In my opinion, “What Happened” is a book about power hidden in plain sight under the disguise of a defeated, introspective Clinton trying to understand why she lost the election. My initial reaction—which I am sure many share—is her attempt to endlessly shift the blame onto somebody else. Whether it meant accusing Sanders of not quitting earlier, or referring to Trump as a sexist creep deprived of morality, she held no restraints. She would not owe up to the unjust criticism imposed on her for casting the ballot that boosted W. Bush into the war on Iraq, when Joe Biden and John Kerry faced much less attack for the same decision.
Amidst her constant effort to victimize herself and concentrate on Hillary over anybody else, she could not rid the fact that the flip side to her defeat was Trump’s victory. That being said, neither Hillary nor Trump were protagonists of What Happened. They simply embodied two types of leadership at odds with each other, such that the real battle took place between the idea of Hillary—an elitist democratic politician, and the idea of Trump—a populist business mogul who used GOP as springboard to finally enter politics. On opposite ends of the tug war stood the idea of Clinton and the idea of Trump, of which Hillary and Donald were enslaved.
More than instilling trust in Hillary, this book instilled in me principles to espouse should I believe that the solution to politics was faith in expert democrats who would know better what I need to be happy. However, repulsion against such mentality costed Clinton her election. The white working majority no longer backed the idea that someone “smarter” would have its interests covered. Instead, they tilted towards the polar-opposite populist agenda of Trump. Per Clinton, such inclination was most unfortunate. Quoting Orwell’s 1984, she described a scene in which Winston was tortured into admitting that he saw four fingers when he knew there were five.
Equating that image to Soviets erasing political dissidents from historical photos, she concludes that “the goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves”. Had torture been the means by which to misalign people with reality, authoritarianism masked under populism will be the new torture to misalign us with authority. Despite how Hillary consistently blames specific individuals including herself, the underlying preoccupation of this book is no one-man show but a complex web of events that has somehow tilted the mass against conventional leadership—to the surprise of the mass itself.