Shattered Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Shattered explains the details around Hillary Clinton’s shocking 2016 presidential election loss and explains how an FBI investigation, Bernie Sanders, infighting on her team, and overconfidence in data analytics all contributed to her defeat.

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In the months leading up to the 2016 election, pretty much every pundit and analyst believed Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States. It was supposed to be an easy win. She seemed like the obvious choice to continue Obama’s legacy. She also had tons of experience and access to a broad support network of politicians.

Her loss to reality TV star Donald Trump on election night was a shock for pretty much everyone. It left many people wondering: what exactly went wrong? In Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes tell us the riveting story of a sure win that went off the rails.

They explore key problems such as Hillary’s lack of a strong and inspiring message to connect with voters, an unexpectedly serious challenge from Bernie Sanders, and of course the notorious email scandal.

Let’s see how much we can discover in just 3 lessons:

  1. The FBI investigation into Clinton’s personal email account was a constant thorn in the side of her campaign from the start. 
  2. Clinton and her team underestimated the threat that Bernie Sanders would pose.
  3. A toxic environment within her campaign team was just one more reason that Clinton’s run for president failed.

Ready to learn the details behind the most surprising election outcome ever? Let’s go!

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Lesson 1: Clinton’s campaign suffered constantly because of the FBI investigation into her misuse of a personal email account.

If you followed the news at all during this time, you probably heard at least something about Clinton’s email scandal. Basically, the whole thing stemmed from her use of a personal email server during her time as Secretary of State. This mistake was an obstacle throughout her campaign. 

When a congressional committee was investigating a terror attack on Americans in Libya, they discovered Hillary’s use of her personal account for official business at the time. The committee released the report in the early stages of her campaign in the summer of 2015.

They believed it was serious enough that the FBI needed to get involved. So they released 55,000 pages of work-related emails, some that had classified information. A year later, months before the election, FBI director James Comey released a statement calling her aides “careless” and even mentioned the possibility that “hostile actors gained access to her emails.” However, he stated no charges would be pressed. 

The drama further persisted when the DNC and Hillary’s campaign chairman would have their email accounts leaked right before the election. These didn’t have anything to do with Clinton’s personal server, but it didn’t matter. The public heard the word “email” and connected the new events to the investigation on the email scandal. In short, all the public knew is that she was getting a lot of bad press.

Lesson 2: Bernie Sanders posed a threat that everyone on Clinton’s team underestimated.

The email scandal was a huge obstacle, but it wasn’t the only one the Clinton campaign would have to face. An even bigger challenge was 72-year-old Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The authors likened Sanders to a Democratic equivalent of Donald Trump. They had both tapped into anti-establishment sentiments that were on the rise post 2008 recession. 

Clinton never really understood this movement or connected with it, and it cost her. Hillary believed a lot of Bernie’s proposals such as free college tuition were too “socialist” for the average American. But even if they were, at least they were concrete proposals, and Clinton didn’t have any concrete narrative. 

Furthermore, Sanders spoke against corruption and viewed Clinton as just another member of the corrupt establishment that needed to be removed. Since he was from the same party, this tension put her in a difficult position.

On the one hand, she wanted Obama voters to support her, so she couldn’t just criticize his policies. Especially because she had been at least somewhat responsible for many of them. But she also knew attacking him would backfire because of his popularity. It was this kind of attack that cost her votes when she ran against Obama in 2008.

Lesson 3: Hillary Clinton’s run for president couldn’t ever get off the ground partly due to struggles within her campaign team.

Unfortunately for Hillary, there weren’t just challenges from the outside, there were also internal struggles within her team. The team was rampant with infighting. People who seemed to care more about their own careers than winning Clinton the election. 

This toxic environment was a big part of her campaign’s eventual failure. One example of the infighting was the rivalry between Robby Mook, a mid-30s analytics guru and John Podesta, the mid-60s traditional campaign chairman. There was also a mess of different directors and managers. This led to confusion of who was in charge of what.

After a loss in the Michigan and New Hampshire primaries, Hillary assembled the “Super Six” group that was meant to make decisions together as a committee so as to avoid power struggles. But in the end, the team failed at this. The leaders instead tended to keep their intelligence to themselves to maintain power in the campaign. 

This led to many problems, one of which was when Hillary got pneumonia and fainted when trying to get into a van. Chairwoman Huma Abedin hadn’t told the others about her diagnosis of pneumonia. So the campaign missed the opportunity to explain the situation in a timely way. Because of this misstep, Trump was able to seize on this by saying it was proof Clinton was physically unfit to be president. 

In the end, we can learn a lot from Clinton’s shocking loss. There wasn’t any one reason for this failure, but we can see that a combination of many factors led to her demise. From dealing with an unexpectedly tough opponent Bernie Sanders, to a highly-publicized scandal and an incoherent message, it seems her election was doomed from the start.

Shattered Review

I don’t follow politics too closely but man was the 2016 election a surprise for everyone. It’s fascinating to get a look into the events leading up to that night. Shattered did a great job of helping me understand this better, and I think you’ll enjoy it!

Who would I recommend the Shattered summary to?

The 35-year-old who cares about the future of their country, the 74-year-old with a neverending interest in politics, and anyone who wonders how in the world Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016.

Last Updated on July 23, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.