The “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton decried in the 1990s pales in comparison to the array of domestic and foreign forces she blamed on Tuesday night for her 2016 presidential election defeat by Donald Trump.
Clinton promoted her book What Happened to a sellout crowd of more than 2,500 admirers who paid $50 to $375 to see her in person at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. She attributed her loss to sexism and a “perfect storm” that included Russian interference, excessive media and FBI attention to the private email system she set up as secretary of state, and“deep currents of anger and resentment” among voters.
She also weighed in on more current events, calling for “common-sense gun reform” in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre and faulting the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Clinton said she was “devastated” by her defeat and sometimes didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning. She said she has dealt with the loss by walking in the woods, watching home and garden shows on television, doing yoga and playing with her dogs.
“Look, I also had my fair share of Chardonnay,” Clinton added.
Before Clinton took the stage, the audience was asked to observe a moment of silence for the victims in Las Vegas. Clinton said the shooting shouldn’t silence political debate on guns.
“Every time there is a mass shooting in America there are people who say, well, it’s too soon to talk about what we can do. It would be somehow inappropriate to address common-sense gun reform,” Clinton said.
“I have to tell you, what better time is there…than right now?” Clinton said.
“It’s not irresponsible, it’s not too soon for us to say with one voice we are long overdue for real meaningful action,” she said. She added: “We cannot accept this as normal. We cannot become desensitized.”
On Puerto Rico, Clinton said: “It’s been an extraordinary sight and no one should have to suffer from such a crisis like that alone and then spend days wondering whether their own government will be there for them…So if you aren’t outraged by what has happened in Puerto Rico, I don’t think that you understand what we’re all facing because of climate change.”
In discussing 2016, the first female presidential nominee of a major party said her gender worked against her with many voters.
“Women are seen favorably when we advocate for others, but unfavorably when we advocate for ourselves,” said Clinton, who said she was better liked as a first lady, U.S. senator and Cabinet secretary than when she was a presidential candidate. “When a woman moves forward in the public arena on behalf of herself and says, ‘I have a chance to lead,’ that causes a lot of cognitive dissonance.”
On top of that, Clinton said, “This was a perfect storm. Deep currents of anger and resentment, felt by many floating through our culture. A political press that told voters the most important story was my emails – that looks really good right now. The unprecedented intervention in our election 11 days before voting by the FBI, and the information warfare waged against us from within the Kremlin.”
On Tuesday, Clinton’s 2016 blamecasting did not include Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But in her book, which was released Sept. 12, Clinton says attacks by Sanders and his supporters (whom she calls “the so-called Bernie Bros”) during the Democratic presidential nomination fight “caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”
Nor did Clinton pin any blame Tuesday on herself or her campaign, but she did briefly address criticism of her decision not to campaign in Wisconsin during the general election. Wisconsin, carried by Democrats in the previous seven presidential elections, narrowly delivered its 10 electoral votes to Trump. It was part of a Rust Belt reversal that included Trump wins in previously blue Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
“Wisconsin is different because we had a Senate candidate who was ahead the whole time and who I had served with, Russ Feingold,” Clinton said. “His information, everything he felt and saw on the ground, looked good.”
Former U.S. Sen. Feingold, trying to come back from a 2010 defeat by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, ended up losing his 2016 rematch to Johnson by 3.4 percentage points.
Some who came to hear Clinton on Tuesday said they were still trying to come to grips with Trump’s victory.
“This election was a farce and I think we should have a new election and if more people read all of her achievements they would agree,” said Donna Read of Boca Raton.
Under Trump, Read said, “every day is like anxiety and stress because we have a person in the White House who’s — he’s mentally ill, that’s what I think, and an embarrassment to America.”
Brooke McMahan came all the way from Maryville, Tenn., and wore a “Hillary 2016” sash.
“I’ve loved Hillary since the ‘90s, since she was first lady, and I came here for some positivity because I wanted to thank her for all that she has done for women,” said McMahan, who was 10 when Bill Clinton won the 1992 election.
Amanda Myers of Miami described Tuesday night’s event in therapeutic terms.
The 2016 election, Myers said, “was sort of traumatic for a lot of people — particularly with what’s happened in Puerto Rico, with what’s happened in Las Vegas. Think about how that would be different if the election were different. So this is sort of a healing moment for a lot of people.”