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What Hillary Clinton really thinks

Vox.com logo Vox.com 9/13/2017 Ezra Klein
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Hillary Clinton’s theory of politics is unfashionable. But she doesn’t care.

On page 239 of What Happened, Hillary Clinton reveals that she almost ran a very different campaign in 2016. Before announcing for president, she read Peter Barnes’s book With Liberty and Dividends for All, and became fascinated by the idea of using revenue from shared natural resources, like fossil fuel extraction and public airwaves, alongside revenue from taxing public harms, like carbon emissions and risky financial practices, to give every American “a modest basic income.”

Her ambitions for this idea were expansive, touching on not just the country’s economic ills but its political and spiritual ones. “Besides cash in people’s pockets,” she writes, “it would be also be a way of making every American feel more connected to our country and to each other.”

This is the kind of transformative vision that Clinton was often criticized for not having. It’s an idea bigger than a wall, perhaps bigger even than single-payer health care or free college. But she couldn’t make the numbers work. Every version of the plan she tried either raised taxes too high or slashed essential programs. So she scrapped it. “That was the responsible decision,” she writes. But after the 2016 election, Clinton is no longer sure that “responsible” is the right litmus test for campaign rhetoric. “I wonder now whether we should’ve thrown caution to the wind, embraced [it] as a long-term goal and figured out the details later,” she writes.

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What Happened has been sold as Clinton’s apologia for her 2016 campaign, and it is that. But it’s more remarkable for Clinton’s extended defense of a political style that has become unfashionable in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton is not a radical or a revolutionary, a disruptor or a socialist, and she’s proud of that fact. She’s a pragmatist who believes in working within the system, in promising roughly what you believe you can deliver, in saying how you’ll pay for your plans. She is frustrated by a polity that doesn’t share her “thrill” over incremental policies that help real people or her skepticism of sweeping plans that will never come to fruition. She believes in politics the way it is actually practiced, and she holds to that belief at a moment when it’s never been less popular.

This makes Clinton a more unusual figure than she gets credit for being: Not only does she refuse to paint an inspiring vision of a political process rid of corruption, partisanship, and rancor, but she’s also actively dismissive of those promises and the politicians who make them.

On Tuesday morning, I sat down with Clinton for an hour on the first official day of her book tour. It is a cliché that stiff candidates become freer, easier, and more confident after they lose — see Gore, Al — but it is true for Clinton. Jon Stewart used to talk of the “buffering” you could see happening in the milliseconds between when Clinton was asked a question and when she answered; the moments when she played out the angles, envisioned the ways her words could be twisted, and came up with a response devoid of danger but suffused with caution. That buffering is gone.

In our conversation, she was as quick and confident as I’ve seen her, making the case for her politics without worrying too much about the coalitional angles or the possible lines of offense. And she says plenty that can, and will, offend. In our discussion, she lit into Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan, warned that Donald Trump is dragging us down an authoritarian path, spoke openly of the role racism and white resentment played in the campaign, and argued that the outcome of the 2016 election represented a failure of the media above all. This was Clinton unleashed, and while she talked about what happened, it was much more interesting when she talked about what she believed should have happened.

An transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.

Ezra Klein

I wanted to start with a part of the book that surprised me the most, which was you almost ran on the beginning of a universal basic income in America, which you were going to call “Alaska for America.” Tell me a bit about that idea and why it didn’t make it into the final campaign.

Hillary Clinton

Well, I wanted very much to convey a commitment to trying to figure out ways to raise incomes. And so I looked at a couple of different approaches to what’s called UBI, universal basic income. The Alaska for America idea was really intriguing to me because in effect it was to argue that our natural patrimony really does belong to every American — to try to break mindset that the extraction of resources is a totally private sector effort. And the Alaska model where they write a check to every single Alaskan every year based on a formula about the oil and gas revenues was really intriguing to me.

We dug deep, we tried to explain it to some people, and it just was hard for people to grasp what we were talking about because most Americans in the Lower 48, as we like to say, didn’t have any idea about what was going on in Alaska.

Ezra Klein

The reason I start with Alaska for America is in the book, you say at the end that section, “maybe I should’ve proposed that and left the details to be worked out later.” It seems to me that this is one of the pieces of the campaign that you’re reevaluating. You write that you now have more of an appreciation for the power of big, galvanizing ideas. Do you think that one of the lessons of watching Bernie Sanders, of watching Donald Trump, is that perhaps the correct role for policy in a campaign is to inspire, and that the place for more pragmatic policy is in the legislative process?

