For September, our Virtual Book Club decided to individually read whatever we felt like, which was very freeing. I have a lot going on this fall including celebrating Doug’s and my 30th birthdays; both celebrations happened in September, and I am trying my best to produce consistent, high-quality content at The Voyageer, and I only have so many hours in a day.
Let me admit that I actually didn’t read anything in full this month. I started a couple of books, browsed The Little Book of Hygge, and downloaded my next-to-read Outlander novel from my library’s e-book collection to my beloved kindle paperwhite. Now that September is behind me (more or less) I can get back into the Virtual Book Club and our Creepy October read (revealed at the end).
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Even though I didn’t finish a book in September, I still want to post about one I read this summer. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign came out in April and I had the chance to read it in July. I thought this was timely since HRC’s own book, What Happened, just came out and has been topping best seller lists and causing all kinds of controversy. First let me say that I think the cover art for Shattered is far superior than What Happened...
I feel like my head has been spinning so much in the past two years, almost as if it’s going to be disconnected from my neck and body. The 24-hour news cycle is so exhausting and impossible to keep up with. Every day, a new story breaks, before we’ve all had time to digest the day before and put all the pieces together. This past month we’ve had to worry about hurricanes, earthquakes, civil rights, democratic rights, and nuclear war. It’s too much to keep track of, and reading this book reminded me that it has been this way for a while. Facebook and Twitter offer a never ending stream of things to be concerned about and downright outraged by, and the current clowns in charge keep us on our toes with a new gaffe or scandal to steal our attention on the daily.
Reading this book felt like putting the puzzle pieces together, about one year too late. It covers the whole campaign from the launch, to the primaries, up through the election. So much light was shed on important events that had stacked up on top of each other and it all seems so clear now. The private server, each primary state result in order, Bernie’s influence, the DNC hack, Announcing the VP and Comey’s ill-timed investigation announcement, and the list goes on.
The authors, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, are journalists who were set to write a book about Hillary’s historic campaign as the first woman nominee from a major party, and presumably to draw the path towards victory. However as their detailed analysis and inside information shows, the campaign body was complicated, confused, and chaotic. And we know how things turned out. The book pulls back the curtain to show us the way the political machine moved last year.
Aside from the obvious villains (but her emails!), Bernie Sanders was taken to task for drawing out an already long primary season. As a Bernie supporter, it was good for me to get a dose of some hindsight. Sanders did what I expected he’d do, which was pull Clinton to the left before he was through with his campaign, but it was interesting to me just how much of a thorn he was in her side.
The biggest takeaway for me was a phenomenon that I have been noticing more and more in my everyday life, in addition to it being a major theme in this book:
Numbers over People
Spoiler alert: Hillary lost a bunch of swing states. Clinton’s young manager kept trying to run the campaign on a shoestring budget (why?) and as such was addicted to using numbers and polling data to target strategic voters in strategic states and precincts. This explains why, here in San Diego, I barely saw any Hillary yard signs or bumperstickers. Not that people weren’t “With Her,” but that the campaign knew California was in the bag so they didn’t staff or push the candidate’s presence in the state.
The problem was the reliance on numbers and data instead of warm human connections. Clinton was behaving like a campaign robot, appealing to scientifically chosen demographic subsets at specific times. People have said time and time again that she is a lovely and warm person if you get a chance to meet her. But the show runners kept her from us, the people whose task it was to put our eggs in her basket.
It started with Pandora’s robots providing a famously awful mix of music. Now Facebook does this. Amazon really does this (oh you bought a watch? here’s 75 other watches to look at). I am sick of algorithms—telling us what we want to see or “curating” our lives for us. Some guy with a spreadsheet dictated who got campaign efforts and who didn’t, and just to save money. And now we have our current divisive, competitive, incompetent president. We need our human agency back.
The candidate who all assumed would win honestly kind of collapsed from within the campaign outward. Reading Shattered was like watching last year go by in fast-forward. Kind of like getting the answers to the test you knew you just bombed. It felt a little “too soon” when the book released in April, but reading it in July provided a little bit of closure to a still-open wound.
For October, our club chose Dark Matter by Blake Crouch which I am looking forward to. I’m not really into scary stuff (although for some reason I really want to go see IT this month) but I’m glad that our little group challenges each other to step outside our comfort zones and choose books we otherwise wouldn’t pick for ourselves. As always please read along and check back the last Wednesday of the month for my response!