The underlying facts here are well known but some restatement will serve the cause of clarity. Hilary Rodham Clinton, a former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, became the Democratic Party’s nominee for the office of President of the United States in 2016.
To get that nomination she had to defeat Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vt) who ran to her left on a range of issues, from health care policy (Sanders believes in a single-payer system, Clinton supports Obamacare, and with it a continued important role for a private-sector for-profit health insurance sector); to the minimum wage (Sanders advocates for a $15 federally mandated minimum, Clinton does not); to the question whether the United States ought to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria (Clinton supported this as an effort to “stop the carnage” in that country, Sanders opposed it, warning it would “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war.”)
Clinton did defeat Sanders. According to the AP’s delegate count, she had the nomination locked up as of June 5, 2016.
Clinton proceeded to campaign against the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, a campaign that included three head-to-head televised debates. On election day she rcceived more popular votes than Trump, but lost key battleground states critical for the electoral college arithmetic, and so lost the election. This result was a surprise to nearly everyone, including Secretary Clinton, whose reaction seems to be neatly summarized in the two word title of her book, What Happened.
Right Wing View
Given the subject matter, and the author, who has been a deeply controversial figure in American politica life for forty years, it is no surprise that reaction to the book has broken down predictably on political lines. Hillary Clinton is firmly associated wih the center-left, and in one review of this book The Economist praises her for not going further left than that, for warning the Democratic Party “not to resort to the comfort blanket of left-wing policy.”
Neoconservative John Podhoretz, editor for Commentary magazine and a columnist for the New York Post, calls the Clinton book “simultaneously interesting and dreadful.” It is “interesting” to him that she has attempted a “candid assessment of a political failure from the perspective of the person who failed,” but it is dreadful in that it falls far short of what it could have accomplished in that vein.
Most right-of center assessments are far less kind than those two. Kimberly Ross, in RedState.com, says that the book plays to the cult-like obsessiveness of Hillary’s admirers. Their obsessiveness, Ross says, was “over-the-top” during the campagn and is “still alive and well.”
Meanwhile, some conservatives on social media have objected, in effect, to the very existence of such a book. Corinne Clark, for example, tweets, “People keep calling Hillary Clinton presidential and it’s like boo boo if that was true we wouldn’t be here.”
And another twitter denizen said that what happened was simple, “Trump wiped the floor with 16 career GOP Rino’s then totally exposed #CrookedHillary!”
Left Wing View
The former candidate’s book takes some shots at targets on her left, and in its response to the book the left has returned fire. Clinton writes, for example, that it was “beyond frustrating that Bernie [Sanders] acted as if he had a monopoly on political purity.”
One of the many tweets responding to that aspect of this book coms from Denise #DraftBernie, who writes that Sanders represented “the values and morals of everyday americans, not the billioinaires. #HillaryClinton hates on that.”
But in her sweet spot, in the center/left, Secretary Clinton remains a heroine, the woman who severely cracked even if she could not in the end break, that toughest glass ceiling. Areva Martin, a disability and civil rights attorney, after watching a television interview of Ms Clinton keyed to the book release, tweeted, “she is brilliant! Her knowledge base is mindblowing!”
Jeet Heer, writing in The New Republic, says, “Sooner or later, America will have a female president. And she will be properly grateful to Clinton for helping clear the path. That’s a significant legacy that no loss, however devastating, can ever tarnish.”
Sarah Jones, also writing in The New Republic, is less enthusiastic about Clinton than that. Indeed, she isn’t enthusiastic at all.
But there is good deal that Jones believes Clinton is simply correct about: “Sexism did factor into her negative public image and into her loss….well-funded right-wing actors have spent years weakening American democracy … a racist backlash to Barack Obama’s presidency dogged her campaign … and James Comey’s irresponsible actions helped slow her momentum at a crucial time.”