Hillary Clinton

Well, that certainly is a fair conclusion to draw from the way I try to raise the question. This was a struggle from the very beginning. This wasn’t something that I only thought about retroactively.

I felt that I was in the following posture: I was running to succeed a two-term president from my own party who I happen to believe did a really good job on some very difficult issues. And whether it was saving the economy, saving the auto industry, getting us on the path to universal health coverage with the Affordable Care Act, I knew how hard it was to actually get to where we got. And I worried that if I were to say, “Well, let’s go all the way, you know, with this and we’ll leave the details until later,” the natural question is, “Well, why didn’t that happen before?” And I knew that would be my burden to bear, because I would have the responsibility having been in the administration to be able to answer that question.

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Secondly, I don’t think I’m held to same standard as anybody else. I believed that if I were to say, “let’s do a carbon tax, let’s do single-payer tomorrow, let’s do whatever it is that might be viewed as universal and inspiring,” unlike either my primary opponent or my general election opponent, I would’ve been hammered all the time. “Okay, how are you going to do that? How are you going to pay for it? Where’s the money going to come from?” If I had said we are going to leave it to the legislative process, people would’ve said, “Well, you’ve been around, you know how it works. How are you going to do that? You don’t have 60 votes.”

I think I would have been hit with a thousand different legitimate questions, and I think I would have felt an obligation to answer.

Ezra Klein

So as someone that would have been asking those legitimate questions, do you think that those questions matter because people would care about them? Or because you would care about them?

Something I have observed watching Trump and other politicians in this era is that a lot of what we thought can hurt a politician is actually a relationship between them and the press. It’s their own shame, their own sense that they’ve been pinned down, their own desire to actually respond to what they feel is a fair critique. If you just don’t have that desire, if you don’t care about that particular kind of critique, it appears to lose at least some of its power.

Hillary Clinton

I feel like we are having a therapy session in front of this camera. You are 100 percent right, and I can’t change who I am. I knew that. I knew that I am not someone who will say things that aren’t true, that will not take responsibility. I had to run as me.

But I think this was not just a slight shift; this was a ground-shaking shift. I’m someone who’s observed presidential elections a very long time, and I always saw there would be a moment, maybe one or two, where in a debate or in a really important interview the candidate was asked, “How are you going to do that? Explain to me how that would work.” That was certainly my experience in ’08. I saw my husband go through it — in fact, it probably saved his campaign. I saw President Obama go through it and be able to say both in ’08 and ’12. But clearly in a reality TV campaign like the one we were seeing in 2016, it was not the same at all. I never had those moments that I thought would come.

Ezra Klein

One of the things that was interesting to me in the book was how you frame your own history in political organizing. When you explain why you ran for student body president, you write that, “I ran for student government president in 1968 because I thought I could do a good job convincing college administrators to make changes students wanted.” You talk about your work with the Children’s Defense Fund and focus on field work and making reports.

This is all in a period when a lot of people around you were interested in upending systems. How did you come to a politics of working within existing structures at a time when there was so much radicalism around you?

Hillary Clinton

Well, there are always people who want to upend the system. And I respect the desire for being part of big change; I think that’s important particularly when you’re younger. But I also became convinced early on that in my understanding of change, it was rare that in America you got those huge moments of opportunity. We saw it with President Johnson, with voting rights, civil rights, Medicare, Medicaid, with enormous Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. But that’s not that common in American political history. And as I watched what the hard, slow boring of hard boards that Weber talks about meant in our country — it was really digging in, getting to know what you’re talking about, making the case.

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And sometimes you still ran into an immovable political obstacle, but then you regrouped and you went on again, which is what I did with health care in the 1990s when we ended up with the Children’s Health Insurance Program. So I’m really interested in change, but I also know what it takes to get where we need to go politically. And that’s what I decided was the most effective way to achieve what I was looking for.

