Donna Brazile’s memoir / political history book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, offers a relevant perspective on the 2016 election cycle. Given her decades of political experience, Brazile writes with confidence in her views.
Hacks puts the information I learned in Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War into the context of U.S. elections. And, as Democratic National Committee interim chair, Brazile was just the right distance from candidate Hillary Clinton to realistically elucidate What Happened.
Yet, despite all of the big political concepts and egos in her story, Brazile also opens her heart to the reader. She isn’t afraid to say what made her angry, sleepless, or frustrated. This is one tough woman telling the story of another tough woman’s campaign, warts and all. For example, she says, “[The Clinton campaign] knew how to size up voters not by meeting them and finding out what they cared about, what moved their hearts and stirred their souls, but by analyzing their habits.”
However, the story is also about the way a political party is run. Brazile sheds light on the “downticket” races, meaning those not Presidential. Thus, “The candidate at the top benefits from the energy at the bottom of the ticket, the state and local races that build excitement, a sense that we are all part of the team that is sweeping forward to victory.”
She talks about why it’s so important to defend and protect each citizen’s voting rights. Additionally, Brazile has plenty to say about the types of voters Clinton counted on, but didn’t fully receive.
“In 2008 and 2012 black women were the highest performing voters for us in the whole country, but in this election our numbers fell from 70 percent to 64. That to me summed up how we had failed to persuade and to communicate because of our internal squabbles.”
And Hacks is about cyber security (and the lack of it) in a broad electoral way. Brazile tells about the hacks’ personal impact on DNC staffers lives, including hers. She talks about the still unsolved murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, and how it affected her and other staffers.
And amazingly, she ends the book with a feeling of hope. “Despite the deflection, dishonesty, and distraction we all lived through in 2016, I still have faith in the American people.”
Brazile’s writing style is conversational. Although she is a professor, it never becomes boringly professorial. It’s clear that writing the book gave her the opportunity to process an extremely stressful time in her life and in U.S. history. One need only read the acknowledgements to know that it was a grueling process. But Brazile and her team make the end product seem effortless.
I learned a lot, including some practical steps to take in my own life to prevent cyber manipulation of my devices. But mostly, Brazile gave me a fascinating window into the political process.