A long line wrapped around Watchung Booksellers for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ongoing “What Happened” book tour in Montclair this Tuesday. A thousand people gathered at Watchung Plaza for a chance to meet Clinton and received an autographed copy of her newest autobiographical book that provides the former presidential candidate’s reflections on the turbulent 2016 election defeat.
“This is a great way to finally meet her,” said Vineet Shah, a Clinton supporter who came from his tech job in Manhattan to see her. “She ran a campaign with values that I also hold and that’s what matters to me.”
A sizable portion of eager onlookers, some of whom brought pro-Clinton picket signs, gathered behind barricades across the street of the bookstore. A sense of grief still pervaded over many Clinton supporters since her defeat to current President Donald Trump in their hostile race for the presidency.
“I was almost in tears,” said Montclair native Courtney Novak reflecting on election night. “Most people I knew didn’t think she was going to lose.”
While the longtime Clinton supporter wasn’t able to acquire tickets, Novak made her way down to the bookstore to voice her support.
“I’ve always admired her, even when she was first lady,” Novak said.
The book provides a range of personal meditations on her campaign strategy, President Trump, struggles to connect with working-class Americans in Rust Belt states, hovering concerns over Russian interference in the election, her rocky relationship with progressives after facing Bernie Sanders in the primary and the media’s role in accurate reporting.
Advocates from NJ 11th for Change were also on hand, handing out information pamphlets, “facts matter” button pins and copies of the U.S. Constitution to bystanders. Local law enforcement and the Secret Service patrolled the area during the event.
A dissenter in attendance was wearing a prison suit and an oversized mask of Clinton’s face, garnering many adverse reactions from the public. The protester, a male who refused to identify himself, said that he was attempting to start an open dialogue with Clinton voters.
“Regardless of your politics, this is a historic event,” said Montclair State journalism professor Kelly Whiteside, who was in attendance.
Whiteside remains hopeful the 2016 election has reinvigorated an interest in journalism.
“Hopefully the skill set the students learn at Montclair State gets carried forward, because [students] are the future,” said Whiteside.
Montclair has a longstanding reputation of being Democrat-friendly, with Clinton gaining 77 percent of voters in Montclair’s own Essex County during the general election.