Ezra Klein

This feels to me like the argument that has been at the center of both your ’08 and ’16 candidacies and that you have had the most trouble making. In both of those elections you ran against candidates who in some way or another were saying they were going to upend the whole system. They were going to bring hope and change, they were going to bring a political revolution, they were going to drain the swamp. You’ve always taken the stance that you actually need to understand the system, you need to work within it, as you put it in 08, that the angels are not going to come down with their violins. Why is that such a hard message to sell to the American people?

Hillary Clinton

I don’t think it used to be quite as hard. But I think I’m also very realistic about the forces arrayed against the kind of change I want to see. There’s a big move for change coming from the right that I think would be disastrous for our country. They want radical, pull-em-up-by-the-roots change, they want to have a constitutional convention to rewrite our Constitution to make it friendlier to business, to inject religious and ideological elements. So talk about radical change — they are pursuing it, they are funding it, and they are electing people who are either true believers or willing vehicles for it.

So what do we do on the other side? Because we don’t control media the same way the right does; it’s harder for our message to get out. So it’s okay to say, all right, let’s really work for change, but you’re going to have to build an edifice under that that has the kind of hard-fought political realities that are going to be necessary to stand against the right.

I thought, at end of day, people would say, look, we do want change, and we want the right kind of change, and we want change that is realistic and is going to make difference in my life and my family’s life and my paycheck. That’s what I was offering. And I didn’t in any way want to feed into this, not just radical political argument that was being made on other side, but very negative cultural argument about who we are as Americans.

Ezra Klein

But is it possible to be too realistic about the forces arrayed against change, about the institutional constraints against change in the American political system — so realistic that you miss openings, so realistic that it’s hard to inspire people, so focused on constraints that your idea of what’s possible actually begins limiting what’s possible?

Hillary Clinton

I think it’s a fair critique. I understand that critique. But I don’t think the press did their job in this election, with very few exceptions. So the hard questions about what was real, what was realistic, and what could happen with the right kind of election outcome were never really joined. And so I found it frustrating obviously because I think I could’ve defended and lifted up a lot of what I believed we could do.

But really, Ezra, when you get 32 minutes in a whole year to cover all policy, how does that work? [Clinton is referring here to a study that found the nightly network newscasts only devoted a combined 32 minutes of coverage to policy question in 2016 —Ezra.] Compare it even with ’08, when you had 200 minutes on broadcast TV. Is it that people are really not interested, or is it that it’s just not as enticing to the press because the other guy’s running a reality TV show, which is hard to turn away from?

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And I think, in addition to everything you say, which is fair and needs to be considered, it was such a difficult environment even to have that conversation, so who could tell what was or was not realistic? It was kind of all bets were off in the coverage of the campaign.

Ezra Klein

Democrats are going to face a question like this very soon. Bernie Sanders is proposing his single-payer bill this week. And a lot of Senate Democrats are expected to sign on to the bill. This bill would be quite sweeping; it would upend every private insurance arrangement in America. Do you think that the Democratic party should sign on, even aspirationally, to a bill that is that radical in its vision?

Hillary Clinton

Well, I don’t know what the particulars are. As you might remember, during the campaign he introduced a single-payer bill every year he was in Congress — and when somebody finally read it, he couldn’t explain it and couldn’t really tell people how much it was going to cost.

I’m for universal health care coverage that is high-quality and affordable for every American. And I think there’s a lot of ways of getting there that I’ve advocated for, to open up Medicare, to open up Medicaid, to do more on prescription drug costs, to really make sure we get costs down and we do everything we can to sort of break the stranglehold that a lot of the pharmaceutical companies, which are unfortunately still driving prices, have on health care costs.

I think it’s going to be challenging if within that bill, there are tax increases equivalent to what it would take to pay for single-payer, and if you’re really telling people — about half of the country — that they can no longer have the policies they have through their employer.

I’ve been down this road. When I was working on health care back in in ’93 and ’94, I said if we could’ve waved the magic wand and started all over, maybe we would start with something resembling single-payer plus other payers, like other countries that have universal coverage and are much better at controlling costs than we do, primarily in Europe. But we were facing the reality of not just strong, powerful forces but people’s own fears as well as their appreciation for what they already had.

Look at what happened in Vermont. It wasn’t for lack of trying in Vermont. The Democratic political establishment was behind single-payer, and they worked for years to achieve it. This is in a small state, where it might’ve been possible. They were talking about an increase in the payroll tax of 9.5 percent, or I think maybe 11.5 percent — it just was so difficult to put pieces together.

