“Shattered” or Contorted? What a New Book Gets Wrong about the Clinton Campaign
In politics, as Winston Churchill once noted, history is written by the victors. Pundits and politicos take that one step further, framing the winning campaigns as geniuses and the losing campaigns as the Keystone Cops. In a new book, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” the overarching narrative paints a picture of a campaign bogged down by infighting which as a result is paralyzed, leading to its own eventual demise.
I’m not writing to debate where the blame lies for the loss. While I’ve certainly got opinions (and a list of my own mistakes I’d love to take back), I’ll leave that debate to the media. And I’m not here to fact check, except to note that contrary to the book, I was not the research director — that was a talented man named Tony Carrk who led a terrific team.
I wanted to speak out because after spending most of the campaign watching some people question the enthusiasm and our supporters, it’s hard to read a depiction of the campaign that paints a dedicated, cohesive team as mercenaries with questionable motives who lacked a loyalty to a candidate described as “imperial” and removed from the campaign.
That’s just not the campaign, the staff or the candidate I was in the trenches with for 18 months.
In April 2015, I came to Brooklyn as a favor to a friend, pitching in for the launch due to the early arrival of Brian Fallon’s twins. I wasn’t a lifelong Hillary loyalist. I was a huge fan, but I didn’t know many of those on the team prior to walking into the office that first day. As the new person joining a team that had already been working together, I assumed I would be pushed aside or ignored and was ready to just be an extra pair of hands to grab lunch and coffee as needed. Instead, on the first day in a brand new office, I was welcomed by everyone I met, from the State Department team to those from the 2008 campaign, from the campaign manager on down. I was immediately drawn to their passion, good humor, and smarts. Ultimately, one of the reasons I decided to join the campaign full-time was that it was clear from the beginning that this would be a campaign not driven by factions or who had been around the longest, but by only one shared goal — a belief that we were all lucky to be a small part of electing Hillary Clinton president.
Campaigns are many things: startups that grow quickly in size and budget, high-pressure crisis organizations that involve far too many hours and far too much stress, even an odd sort of family. Campaigns are never perfect, and we certainly weren’t. No, we didn’t always get along. I’d challenge anyone to find hundreds of people crammed into two floors of office space upwards of 18 hours a day who never have a cross word. And sure, I disagreed with some decisions made by the senior leadership, just like I know that people disagreed with some of my opinions. I know that, because we told each other and debated these decisions internally, not in the press or through outside voices.
Yes, as the book notes, the campaign could feel like a slog. With every campaign, the pace and the volume of work seems to increase. As the frontrunner, the expectations were impossibly high much of the time. Fairly or not, the press was more negative than positive, which creates antsy volunteers and donors. There were Benghazi hearings and FBI investigations. Many people had left spouses and partners in other cities. Behind the scenes, we had at least two staffers fighting cancer during the campaign in my department alone, and more family tragedies than I’ve seen in one campaign. For the last several months, thanks to the Russians, we had our daily machinations and offhand private grousing aired publicly as tens of thousands of hacked emails were splashed all over the front page. But we stuck together. We didn’t waste time settling scores or fighting in the press. When we had bad nights, we tried to find a way forward, rather than publicly placing blame or stabbing each other in the back. And when we had good nights, we celebrated together, rather than worrying about who got the credit. Contrary to the “mercenary” description in the book, we knew that there was only one goal, and one night, that mattered.
Why were we there? Because of Hillary. Because we had a candidate we KNEW would be a great president. A candidate who took far more time than scheduled to shake every staffer’s hand when she came through headquarters during a very busy time — and kept up with some of the struggles our staff went through, emailing them to check in, asking how she could help. A candidate who sought the advice of junior staff, who pulled field organizers aside and asked them what they thought, what they were hearing, and how we could do better.
We made mistakes. We wish the outcome had been different — and I suspect we all wish we’d been wrong about the damage that Trump could do. But I feel so lucky to have worked for the right candidate — a woman who still inspires us — with an amazing group of talented true believers. I hope that no book, no impugned motives, no stories about staff bickering takes that away from any of those amazing coworkers. In the end, I’m still very proud to be with her. And with them.