On Nov. 8, 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. With opponent — and now-president — Donald Trump receiving 304 electoral votes, and a year’s worth of work on her campaign now shattered, Clinton was left wondering, what happened?
This is what Clinton discussed at her book tour stop Tuesday in Ann Arbor. With Hill Auditorium full of students, faculty and community members attending her talk, Clinton highlighted her experiences writing her book, “What Happened,” not long after the election. The Ann Arbor stop was one of several in the tour spanning across the nation and Canada.
Prior to her visit, students were divided on their feelings about Clinton’s book tour, as late-September pre-sale ticket prices for the event ranged from about $82 to $170 and many students questioned the purpose of the book.
In September, LSA junior Jim Stehlin said he sees politicians’ book tours as problematic for the country’s interests; instead of focusing on policy, he thinks the “hero-worship” of politicians forces citizens to consider how politicians function as celebrities rather than public servants.
“I find myself consistently disappointed by the hero-worship within the Democratic Party because it distracts from the policy issues that actually affect people’s lives,” Stehlin said. “Former presidents often do release books, (but) Hillary was not a former president. She was a presidential nominee who failed to win the election.”
Prior to the event, Engineering freshman Simrun Buttar said while she was a bit swayed by the price of attending, Clinton has been one of her role models since long before the 2016 election.
“I think especially with this past election, so many events were skewed in ways that the general public wasn’t really made aware of, like the way things actually happened,” Buttar said. “I think, especially in Michigan itself, it was such a pivotal state in the last election that in being a swing state, she can maybe help things for the future.”
Similarly, LSA freshman Brett Zaslavsky said he had been looking forward to the event due to the fact Clinton would be spending time in a state she lost in the election.
“It’s not every day that a former presidential candidate comes onto campus, particularly not one with the historical significance that Hillary Clinton has,” Zaslavsky said. “It was an election with tremendous consequences whatever side you’re on, and to be able to hear such a firsthand and unique perspective I think is a special opportunity.”
Nevertheless, the audience applauded for Clinton when she took the stage. Clinton first addressed some of the main points of her book, including the double-edged sword of being a woman in politics.
“The only way we will get sexism out of politics is to get more women in them,” Clinton said, but she also noted one caveat: “Women are seen favorably when we advocate for others but unfavorably when we advocate for ourselves.”
A substantial part of Clinton’s talk was focused on addressing Russian interference. Clinton noted a necessity to demand evidence among media filled with “alternative facts,” especially with regard to critically considering the issues with cyber interference.
Clinton received applause when she called Russian interference in the election “more than alarming.”
“The administration is doing virtually nothing to prevent future attacks. … If you are an American, this should alarm you. It is shameful,” Clinton said. “The president swore an oath to faithfully execute the law and defend our constitution, and he should start doing his job, and the rest of us have to keep up the pressure.”
While the election was nearly a year ago, Clinton listed several next steps for the American public, particularly with regard to cyber safety and demanding transparency from those in office.
“I know when it comes to Russia, we’ve got to get serious about cybersecurity,” Clinton said. “Beyond that, we must insist on truth and accuracy, and hold elected leaders and the press accountable. … We must summon the courage to stand up for human rights and democracy.”
In the Q&A portion of the evening, moderator and English professor Anne Curzan took questions from the audience, many of which primarily focused on Clinton’s personal experience writing the book and her advice for the future.
When discussing her decision to write the book, Clinton said after the election she was “devastated and shocked.”
However, touting again the negative impact Russian interference held in the election, Clinton noted the novel experience of having to circumvent this contemporary issue.
“It’s so unprecedented,” Clinton said. “It’s hard if you have never lived in the midst of a propaganda campaign.”
Clinton noted technology companies were slow to accept responsibility for the breach of cyber security, to applause from the audience. She then emphasized that the acceptance of this information by the public was accompanied by denial and a question of the legitimacy of the reports.
However, Clinton’s tone turned hopeful when addressing different types of leadership in position of power.
“If we get more people who put country before party, I think … some positive changes could actually come about,” Clinton said. “The cooperation between the parties has really deteriorated to the great harm of our nation and getting things done.”
Noting a need for women in leadership roles, Clinton said women should be prepared for character attacks, criticism and questions. However, she cited the importance of encouraging girls from a young age to succeed and gave advice for young women looking to lead.
“Don’t become so closed off, so bitter, so cynical that you can’t remain open to the people you need, the people you’re trying to represent,” Clinton said.
Eastern Michigan University alum Asia David said she looked to Clinton for ways to improve the future.
“I supported Hillary in the primary and the general election,” David said. “We need to understand what happened in that election and … also maybe get tools for what we can do next time.”
After the event, Public Policy graduate student Ammara Ansari, who was previously an organizer for the Clinton campaign, said she admired the honesty Clinton demonstrated throughout the evening.
“After almost a year of the election, it’s good to know that she’s still around,” Ansari said; however, Ansari did not think Clinton was completely comprehensive in her talk. Ansari said, having worked on Clinton’s campaign, she wanted to know more of the former Secretary of State’s personal experiences in this aspect of her presidential run. “I wanted to know what she thought of her (campaign) staff.”
Wayne State University sophomore Robert Swetlic said he appreciated Clinton’s tasteful and humorous demeanor, particularly with regard to “alternative facts.”
“I especially liked her comments about fake news. As someone who considers himself very active politically and in the realms of communication in journalism, I think it’s really important that we don’t let the conversation about fake news and propaganda die, and I like that she was really hitting on that, as well as telling us a more personal view of the election,” Swetlic said.