Ezra Klein

Let me ask you about the other side, about Obamacare — which seems, for the moment, to have withstood the attacks on it. That was a policy that was really built with an eye toward realism, towards what could pass, towards how you could overlay something on the existing system that wouldn’t disrupt too many of the existing arrangements. And those pieces of the plan — the exchanges, the private insurers — have been the most substantively difficult to implement, and then also the most politically difficult to defend. It’s left the administration, first Obama and now Trump, at the mercy of private insurers deciding whether or not to sell on the exchanges and delivering big premium increases. What has really ended up being popular in that and defensible in that is the Medicaid expansion.

Is that a place where Democrats overread what realism required and ended up in a position where what they had wasn’t that inspiring and wasn’t, in the end, that easy to either implement or sustain?

Hillary Clinton

I think you have to unpack what you just asked, because even embedded in it was your reference to Medicaid. It was really unfortunate that the drafting of the bill gave the Supreme Court the opening to eliminate the Medicaid expansion requirement.

But what has happened is that Medicaid has become very popular even in Republican states because it does save money and it is a universal program below a certain income level, and it takes care of middle-income people when it comes to nursing homes and disabilities and all the rest. So I think we should be focused politically, realistically, and aspirationally on expanding, continuing the expansion of Medicaid, and going to those states that have not yet expanded it. And making the political case every day for as long as it takes.

I was in favor of a Medicare buy-in; if you start slowly moving the age down, it would make a very big difference. People’s health begins to have more problems after 55, so let’s get Medicaid down to 60 and then maybe down to 55. I am in favor of a public option, and the Democrats thought they were going to get a public option and at the very end didn’t have votes. Is that realism or aspiration? Well, at the end of the day it’s votes. And it didn’t pass.

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But then all of a sudden, with all this talk about repeal and replace, when it came time to take something away that people had gotten used to, everybody said no. And that’s my larger point about what our goal really is.

You’re going to tell 50 percent of America, “You are no longer to have your employer-based health care, but oh, trust us, it’s going to be really good when we finally work out all the kinks” -- you’re going to have massive resistance by people, who are gonna say, “I’m happy with what I’ve got.” But if you say, “You know what, we need to lower the age for Medicare, and here’s how we can do that, and we need to continue the expansion of Medicaid,” we will be at universal coverage. Then once we’re at universal coverage, and people know what that feels like, then we can begin to say, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do to make it work better, to get the costs down.”

You know, I think that’s not just realistic, I think it’s thrilling. As somebody who was one of the main advocates for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, I see the difference it’s made in people’s lives. All through the campaign, people would come up to me and say, “I was on that program,” or, “My family wouldn’t have been able to afford my sister’s care if it hadn’t been for that” — I find that exhilarating because that, to me, is what public service is supposed to be about.

Ezra Klein

This gets, I think, to a real disagreement between you and some of the public. There’s a real sense that the long-term practice of mainstream politics is itself a corrupting exercise. I think back to 2008, I was at YearlyKos when you debated the other Democratic candidates and defended lobbyists as part of the political system — as actors with a legitimate role to play. There’s a version of that in your defense of your speeches, in which you say, that looked bad, you shouldn’t have done it, but you see it as ridiculous to suggest that Goldman Sachs paying you could have changed what you think.

This, to me, feels like a central fault line in our politics now, the feeling that a lot of the public has that if you’ve been in politics a long time, in mainstream politics, that you’ve probably gone a little bit bad from it. And I think it helps explain why the public gravitated towards outsider candidates in 2008 and 2016. How do you think about this anti-politics sentiment?

Hillary Clinton

Look, anti-politics is part of the American DNA — it goes back to the very beginning. I have no doubt that it’s just built into America’s skepticism and disdain for the people in politics. So that’s just part of the background of being in politics.

But I think it’s important to again try to recognize what’s real and what’s not. So: Nobody on the Republican side cares about any of these issues, Ezra; you know that. I voted for McCain-Feingold; I said in my campaign one of the first things I would do is introduce a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United. So I take a back seat to nobody in standing up for sensible, hard-hitting campaign finance rules. But everybody’s got politics. You know, I go after Bernie really hard on the NRA — that’s politics for him. And the idea that he’s set off from politics — he’s been in politics his whole adult life. Donald Trump wasn’t in politics, but he was somebody who funded people on both sides to in order to curry favors.

