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I Asked Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Fans What Happened

Hillary Clinton’s national approval rating is at a stunningly low 39 percent, but you wouldn’t know that walking New York’s Union Square on Tuesday morning. There were hundreds of fans outside the Barnes and Noble, all still very much with her, all patiently waiting to get their copy of her new book, What Happened, signed by the former senator and secretary of state herself. Some had been in line since the night before, others had arrived in the wee hours of the morning. I overheard a woman in the bathroom explaining that her friends mocked her for getting a hotel room in Union Square just so she could get in line at 5 AM.

What Happened, which as its title indicates is an autopsy of the 2016 election, was always going to be controversial. Clinton blames a variety of factors for her shocking defeat—FBI Director James Comey, Russian interference, misogyny, as well as her own actions. But in the week before the book was released, her comments about primary opponent Bernie Sanders were the things that made the rounds on social media and late-night talk shows, resulting in a flare-up of the never-ending feud between the dreaded Bernie Bros and the insufferable Hillary Bots.

I myself am a certified Bernard Bro, and think I have a pretty good idea of what happened. I could list reasons like Clinton not visiting Michigan and Wisconsin, her inability to make a compelling argument for why she should be president beyond the fact that she is not Donald Trump, widespread misogyny, the Russia thing, and more. But who cares what I think? I wanted to ask the former first lady’s biggest fans at Union Square what they thought went wrong. Here’s what they had to say:

Saul, arrived at Barnes and Noble at 4:30 AM.

VICE: You’re a Republican for Hillary. How did this change come about?
Saul: I was a Republican for over 20 years. I switched to the Democrats in 2009 because I loved President Obama and I had these buttons made up and the hat to provoke comments. Or maybe just to be provocative.

What do you think happened?
You know who Superman is in the comic books?

Yes.
Many of Superman’s villains had a superpower for their own. One of them was called the Parasite, and his power was anything Superman did to him, it just gave the guy more strength. Somehow, the creature in the White House was able to take all the goodness and wonderfulness and miraculousness of President Obama and invert it.

That’s why we’re living in a very strange time, a very strange world. Secretary Clinton should be president. Again, twice in 16 years, the winner of the vote doesn’t get the job? Only in America does this happen.

Do you think Bernie Sanders was responsible for Hillary Clinton not winning?
I don’t know. I didn’t give him a lot of thought during the campaign because I was for Hillary from the beginning. I don’t really have much to say about Senator Sanders.

Lynn, arrived at 3:45 AM.

VICE: What compelled you to wake up so early to see Hillary Clinton?
Lynn: Because having the opportunity to see Hillary in person, sleep didn’t matter that much. It was just a thrill for me. I have you to show you [my tattoo].

Lynn’s Hillary Clinton tattoo.

Oh my god.
I got the tattoo after she lost because I just wanted to be able to look at it because I wasn’t going to be looking at her in the White House. I know there’s a lot of criticism about her making excuses, but I think [the book] was her chance to put down her thoughts and her feelings and reflect on it and really express what she believes happened. And I think she is taking responsibility for the areas she could take responsibility in.

What do you think happened?
Well, Comey. Everybody said the thing about the second letter [Comey wrote about reinvestigating Clinton’s emails a week before the election], but I really think—and this probably isn’t that popular—that Bernie should’ve gotten out way before he got out, and he should’ve really encouraged his people to vote for her. Because many of them didn’t vote or voted for the other one. Those are the two main obstacles.

Do you think people like Green candidate Jill Stein are also to blame?
To an extent. But I would blame Bernie more, even though I had a daughter-in-law who voted for her.

Suzanne, arrived at 4:30 AM, and Jen, arrived at 5 AM.

Suzanne (left) and Jen (right)

VICE: Did you guys meet in line?
Jen: Yes.

