‘What Happened’? A better question might be: Why write it?

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

One of the enduring critiques of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign was her failure to explain her vision in a cogent, compelling way — to give a reason “why,” beyond a justified feeling that she wanted the job, and could do it well.

This was partly cliché, another piece of the campaign narrative, but it was also true. Even Clinton acknowledges it in her new campaign memoir, “What Happened.” And the same complaint could be made of the book itself: What was the purpose of writing it, beyond the obvious answer of “because people will buy it”?

If you are looking for juicy insider gossip and a scathing assessment of missteps, this is not your book. If you’re looking for a fresh and clear-eyed manifesto about the Democratic Party’s failings, this is also not your book. These books have been written by others, and more will be.

This book offers something else. After the election, you may have been cornered by a relative or stranger or friend, and forced to listen to a detailed political manifesto, a rant at the universe, happy or sad. “What Happened” is that experience — Hillary cornering you in a coffee shop, replaying the game tape, and explaining why she was right.

Read the rest here.

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Talking points — and the president we need

Originally published in WBUR’s Cognoscenti

Maybe this is what happens when we elect a president who doesn’t sound like a politician.

Remember that one huge element of Donald Trump’s appeal, back in the 2016 campaign, was his language: The fact that he didn’t use the measured, circumspect tones we’ve come to expect from American politics. The familiar dances around controversial issues. The consultant-grade boilerplate language, designed not to offend.

Trump was designed to offend. That’s how he built himself up from a real estate mogul’s son to a tabloid mainstay and, later, a reality TV star. He learned what he learned and applied it to politics. And for many of his fans — well beyond his birther micro-base — his coarse speech throughout the campaign wasn’t a bug; it was a feature.

As Trump batted at the power structure and insulted everyone in his path, he became an irresistible mainstay of cable TV, winning millions of dollars in free advertising. But his rhetoric also separated him from the pack. For some, like the people marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville last weekend, it was a racist dog whistle. For others, it proved he wasn’t one of those inauthentic, practiced politicians, the products of a Washington establishment that much of the electorate had been conditioned to hate.

Read the rest here.