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Until we get to public financing, which I wholeheartedly endorse, and we have this crazy system where you have to go out and raise the money, then if Democrats unilaterally disarm and say, “You know, we’re holier than Caesar’s wife, and we won’t say or do anything that might raise a question” — there is no compunction on the other side. The Koch brothers say they’re gonna spend $400 million in the 2018 campaign. And if we don’t care about that, then fine, but I don’t think that’s gonna come out very well for us.

Ezra Klein

But isn’t there a dimension here where Republicans who do not have a very high opinion of the government do not mind the public believing that the government is corrupt, that it does not work on their behalf, that it might even work on behalf of special interests? That is not a threat to their particular version of politics. Whereas for Democrats, who do want people to trust the government, who do want people to have faith in public institutions, there is a higher bar.

Hillary Clinton

Yeah, and I think Democrats by and large try to reach it. I mean, Barack Obama took more money from Wall Street in ‘08 than any other Democrat has ever taken, and turned around and imposed the toughest regulations under Dodd-Frank since the Great Depression.

I tell people all the time, if you’re in a high income tax bracket, I want to tax you. If you still want to give me money, you are going in with your eyes open. I think it’s theoretically an interesting conversation, but you look at somebody like President Obama, who took a lot of money from a lot of different interests, but it didn’t affect how he governed. And so let’s get to the second level here.

Ezra Klein

I do think that’s strong, though, to say that it didn’t affect how he governed. A lot of people feel he could’ve done more to punish bankers. On health care, there were deals cut before the fact with the pharmaceutical industry, with the insurance industry. And I think there is evidence that these kinds of donations do give these interests more of a voice, and that does affect things, certainly in the details.

Hillary Clinton

Well, but, you know, it’s always been thus. I mean, if you’ve seen the musical Hamilton, you know, if you’re running a raucous—

Ezra Klein

I actually haven’t gotten tickets to that.

Hillary Clinton

Well, we’ll see if we can help you on that. We’ve shrunk the political process to such a narrow set of questions, and that’s in the interests of both the far right and the far left, both of whom want to blow up system and undermine it. I think we operate better when we’re kind of between center right and center left, because that’s where, at least up until recently, most American were.

I know how hard it is to get to 60 votes. Now, you can say we shouldn’t have to get to 60 votes, but the fact is whether you’re in the majority of in the minority, and I’ve been in both, that has been the rule: Get to 60 votes. Because that then demonstrates at least a broader cross section of representative Americans being in favor of something.

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Maybe more could’ve been done, but I’ve heard very credible, very tough people say not really because of the burden of proof and the evidence. I’m not defending it; I’m just saying it’s not for lack of trying that a lot of things were not undertaken. There were barriers to trying that had to be knocked down and changed.

Ezra Klein

So I want to talk and move us a little bit to the 2016 election and what happened. Was Donald Trump more or less a normal Republican candidate who should have expected to begin with 40 to 42 percent of the vote? And so you’re just explaining how did a Republican candidate win the election? Or is Donald Trump an abnormal candidate who you should have expected to begin with 30 to 35 percent of the vote, and so you have this very large question as to how he came close enough to actually win? What are you explaining?

Hillary Clinton

I think given the hyperpartisanship in the country right now, once he became the Republican nominee, the odds were very high that Republicans would come home to Trump as their nominee. Because regardless of what he said or how he behaved or what came out about him, he was their path to tax cuts, he was their path to a Supreme Court seat. There is an agenda on the other side that really does motivate the right.

At the end of the day, I think something like 90 percent of Republicans voted for him and 90 percent of Democrats voted for me. That’s unfortunate in lots of ways — I wish we weren’t in such a hyperpartisan political era — but that’s what I always expected. I always thought the election would be close. I didn’t expect to be totally ambushed at the end, which is what I believe cost me the election — but I always thought it would be close.

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Republicans thought, you know what, it’ll be an entertaining four years, and Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell will take care of everything for us. They didn’t take him seriously, they didn’t take a potential presidency seriously. They thought getting a Republican in there, that’s going to deliver for these things that I care about.

Ezra Klein

But that’s a kind of remarkable view of politics. It means that anybody who wins a party primary — and parties no longer have control over their primaries — anybody who wins a party primary begins within spitting distance of winning the presidential election.

