Autobiographies, like dramas, usually include passages of unconscious self-revelation of character. Hillary Clinton's latest memoir, What Happened, is no exception. But, like the Bible, it will be interpreted differently by different readers. Her devoted followers will find it poignantly honest, while her foes will perceive thinly veiled narcissistic tirades. The latter should be cautious about mocking her; she may well go down in history as one of the major promoters of religion in our time.
I'm reminded of the story about a holy missionary who died and was received in Heaven by a crowd of angels and saints. Soon, a trumpet sounded, and everyone but his guardian angel left to join a much larger crowd greeting a scowling unpleasant-looking man. The bewildered priest turned to the angel, who said, "Don't be surprised. He's no saint, but he saved far more souls than you. He was a notoriously reckless driver, and wherever he drove, people prayed." So it was with Hillary.
According to one count, her book blames her defeat on James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, Mitch McConnell, the New York Times, the media as a whole, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, sexism, white resentment, and her own misstatements. Others attribute her loss to her inept handling of the Benghazi attack, her private email server, dubious aspects of the Clinton Foundation, and a long string of past scandals, from Whitewater to Travelgate.
This baggage didn't seem to hinder her campaign; it looked as if she had the election sewn up. She had raised and spent almost 50% more campaign funds than Trump, with many of her big donations coming from the Wall Street and corporate elite who had traditionally favored Republican candidates. Celebrities hastened to her support with over $33,000-per-ticket fundraisers and even produced a TV series to enhance her image. The media hounded Trump mercilessly with overwhelmingly negative coverage. Almost all of the polls predicted a Clinton victory, although by the week before the election, the supposed lead had shrunk to 2 to 4%.
And then came the shock of election night. For Heaven's sake, what had gone wrong?
Perhaps it was for Heaven's sake. Throughout the campaign, with the exception of its influence on the long deferred appointment of a Supreme Court justice, religion had been a back-burner issue. Then someone dug up an April 2015 speech in which Hillary said (with regard to abortion):
And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.
Several religious and pro-life organizations protested the remark, but, except for an op-ed in the Washington Post, the mainstream media scarcely noticed it. And according to an exit poll analysis by Pew, Clinton's disparagement of religion didn't seem to have a significant effect on the way the various religious groups voted. Even Catholics, though briefly stung by seemingly anti-Catholic emails among Hillary's staff, shifted their usual voting pattern only a few percentage points toward the Republican candidate, as they had for Bush in 2004.
But the intensity of religious belief did matter. According to Pew, the percentages were as follows:
|CHURCH ATTENDANCE FREQUENCY||% FOR CLINTON||% FOR TRUMP|
|At least weekly||40||56|
|A few time a year||48||47|
The non-religious overwhelmingly supported Hillary, while a majority of the devout of all faiths preferred Trump.
Moreover, many voters were praying. Even Google noticed that, on the eve of the election, hits for "pray for Trump" were 180% higher than those for "pray for Clinton," while "pray for America" hits rose by 700%. Religious websites and TV stations organized prayer groups before and during the election. Prayer rallies, many of them nonpartisan, were organized throughout the country. Even the traditionally nonpolitical Knights of Columbus urged Catholics to pray daily for the nine days preceding the election.
One might therefore wonder if Hillary's defeat wasn't literally the answer to a prayer. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, such an assertion can neither be proved nor disproved. However, the astounding unexpectedness of the event, coupled with the confusing babble of explanations for it, does tempt us to consider the possibility of divine intervention, as John Horvat did in his carefully weighed assessment of the event and its consequences.
There are indeed serious consequences. As Horvat pointed out, the election result is by no means a solution to our problems. It is at best a temporary reprieve, allowing us time to mend our ways before our society collapses from the degradation of its original Christian principles by evils such as sexual promiscuity, violence-prone bigotry, and above all abortion. We must continue to pray and to take whatever action we can to restore our country to the goodness that was once its hallmark.
We had better begin by laying aside our animus against Hillary. We must remember the rule that God imposes about praying and, hard as it may be, forgive her trespasses, including her book and her recent pontifical tweets. After all, we should be grateful to her for reminding us of the power of prayer.