Defending Hillary Clinton and ‘What Happened’

Hillary Clinton is allowed a voice even after her loss, and it’s time we listened to it closely.

When former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conceded the Presidency to Donald Trump last November, many started pondering of her future role. After going into hiding, taking many walks in the woods, being spotted at various venues from theatres to supermarkets and then attending her former rival’s inauguration in January, the former Democratic Presidential Candidate decided it was time to “come out of the woods”, in reference to her many sightings and woodland walks.

She has done that in the form of interviews, talks, pictures and tweets. Her ‘Women in the World’ interview where she was introduced by comedian Samantha Bee saw her finally open up about her election loss to Donald Trump. Her tweets criticising Donald Trump’s policies on Transgender people being banned from serving in the armed forced and on ending DACA protection for undocumented immigrant children have followed condemnation from other sources. Now, she prepares to see her latest memoir, entitled ‘What Happened’, published for the whole world to see.

Already we’re seeing the backlash from the words she has written. Her excerpts on Bernie Sanders’ influence in the Democratic Primary have caused outrage and condemnation from Sanders himself, saying Secretary Clinton should “stop talking about 2016 and move forward” (even while his supporters argue otherwise). Others have said she is failing to take responsibility for her own actions, despite openly doing so and the entire book being about the decision she herself made, and how she would now change them if she was to go back. On a base level, that shouldn’t be controversial, yet even her former supporters have told her to “shut the fuck up and go away”.

Most seem to not grasp the “point” of Hillary writing this book. Well, primarily it is Hillary Clinton giving her view on what happened during the election campaign that helped contribute to her loss. We have established since November 8th that there have been multiple factors at play, and yes, some of those factors relate to Clinton and her campaign, and this book looks at them all from the candidate’s perspective. Instead of telling her to “go away”, we should be listening to her on this; she was the one at the centre of every debate and every argument. Another perspective, especially one as crucial and central as her’s, should be welcome.

On an even more fundamental level, ‘What Happened’ is simply this: the first woman ever chosen to run for President as the nominee of a major party writing about her experience doing so. Historically, this book needed to be written. As a piece of feminist literature, it is vital that the thoughts of the woman that broke one of the highest glass ceilings in the United States (though obviously not the highest) is allowed to tell us about her experiences and have it recorded in writing. Think about that, when you’re telling Mrs. Clinton to go away, and how you will be looked upon later in history.

But beyond that, it is the final memoir of an extraordinary woman that has served her country and tried to reach its highest office. She failed, but the story of how she got to this point is one that needs to be heard. But for her fellow Democratic politicians, her opinions on how it felt to run for President as the first woman, the correct decisions and the mistakes she made, and how she would do it better if she were to run again, this is a valuable lesson to learn and be heard. With a tough map next year for the Senate elections and a House that has an in-built Republican advantage thanks to gerrymandering, Democrats need all the help and reflection they can get.

This isn’t a book that aims to re-open the old battle wounds of the 2016 primary and election and it is a historical artifact, and a set of lessons and ideas of what went wrong for Democrats to learn from. Ultimately, though, it is Hillary Rodham Clinton exercising her voice once again, just as Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders still do. She is entitled to a voice as much as any other Democrat in the age of Trump — and that doesn’t mean she’s running again, either. We should listen to her words, and then move on to 2018. But this is not the distraction it is made out to be.