Hillary Clinton

I believe that.

Ezra Klein

Does that mean we’re more vulnerable to demagogues, to authoritarians, to dangerous candidates than we were in the past?

Hillary Clinton

Yes, we are, Ezra. I mean, if I’d lost to what I guess we could call a normal Republican — one of the other 16 people on the stage during their primary—

Ezra Klein

Jim Gilmore.

Hillary Clinton

Well, somebody that might have been able to win. Look, I would have been disappointed, I would have been upset and heartbroken, but — first of all, I don’t think it would’ve happened, but secondly, if it had happened, I wouldn’t feel such a sense of anxiety about the country.

Ezra Klein

I’m sorry, can I stop you there? That was interesting, what you just said. Do you think that Donald Trump was a stronger candidate than the other Republicans?

Hillary Clinton

Yes.

Ezra Klein

You would have beat the others, but you didn’t beat him?

Hillary Clinton

Well, I don’t want to speculate like that, but I think the fact he emerged, and the way he emerged, which was so unlike anybody ever getting a nomination in recent times, demonstrated the strength he had, which was really rooted in a very cynical assessment of how he could build a Republican majority.

He started on the very first day saying terrible things about Mexican immigrants — you know, that they’re rapists and criminals — and all of a sudden, people in the Republican side of the electorate began to say, “Oh, somebody’s speaking to me.” And then he went on from there. And all of his dog whistles and all of his appeals began to coalesce in the primary, and then once he won the nomination, he had some additional advantages like Russian help and sophisticated data analytics operation, weaponizing information, all of that. But his core base — he was right when he said, “I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and my supporters won’t leave me” — because he was, in a visceral way, feeding into their prejudice and paranoia.

Ezra Klein

So then that’s an argument that Donald Trump was stronger than other Republican candidates because he was willing to play white resentment politics in a way that others weren’t. Is that a fair reading of what you just said?

Hillary Clinton

I think that’s part of his appeal, yes. And he was willing to play, let’s not forget, Islamophobic politics, homophobic politics, sexist politics — I mean, he hit every single area of resentment and grievance that people were feeling. And his racism, which was endemic to his campaign, wasn’t subtle at all. And there’s now been so much analysis done since the election demonstrating clearly that so-called cultural/racial anxiety and prejudice was the primary driver for a lot of his support.

Ezra Klein

But one way of reading the election results is that Donald Trump, through these appeals, was able to get white voters to act as an interest group, but that you weren’t able to get women to do the same. You write about watching the Women’s Marches after the election and wondering, where was this solidarity during the campaign? Where was this outrage during the campaign? Why do you think you didn’t see a corresponding surge, particularly among female voters?

Hillary Clinton

Well, let’s start with this fact, though: I did carry the women’s vote. I lost the white women’s vote, but I actually got more white women votes than Barack Obama got. So this was part of a trend. But white voters have been fleeing the Democratic Party ever since Lyndon Johnson predicted they would. There is no surprise to that. Of course I hoped I could get more than a traditional Democratic nominee did because I was the first woman with the chance to be president — but gender is not the motivating factor that race was for President Obama.

Let’s talk about white women, because that’s the group of women that I lost. As I say in the book, I had this really revealing conversation with Sheryl Sandberg before the campaign. And she’s immersed herself in every bit of research about how do women think and what do they expect. And she said look — and we’re talking predominantly about white women — the research is really clear: The more professionally successful a man becomes, the more likable he becomes. The more professionally successful a woman becomes, the less likable she becomes.

When a woman is advocating on behalf of others, or working for someone and working hard for that person, the way I did as secretary of state when I was so popular in the public opinion polls, that is favorably received by people. So if I go and say to Vox, I think Ezra deserves a raise, people say, “Boy is she a good person. I mean, she’s out there advocating for Ezra.” If I go and I say, “I think I’m working really hard and I think I deserve a raise,” it’s like, “wow, what got into her? What’s the deal?”

