he’s pretty much your old-school politician, and loves glad-handing and schmoozing and talking with people – I think he actually…had a good feel for what was happening. I think he tried to warn the campaign. I think that was a problem for them as well.
Historians will be studying the 2016 election for years, even decades to come. And whether one attributes Hillary’s shattering defeat to her personality, the email scandal, the Clinton Foundation revelations, the late intervention of FBI Director James Comey, or whatever role the Russians might have played, nothing will ever change the fact that this was far more than a routine defeat.
This was an epic loss. It was a loss that short-circuited a movement that would have all but guaranteed an entirely progressive future for the United States. Indeed, this was an outcome which changed the course of American history, possibly forever.