The results of the 2016 US election sent shock waves around the planet, as billionaire developer Donald Trump won the presidency in a surprise upset victory over lifelong political powerhouse Hillary Clinton. Millions asked what happened to cause Clinton’s defeat, after victory seemed all but assured.
On Sept. 12, Clinton herself attempted to provide answers and some sense of closure to her supporters by releasing a campaign post-mortem titled “What Happened,” in which she self-analyzed the myriad factors that played a role in her loss. The tome was an instant bestseller and received mostly positive reviews, though there was a surprising amount of criticism from even her fellow Democrats over some of the conclusions she made and alleged “cheap shots” against President Trump.
Clinton will bring her book tour to Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena for a sold-out 2 p.m. Friday appearance at which she will sign “What Happened.”
Looking toward that event, several local politically minded Pasadenans shared their opinions of the book and the former candidate.
“The book seemed to be a good catharsis for her and a big moneymaker, I assume,” says Peter Dreier, an author, political activist and political science professor at Occidental College who is also an occasional contributor to the Pasadena Weekly. “She had to get this out of her system and she did, the book is somewhat self-reflexive in admitting some mistakes and expressing outrage in the way that she wants toward the kind of random event outside her control.
“Hillary Clinton has been on the public stage for so long and has written several books about her life, and it’s hard to believe when your public career is over,” adds Dreier. “She admits she won’t run for office again but still wants to be useful to the party and the country. This is her way of reminding people that she’s out there, but I do wish that she’d donated the proceeds to a group like Emily’s List to encourage female candidates. That would have been a nice symbolic gesture instead of keeping it.”
Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy was a key player in Clinton’s local campaign effort. He regards “What Happened” as a way for Clinton to “satisfy herself and those who supported her that there were factors that were out of her control that precipitated the result.
“But for the city of Pasadena, what’s important is that we are on the national and international radar,” adds Kennedy. “It’s an honor to have someone who’s run for the highest office in our nation come to Pasadena for almost any purpose, and certainly I’ve hosted her and her husband previously, and they are public servants and are under extraordinary scrutiny that very few in the world are under. We get to overanalyze every move that she makes and her husband makes or has made.”
One local figure who always seems to enjoy taking a contrarian view of Clinton is Michael Alexander, president of the conservative activist groups TEAPAC and the California Tax Limitation Committee. He expressed delight at the opportunity to render a critical evaluation of her book and her post-campaign life.
“It’s like putting me in a smorgasbord of the greatest delicacies in the world: do I go to Chinese first, or Italian, or do I grab a hot link? I don’t know where to start,” jokes Alexander. “She’s one of these people that won’t go away. That shows the vacuum and the leadership crisis on the left, and more broadly, in government itself.
“It must never be forgotten that many Republicans, more commonly known as ‘the establishment,’ actually preferred Hillary Clinton’s candidacy to that of Donald Trump,” adds Alexander. “It’s no secret that they still do. Hillary Clinton’s failure tour is a primer on the political and moral bankruptcy, not only of the left but of the Republican establishment as well. It would be a mistake to see Hillary’s book or book tour too narrowly. It’s representative of a much broader political crisis in America. The wheels have come off the whole damn thing.”
Meanwhile, another prominent local Republican took a more measured tone in his criticism of Clinton.
“It’s time for Hillary Clinton to move on and to use her influence to help better the lives of those in need,” says Robin Salzer, a former City Council candidate and local restaurateur.
Aside from merely evaluating the book and its author, a pair of longtime politicos speculated on Clinton’s overall future.
“I assume she is going to stick around,” says local political consultant Fred Register “However, running for office is not realistic. It is not a wise thing for her to be involved in Democratic Party debates. She is too polarizing. I think she will find something that is important to her.
“Like many people, she wrote this under the pain and bewilderment of loss,’ adds Register. “I think five years from now she may wish she had taken some time to think it through more. I’m not sure it would ever not sound defensive. She has nothing to be ashamed of though. She is a truly historic figure. She has come closer to being president than any other woman, and she won the popular vote.”
“I think she and her husband should help immigrants that they hurt when he was in office,” said local immigration activist Pablo Alvarado. “Clinton initiated laws that negatively impacted immigrants. Instead of her writing books, what she needs to do is go out there and raise a lot of money and undo the harm they did to people of color. I remember when she called black youth super-predators. She should work to undo that harm instead of book signings.”
Clinton made that comment during a speech in 1996 in support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which her husband, Bill Clinton, had signed into law.
The law banned some assault rifles, increased funding for community policing and expanded the death penalty. The law was later criticized for increasing the prison population of African Americans.
“Just as in a previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob,” Clinton said. “We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators — no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
Amid all the political sturm and drang, Hillary Clinton clearly has a sizable fan base of regular voters. One of them is Ann Erdman, former public information officer for the city of Pasadena who currently works as a publicist for numerous businesses and causes.
“I have read the book, and I thought it was a very honest retelling from her own perspective,” says Erdman. “I think had someone else written the book, had it not been autobiographical, it may have been very different. As I read it, I thought totally from her perspective about how she was put under the microscope like no other candidate in my lifetime.
“I’m frankly proud of her for writing the book,” adds Erdman. “It certainly had its share of controversy and critics who said it was all over the map but here’s the thing: what happened was all over the map. I’m very proud of her having the honesty and courage to pull back that rug and show exactly what it was she went through.”