The former director of communications of the Hillary Clinton campaign, Jennifer Palmieri, will discuss her book, “Dear Madam President,” a letter addressed to the first female president of the United States, whoever she may be, at The Riveter in Seattle on April 5.
Oh, Hillary? She’s fine.
“She’s great, she’s good,” Jennifer Palmieri said the other day of the former presidential candidate (and secretary of state and U.S. senator and first lady). “I think she’s really inspired by everything that is happening now.”
As for Palmieri, the former director of communications for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign? Well, it took a while to get to where her old boss seems to be, and to divine the lessons of the 2016 election.
Once the shock of defeat wore off, and Palmieri gave herself some time to assess, she sat down to write. In just six weeks, she produced “Dear Madam President,” a 180-page, hard-bound letter addressed to the first female president of the United States — whoever and wherever she may be.
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Palmieri will read from and discuss the book at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, at The Riveter Capitol Hill with the female-forward work space’s founder and CEO Amy Nelson.
“What I had in my head was women in high school and their 20s,” she said of the book’s target audience. “I wanted them to read a book and reorient their thinking. If you start with the premise that whatever you want to be is going to happen, it changes the way you think about it.”
Like, say, entering politics, as record numbers of women have since the election.
They likely won’t be saddled with “TSAHIJDL” — “There’s Something About Her I Just Don’t Like” — a constant voter complaint about Clinton. That, and her ambition.
It’s funny, Palmieri said: People are completely comfortable with female elected officials once they get into office. It’s when they’re candidates that voters ask, “Well, why does she want it?”
“I want the public to process that,” Palmieri said.
She calls the election of President Donald Trump “the disruption that came to politics and government to show that it is entirely broken.”
Palmieri pointed to a pattern in politics of “trying to win by coalescing your vote and not reaching out to others,” Palmieri said, “and I was part of that group that was doing that. It’s a corrosive way to try to run the country because you’re not governing for the whole country.“
We need someone “who will listen to the whole country and have a plan to help the whole country whether they vote for you or not,” she said. “If people can see themselves in the future, they’re not going to think that one person’s gain is their loss. They are not going to be pitted against each other.”
Palmieri — now the president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund — thinks it is “very possible” that a woman could win the presidency in 2020 (She’s looking at you, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota).
After all, she said, “depending on how you keep score, Hillary won. And if she had won, I’m not sure I would have had the same take-away.”
There’s an understatement. But there are several take-aways in the book that Palmieri frames as lessons with the insider stories that illustrate and support them.
In a chapter called “In the Room,” for example, she writes about feeling intimidated when meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office (She was on his communications staff, too). Then she realized she belonged there; she had worked hard to get there and had something to offer that the president needed.
“You are in the room. Speak up,” Obama told her. “There is no other room. See? This is it. It’s the Oval Office.”
In a chapter called “Nod Less, Cry More,” Palmieri argues that nodding “is one of the ways women have adapted our behavior to succeed in a man’s world.” But it’s an outdated practice. Why not express authentic outrage, or surprise?
And why not cry?
Palmieri endured two major blows at once: Clinton’s defeat, and the death of her older sister from Alzheimer’s. The combined grief found her on a stage at Harvard, where she was on a panel talking about the election — and crying. Her outburst made national news.
Crying, she wrote, “isn’t a show of weakness, it’s a powerful demonstration of emotion.” While it’s important to be strong, it’s also important to occasionally do something normal — and very human.
But Palmieri isn’t the only one who learned from Hillary Clinton’s defeat, she said.
“Women across the country decided that instead of having their souls crushed, to be empowered,” she said. “We were modeling ourselves after the only path there was, the path waged by men. Now we are doing something different.
“Hillary proved it is possible for a woman to win, even by playing the old set of rules,” Palmieri continued. “But the next woman is not going to do that. She is already thinking differently, and the most important thing you can change is what’s in your own head.
“That affects how you engage in the world.”
And, as painful as Clinton’s loss was, there is a silver lining, Palmieri said.
“It’s inspiring to see so many Americans in their communities saying ‘This isn’t what America is,’ ” she said. “If Hillary had won, we may still be as divided as we are now. But we may not have seen so clearly that everyone has to be part of the solution.”