Thanks to the Amazon.com Web site, we have an intriguing, ongoing straw poll gauging the prospects of Hillary Clinton for president. Spoiler alert: If the poll is a valid indicator, her prospects look pretty stinky.
A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Clinton came out with a new book, entitled “Hard Choices,” about her four-year tenure as Secretary of State under President Obama. The buzz had it that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, paid her an advance in the neighborhood of $14 million. Not a bad haul for an author who proceeded to pass along the writing chores to ghost writers.
At a retail price of $21 per copy, Simon & Schuster would have to sell more than 700,000 copies to break even, but so far, it is said, the book has yet to sell 100,000. Unless “Hard Choices” enjoys a tremendous surge in popularity, far exceeding anything that manifested itself during the first two weeks on the market, Simon & Schuster will have to settle for bragging rights and prestige, not profits.
In fact, the sales pace seems to be slowing, rather than surging. On Wednesday the book ranked 21st among all books sold on Amazon, which wouldn’t be bad if the book had been written by a reasonably competent journeyman author who was not the most famous and ballyhooed woman in the world. By Thursday, its rank had sunk to 31st.
If you go to the book’s Amazon sales page, you will find that (as of this moment) the book has received 1,050 reviews from Amazon customers. Reviewers can rank a book as high as five stars, and as low as one star. (There is no provision for reviewers who would prefer to give a book zero stars.)
A total of 712 reviewers, or 68 percent, rated the book one star, while 248, or 24 percent, rated it five stars. Only 90 reviewers, or 8 percent, ranked the book either four, three or two stars.
What those statistics suggest is that the reviews on Amazon constitute not an exercise in literary criticism, but an impromptu straw poll on the desirability of Hillary as a presidential candidate.
So, what we have is an anti-Hillary vote outnumbering the pro-Hillary vote by a margin of nearly three to one.
Think about that. If the five-star and one-star counts were roughly equal, meaning that Amazon customers were split evenly in their opinions of Hillary, then it would be no big deal. The citizens of the United States are about evenly split on every political issue, as the professional pollsters keep showing us, so 50-50 would be what you might expect from a straw poll testing Hillary’s prospects.
That she trails by 24 percent pro to 68 percent anti seems potentially disastrous for her electoral chances. Maybe one could point to the fact that right wingers are more inclined to read than left wingers – but is that really a fact? Or right wingers are better off financially, and more able to afford books. Perhaps.
You also could speculate that the anti-Hillary crowd is better organized and more active than the pro-Hillary crowd. But what does that say about Hillary’s chances in an election where voter turnout on each side could be crucial?
There are recurring themes in the anti-Hillary reviews, summed up pretty well by this headline on one review: “Excruciatingly boring, overly long, insipid pabulum.” This has been my own opinion of Hillary for years, and I feel fortified to have it echoed by a stranger.
There also are recurring themes among the pro-Hillary crowd, which relies mainly on accusations that the anti-Hillarians are right-wing trolls who haven’t actually bothered to read the book.
A little confession: I haven’t read the book, and don’t intend to. But what difference does that make?
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