Hillary Clinton’s What Happened: A conspiracy theory of the 2016 election


Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, released September 13, is the former presidential candidate’s first-person account of the 2016 election

With all the hallmarks of a volume carefully constructed by a team of ghostwriters, Clinton’s book is not so much a political memoir as the Democratic Party’s semi-official narrative of its electoral defeat. Those sections of the book regarding Clinton’s personal life and thoughts are largely fictional, penned with a view to their impact on various constituencies.

Clinton’s theory of the election, drawn from articles in the New York Times and Washington Post, the proclamations of state intelligence agencies, and the statements of high-level Democratic Party functionaries, amounts to a grand conspiracy theory in which the movement of great masses of people is reduced to the actions of individual conspirators out to do in Clinton because she is a powerful woman who loves freedom and democracy.

Clinton’s What Happened is not at all about what actually happened. She and her team of writers cannot provide a genuine political account of why she lost the election.

In Clinton’s view, the election outcome was not the result of social, political and economic developments within society. Rather, it was determined by two conspiracies. The first—FBI Director James Comey’s intervention into the election campaign—has a degree of credibility. The second—Vladimir Putin’s alleged effort to subvert the election—is a fabrication. But neither of these components of Clinton’s theory can explain why 63 million people voted for her opponent.

Clinton’s assessment of her own campaign can be summed up as follows:

The 2016 Democratic presidential campaign had a correct political orientation, advanced correct policies, pursued a correct strategy and was well organized and led.

Hillary Clinton, as an individual and a candidate, made some relatively minor mistakes, including giving paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and using poorly chosen language to describe the rural poor and the working class. But these mistakes could not, by themselves, have led any substantial number of people to vote against her.

Clinton was, in the words of Barack Obama, the “most qualified” candidate. She had, according to the book’s narrative, every right to assume, as she did right up to a few hours before her concession speech, that she would be inaugurated as president on January 20, 2017.

The fact that the “least qualified” candidate won the Electoral College and therefore the presidency was a result of the intervention of outside forces: namely, the unholy alliance of Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange. The election upset was the outcome of the “audacious information warfare waged from the Kremlin,” to which the substance of the book is devoted.

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