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So Sheryl ended describing all this to me by saying remember, they will have no empathy for you. Now, I believe absent Comey, I might’ve picked up 1 or 2 points among white women. I’ll give you the example I used in the book. Before the Comey letter on October 28, I was 26 points ahead in the Philadelphia suburbs. That could’ve only happened if I had a big vote from women, Republican women, independent women. A week later, 11 days later, I win the Philadelphia suburbs by 13 points. I needed to win by 18 points to be able to counterbalance the rest of the state. That wasn’t just me; that’s how Democrats win Pennsylvania in presidential campaigns. It stopped my momentum, and it hurt me, particularly among women.

And I have so much anecdotal evidence for this. You know, all of a sudden the husband turns to the wife: “I told you, she’s going to be in jail, you don’t want to waste your vote.” The boyfriend turns to the girlfriend and says, “She’s going to get locked up!” All of a sudden it becomes a very fraught kind of conflictual experience. And so instead of saying I’m taking a chance, I’m going to vote, it didn’t work.

Ezra Klein

The premise of these conversations is that we’re talking about political persuasion, about how a candidate gets the most votes. But in this case, you did. Since the turn of the millennium, 40 percent of our presidential elections have seen the popular vote won by Democrats and the result overturned in the Electoral College. Do Democrats have a democracy problem?

Hillary Clinton

No, we have an Electoral College problem.

Ezra Klein

Should there be an Electoral College?

Hillary Clinton

As far back as 2000, I’ve said no. I think it’s an anachronism. I won in counties that produce two-thirds of the economic output in the United States; I won in places that were more on the optimistic side of the scale than the pessimistic side. I won in places that understood and appreciated diversity. I won in places where African-American and younger voters were not suppressed, as they successfully were in, for example, Wisconsin and other locations that I didn’t win. So I think you have to take this and pick it apart. If you come with just one answer, it’s not going to give you what you need to go forward.

<span style="font-size:13px;">Kainaz Amaria/Vox</span> © Provided by Vox.com Kainaz Amaria/Vox

But at the end of day, if you look at what where we are right now, if we don’t convince — and when I say “we,” it’s the great big Democratic we, not me — but if we don’t convince people to register to vote and vote, the simplest exercise of your citizenship in our country, in the 2018 election, then I really do think we’re going to see the clear and present danger to our democracy that I’ve been talking about come to fruition. We will see a constitutional convention. Now, whether it ever finally gets ratified, I’m not sure, but it will be so divisive and it will rile up so much of our population, we will see the continuing efforts on the right to disenfranchise people, to roll back regulations that are good for our health and our environment and so much else, we will not recognize America.

Ezra Klein

But one question about that is just the geography. You talked about winning more of the economic output, probably more than any Democrat has before. But part of that is that Democrats are clustering in urban centers, they’re clustering in big states, and the American political system is not built to advantage that; it’s built to disadvantage that. It seems to me that the Democratic Party could be in a position where it’s winning a lot of votes but not a lot of elections.

Hillary Clinton

If we don’t win elections, we don’t win. But there are pieces of this you can address, Ezra. Let’s start with voter suppression, which is one of the five reasons why I believe I lost. Compare Wisconsin to Illinois or Wisconsin to Minnesota — Wisconsin has had a concerted voter suppression campaign going on under Scott Walker and the Republicans. The AP says maybe 200,000 people were turned away. Illinois has had none of that. In fact, they’ve made it easier to vote. Minnesota is an easier-to-vote state. I won both of those. You’ve had voter suppression in Michigan. You’ve had voter suppression in Pennsylvania.

That is not about me. That is about what’s right and decent and constitutional. I was shocked when the Supreme Court threw out the guts of the Voting Rights Act. I was in the Senate, I voted for it, we voted 98 to nothing, George W. Bush signed it, and along comes the Republican majority on the Supreme Court and they throw it out, and Republican governors and legislators could not have been more gleeful.

<span style="font-size:13px;">Kainaz Amaria/Vox</span> © Provided by Vox.com Kainaz Amaria/Vox

We need to elect legislators, we need to elect secretaries of state, we need to bring court cases, because if we don’t deal with this voter suppression, yeah, the electorate will continue to shrink. And it won’t just be the Electoral College; it will be within these states. A shrinkage of the legitimacy of our constitutional democracy. So I care passionately about this because this will determine what kind of country we have for my grandchildren. And so I’m going to be out there day in and day out trying to do what I can to support efforts to give back voting to people, whoever they are, across our country, so that their voices can be heard and we have a democracy that really functions right.

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