After the 2008 and 2012 elections, I was very much enthralled by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's quick-published insidery accounts of the presidential campaigns. Game Change and Game Change: Double Down both piqued my interest with their gossipy tone and their inside-baseball chattiness.
Now, of course, it's pretty obvious that Mark Halperin is an awful person, and an even worse journalist; he sucked up to Donald Trump at just about every opportunity during the 2016 elections. His pro-Trump leaning during this last election cycle was saccharine enough to help me realize what I'd hidden from myself over the last four years: Halperin's work isn't interested in what's right or even what happened. He's only interested in who's on top, and how much access he can skim from them. I'm retroactively embarrassed that I enjoyed his books so much.
But it's not just Halperin: this election has soured my entire perception of the quick-turn post-election genre. I love books that investigate presidential campaigns, but there have been a spate of titles over the last few election cycles that have been published within six months of Election Day, and they are more harmful than good.
All of this is a long way of saying that even though some part of me wants to read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign for all the gossip and forehead-slapping it would inspire, some larger part of me understands that these auto-published postmortems are toxic. I'm not going to read Shattered, and I'd urge you to consider not reading it as well.
There's a cliche that's been pretty popular on political podcasts in the days since the 2016 election. It has many variations, but it always goes something like this: in retrospect, every winning campaign looks brilliant, and every losing campaign looks hopelessly, impossibly dumb. The truth is never that simple.
Yes, Clinton's campaign team made awful decisions. Obviously. I don't want to exonerate anyone, here.
But I just don't know what good any of this is doing anyone. Democrats are still trying to argue over where everything went wrong in the 2016 election, and the truth is that it just doesn't matter. We know what must be done: Democrats have to propose big policies that appeal to more voters, and they have to explain why those policies are better than the policies that the other side is proposing. Democrats also have to listen to average people, and respond to the needs of average Americans — Americans of every color and class and creed. I think those statements are non-controversial enough that most Sanders voters and most Clinton voters would agree with them.
One day, the residue of filth covering the 2016 election will be less greasy. Our responses to the memory of the year will grow less immediate, less visceral. And one day someone will write a book — a deeply reported, dense, smart work of journalism — about the Clinton campaign. I can pretty much guarantee that Shattered is not that book. Reading it is just picking at fresh scabs, and it will likely leave you looking to start arguments that can have no winners.
The time now is to look forward, not back. Democrats should be reading about policy and not personality. Now that a reality show star is in the White House, it should be obvious to everyone that there's no room for reality-show antics in our media coverage of the campaigns.
We must be better than this.