I’ll be honest, I supported Hillary Clinton throughout her presidential run. I viewed her candidacy as essential for the United States, and though Senator Bernie Sanders interested me, she seemed most likely to defeat Donald Trump. I looked past her shaky stances on some issues. I looked past the superdelegates that would lead to her election victory. I looked past her overly-scripted public appearances. I looked past murmurs of Democratic elites pushing her candidacy. I supported her. So like many other Americans, watching her lose a critical election was devastating. I woke up the next day in a state of dread, about what Trump’s victory would mean for United States over the next four years.
Despite the unpleasant result, my life continued. I accepted the result of the election as a fair, legal process where election protocol was followed, even though I despised the outcome. I respected Clinton’s attempt to reconcile with President-elect Trump. Her concession speech sounded genuine and optimistic, and good first steps towards healing the country from a divisive ordeal. After election night, Clinton vanished from the public eye for a well-deserved break after a grueling campaign trail. It seemed like the public might be able to move on. Then came the attacks. One man couldn’t let go of the election, and that was the President-elect of the United States. During his post-victory rallies, he spoke of Crooked Hillary’s shortcomings and ripped into her failed presidential run. His supporters screamed chants of “Lock her up!” and he chastised his own Department of Justice for not investigating “her criminal enterprise.” And Clinton stayed silent. Aside from Bigfoot-like sitings in the woods, she spent time with her family and attempted to recover from the election shock.
In the past year, she made selective appearances at various conferences and speeches. She urged her supporters to stay persistent and vigilant, and to “resist actions that go against our values as Americans.” And finally, she rocked a new hairstyle. The world goes on. In general, her activeness sent a strong message to Americans in need of support after the November election.
However, this past Tuesday, Clinton released a new book titled “What Happened.” The basis of the book is simple, a rehash of what wrong in the election, and who was to blame. This decision was a mistake.
In the weeks leading up to the book’s release, Clinton made occasional comments placing blame on various individuals and instances she felt damaged her presidential run. She blamed then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement, Sanders, Russian interference, and a slanderous campaign run by her opponent.
On some of these points, Clinton speaks the truth. Back in January, a CIA, FBI, and NSA report concluded with high confidence that Russia, led directly by Vladimir Putin, preferred Trump over Clinton and influenced the election in his direction. Respected polling service FiveThirtyEight, which gave Trump a 29 percent chance of winning the election, stated the letter likely swung the polls 3-4 percent in Trump’s direction. In an election where battleground states were decided by 1-2 percent, Clinton understood that the vote shifted after the letter’s release.
Since last November, Clinton hinted at the impact the Democratic primary had on her presidential run. In her book, she doesn’t mince words when discussing Bernie. She claims his campaign caused her “lasting damage” and “paved the way” for the Crooked Hillary mindset. While tough primary battles don’t generally help a candidate, Clinton’s audacity to attack a candidate she defeated in controversial circumstances is questionable. In July, WikiLeaks released emails of clear collusion between the Democratic National Committee and Clinton. One such email quoted then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz deriding Bernie’s chances, and saying “He isn’t going to be president.” For her to complain about Bernie’s negative impact on her presidential run is hypocritical, given she played a rigged role ending his.
In a further airing of grievances, the former Secretary of State lashed out at former Vice President Joe Biden. She complained about his statements on the middle class in regards to her election, that the “party did not talk about what it always stood for.” Biden recognized the Democrats’ failure to connect with the middle of the country and held Hillary responsible as the rising leader of the party. Her counterargument, that Biden campaigned for her anyway, ignores data from Pew Research showing the shift of middle-class America to the right, lending numerical support to his suspicions.
Aside from placing blame on others for the election, the timing of Clinton’s book frustrates a Democratic base ready to forget about 2016. Losing candidates rarely write post-election autopsies, and never so soon after an election cycle. To find the last book describing election failure, you must go all the way back to Richard Nixon’s in 1960. While the left criticizes Trump for his continuing tirades against Clinton and claims that he refuses to let go of the election, Clinton seems to have just as much trouble moving on. The release of the book puts her in the spotlight again, a bad look for the Democratic party. Many loyal Clinton supporters want her to be active in the party’s politics, but her image triggers painful memories of a failed election, and with it, a failed candidate. In a crucial 2018 midterm election, one Democrats hope will serve as a referendum on the current administration, Clinton’s face makes for an easy target in attack ads. Indeed, while Trump’s favorability rating plummeted to 36 percent, Clinton’s sits at 30 percent. As long as the GOP paints Clinton as the leader of the left, Democrats will experience political losses.
Furthermore, Clinton’s looming presence harms the rise of potential leaders for the Democrats. As long as the attention flows her way, the Democratic base loses sight of the broader picture, including the 2018 and 2020 elections. In a party looking to rebuild leadership, the public eye should be shifted to rising stars such as Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand. Both show impressive anti-Trump determination and strong liberal track records. If the left put its weight behind finding a new leadership equipped to handle its shortcomings, the result would be a stronger party.
I’m not saying Clinton needs to vanish from the political landscape. But her role as a leader of a political movement ended. Clinton needs to take advantage of her high profile and remaining influence to help Democrats move on. She could have used her new book to outline a way forward for Democrats. She could have used her new book to discuss her campaign’s failure to reach Rust Belt Americans or uneducated voters. Instead, she dwelled on the past. Well-known Democrat Al Franken put it well, saying “I love Hillary. I think she has a right to analyze what happened. But we do have to move on.” And that’s all I’m asking. For the good of the party, it’s time for Clinton to minimize her role in American politics.
Jack Leger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.