What Happened Book Summary - What Happened Book explained in key points
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What Happened summary

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Learn what went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign

3.7 (33 ratings)
21 mins
10 key ideas
Audio & text

What is What Happened about?

What Happened (2017) is the story of the woman at the center of one of the craziest elections the United States has ever seen: the 2016 presidential election. This is Hillary Rodham Clinton’s account of her experience facing, and eventually losing to, Donald Trump – an opponent like no other – and the road that led her to this historic election.  

About the Author

Hillary Rodham Clinton has had a remarkable career in public service. She became the first First Lady still in the White House to be elected to a public office when she was voted New York’s first female senator in 2001. She went on to become the first woman to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Clinton’s other books include It Takes a Village and her two previous memoirs, Living History and Hard Choices.

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    What Happened
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    Election night led to a period of recuperation and trying to resist becoming cynical.

    November 9, 2016 is a day that Hillary Rodham Clinton won’t soon forget. 

    For the most part everyone went into the day feeling pretty upbeat, but by 1:00 a.m., events had taken a bad turn. It all came down to three states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Then the final nail in the coffin came at 1:35 a.m. when the Associated Press called Pennsylvania for Trump.

    Having to call Trump to congratulate him on his win was tough, but perhaps even tougher was calling President Barack Obama to apologize for letting him down. Clinton’s throat tightened as she passed on those words, but Obama was gracious as always. He told her that she had nothing to feel bad about, and that life after the election would go on.

    The key to coping with defeat, Clinton learned, is not to turn cynical. It’s also important not to isolate yourself and let friends provide some comfort and reassurance.

    This helped a great deal as she heard from friends who told her how motivated they were to take action after the disappointing results. This helped prevent her from going dark.

    She did spend a day lying low, but after that it was back to business, and the first job was signing her thank-you letters to her 4,400 campaign staffers and to make sure they got paid and were getting their health insurance until the end of the year.

    Another great way to keep the cynicism at bay is to have something like an Irish wake, where sadness is faced with celebration, as Clinton did by hosting a post-election staff party. As a friend advised her: watching the first season of Friday Night Lights with a glass of good chardonnay isn’t a bad remedy, either.

    Clinton did her fair share of fuming, but she made sure her anger fuelled her, not overtook her. She also took a lot of long walks with Bill to talk it over and figure out what happened.

    To get to the bottom of this, let's start at the beginning . . .

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    Who should read What Happened

    • US voters
    • Activists and advocates
    • Women seeking inspiration

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