Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Book that Lost the Election

Evidently, Hillary Clinton is still processing.

Which is why she's got a new book coming out.  What Happened, it's called.

There are a hundred reasons that Hillary Clinton isn't president.  A thousand, even.  With a margin that close, every mistake and dirty trick counted.  Every last one of them.

Sure, Comey had an impact, as did the criminal theft of documents from the DNC.  That was pretty much exactly Watergate, only if the KGB had been subcontracting for Haldeman.   Lord have mercy, I still don't get why the press went along with that.

There was more than a smattering of sexism in there, because, duh.  And some truly psychopathic slander from the right wing, stuff that honestly should have been dealt with in court.  If you accuse me in a publication, baselessly but relentlessly, of being a serial murderer?  Honey, that's libel by definition.  That Laura Ingraham wasn't slapped with a great fat lawsuit is, again, beyond me.

But everything else mattered, too.

The choice, after an energizing, competently run, unifying convention, to have her disappear for weeks into fundraisers with billionaires instead of capitalizing on that energy to build momentum with citizens?  That lost the election.

The choice to use Mr. Congeniality Tim Kaine as an attack dog?  Sure, that's the political machine "script" for a VP.   But ultimately, it was as witless as assigning Mr. Noodle from Sesame Street to troll someone on Twitter.  That sub-sentient, wasteful, by-the-book choice lost the election.

The closed-fisted failure to give out some rackafrackin' yard signs, which made even Democratic strongholds seem....when you drove through them every single Trumpland?  Spend your damn millions on something other than consultants, because that dispiriting choice lost the election.

The choice to continue to bombard us with ads, and hit us up for cash to fund a bloated, top-heavy, overpaid campaign even on the night of the election?

All those little things put Trump into office.   It was a death by a thousand cuts.

That being true, it is also true about the book put out during the campaign.  It was the campaign book that lost the election.

I'm a believer in the power of literature, and so I'll say it clearly:  Stronger Together, the book?  It lost the election.

Back in 2008, Barack Obama had two books in play.  They were both utterly readable, engaging, and actually written by him.  They humanized him, brought him home, and brought the reader inside both his mind and his aspirations for the nation.

Dreams of My Father?  Man.  I'm a writer, and wow.  That book was moving, brilliant, thoughtful, and deeply human.  The Audacity of Hope?  It was a big vision book, a book that showed the kind of farsightedness and intelligence that we look for in our leaders.  Readers...and we are still out here...connected with them.

Stronger Together was none of those things.  It was a terrible, drab, mechanical book.  It's talking points, page after page of talking points.  It tells no story.  It reads like the minutes of some particularly endless meeting, one where you go over the same points over and over again and it never seems to end.  It reads like a textbook, and not an interesting one.   As such, it was a dismal waste of paper, the kind of read that sucks the joy and hope out of a room.

It was a missed opportunity, and every one of those counted.

Here, a candidate who be humanized.  She didn't need us to know she was the Smartest Girl in the Class (tm).  Dammit, woman, we already know how sharp and competent you are.  She needed to be made sympathetic.  That was her weakness, her vulnerability, her kryptonite.  The right story would have changed that.

So instead, the powers that be within her campaign chose to go with...this?  Heck, I agree with most of it, and it's still a book so boring it could trank a charging allosaur.


If they'd given us a book with meat and emotional purchase?  Things might have been different.  Like, say, setting the best biographer willing to take on the project to the task of telling the story of Hillary and Bill and those last days of the Clinton White House.

Not the sepia "oh I loved that girl so much" whitewash we got when Bill talked at the convention.  But the real story of their tears and rage and anger, a relationship between two brilliant, gifted, flawed human beings on the edge of interpersonal ruin.  Her frustration of Gore's loss, as the work of a decade came undone.  Her choice to continue in politics.

And the relationship.  That marriage.  Not fluff and treacle, but life and mess and the deep work of rebuilding.  I mean, really: how the hell are they still together?  That would have been a question worth answering.  I'd honestly read that.  Why does there still seem to be genuine affection between the two of them?  How did they find their path to reconciliation, after one of the most public humiliations of the 20th century?  How did they heal?

Hell, you could have left the book with the same title, and used the rebuilding of their relationship as a radiantly powerful living metaphor for reconciling a divided, distrustful nation.

That would have been actually interesting.  To human beings.  To human beings who vote.

People would have read it, and talked about it.  There'd have been interviews.  Tears.  Choked up voices, as old pains were remembered.   Real human drama.

She'd have had the buzz, and the attention, and it would have made all the Fox-froth and Brightfart-blather about Benghazi and emails seem...well...boring.   It would have made Trump seem boring, because, Jesus Christ on a Bike, when you get past the adolescent bluster and the endless fountain of chaos-muppet BS, he's really a very dull man.  Never before in human history has such a tedious, shallow, ketchup-on-a-fifty-dollar-steak soul taken up so much bandwidth.

Now, of course, folks have the right to their privacy.  To being guarded.  I get that.  I do.  As an easily wounded introvert, I know at a gut level that letting the world in is the hardest thing.

But how much does that matter, in the face of the result?  I mean, really.  What were the stakes?  Just the integrity of the republic, and the future of the planet.

What happened?

A dismal, unimaginative book happened.

And in an election that close?  That made the difference.