What do you think happened?
Suzanne: There are a lot of reasons, and I still think we’re going to try to figure this out for a long time, but I’ve read a lot of statistics to indicate that it was a racial thing. Trump was being such a bigot—basically anybody who wasn’t comfortable with somebody who was a refugee or if they wanted to close the borders or if they were resentful we had a black president for eight years, they sided with him. They might not have agreed with him on much, but they agreed with him on that, so he felt like a safer bet than Hillary did, which is really sad.

Jen: There are a lot of things: the Russian interference, Comey reopening the email investigation really did a number on her. That was a really foul, foul move, and look what it did. A lot of people that were already on the fence about Hillary were like, I can’t trust this woman. And then there was the Bernie bots and stuff. They decided they weren’t going to vote for her, maybe they voted for Jill Stein or something. All of those things.

I know that there’s been controversy about what Clinton blaming Sanders in What Happened. Do you think Bernie is to blame himself?
Jen: I think Bernie’s to blame. We talked about this. I think it’s the Bernie supporters, had they chilled out a little and gone with the flow. I mean, did they want Trump in office? Because that’s what they got. Had they just gone the way everyone else was going, it might’ve turned the tables a little bit.

Suzanne: He and his supporters did a play role in [Clinton’s loss], but I don’t think he is the main cause of why it happened. I’m not here because I dislike Bernie. I’m here because I like Hillary. Bernie—it’s kind of like, he had some good ideas, but I just think Hillary was probably better suited to get it done.

What do you like about Hillary?
Suzanne: I’ve been excited about her for a long time because I remember as a kid my mom took me and my younger sister to a signing like this. I was waiting at a grocery store when I was ten years old and now I’m here at almost 25. As a little kid I remember my mom saying, “Well, she was the first lady and now she’s the senator of New York.” And I was like, “Oh, cool” and didn’t think too much of it.

Looking back on it, I didn’t realize that was a real privilege in a way. Growing up I didn’t think there was anything I couldn’t do because there were women like Hillary proving that yes, women can do anything. I was really excited to vote for her because I thought this was going to be the validation of what I’ve always known was true. I’m here to be like, “OK, well, this time it didn’t work out but it will work out.” And I’m going to continue to support her because I like her.

Jen: The idea of having a female president wasn’t just epic and amazing, but it was Hillary. Someone who had been fighting for women’s rights and equal rights and civil rights and all these things her whole life was finally getting her chance, who has already proved herself to be very worthy and a great person to be in office. My mom worked for Bill Clinton, so I followed her my whole life and I love her.

Lane, arrived at 5 AM, and Bobby, arrived at 5:30 AM.

Bobby (left) and Lane (right)

VICE: Did you guys meet in line?
Lane: We just met up here, not while we were waiting outside.

What do you think happened?
Lane: It’s hard to say, it’s been so many different factors honestly. I hope the book will give us some insight with behind-the-scenes stuff about it. I think obviously Russia was a huge deal, over-sensationalizing her emails was a huge deal, misogyny of course was a factor. Just so many different things. They’ve used the term “whitelash.”

Bobby: I definitely think misogyny and just anti-Obama [sentiments] definitely played a part in this, but I also think that there were some problems with the actual campaign. The fact that they did ignore Michigan, and stuff like that that you keep hearing about. It is beyond just what the campaign did, it’s also what society did.

Do you think Bernie Sanders was to blame?
Lane: Personally, I think he took a little while to get behind her. When it was clear he was not going to win, he could’ve tried to reunite [the party]. But I don’t think it was all his fault. He was doing his own thing. The people supporting him had just as much of a responsibility to come around. I can see why she would be bitter, but I think she sees a bigger picture as well. That one snippet of the book became just a huge deal, but it’s really one page in this big book.

Bobby: I think they post salacious excerpts from the book, and that was intriguing. I think the pony example she used, that stands. I don’t necessarily blame Bernie Sanders as a person, but maybe the ideas of his supporters. Not blame, but like, I don’t think the reactions [of Bernie supporters] helped.

Follow Eve Peyser on Twitter.

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