Fluid Imagination

written and curated by Kyle Callahan

Bernie or Bust (Basically)

I had a friendly debate last night with a couple of friends of mine. One of them lives in New Hampshire and voted for Secretary Clinton in the primary. The other lives in California and doesn’t plan on voting for any candidate in tomorrow’s primary, but he does plan on voting for Sec. Clinton in November. Both of them feel as if it is time for Senator Bernie Sanders to concede the election and unify the party. As a very liberal individual from Vermont, I disagreed, and even said that I plan on not voting for Sec. Clinton (or Donald Trump) in November.

Now, the debate took place via text messaging, with lots of overlapping conversation, so it wasn’t the most succinct way to argue. But hey, I’ve got a blog, so I figure, why not use it to make my argument as clear as possible?

Why Bernie Should Not Concede

While it seems incredibly improbable for Senator Sanders to win the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, it is not mathematically impossible.

It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination. According to the Associated Press, as of today, Sec. Clinton has 1,809 delegates, while Sen. Sanders has 1,520. Sec. Clinton needs 574 more delegates to win, while Sen. Sanders needs 863.

Tomorrow, there are 694 delegates up for grabs, with Washington D.C.’s final 20 delegates to be decided next week on June 14th. While obviously you can’t trust the polls, they currently suggest that neither of the two candidates will win enough delegates on June 7th or June 14th to win the nomination.

That means that the election turns from the pledged delegates, which are decided upon in the primaries and caucuses, to the Democratic Party’s Superdelegates, all of whom do not cast an actual vote until the first ballot of the convention. According to the AP, Sec. Clinton has 547 Superdelegates and Sen. Sanders has 46 (I’ll also note that Wikipedia has a lower tally for Sec. Clinton [update: the AP now reports that Sec. Clinton has clinched the nomination based on a survey of Superdelegates, despite the fact that the Superdelegates haven’t voted yet]).

If every Superdelegate who has come out for Sec. Clinton stays true to their word, then Sec. Clinton will become the Democratic Party’s nominee. But they don’t get to vote until the convention, so it is completely fair for Sen. Sanders to continue his campaign to win their votes. The primary doesn’t end until there is an official nominee, and if his supporters believe there is a chance for him to win — as minuscule as that chance might be — then Sen. Sanders owes it to his millions of supporters to fight until the fight is over.

Why Bernie Should Continue to be Aggressive

One of the complaints my friends made last night is that the continued campaign of Sen. Sanders hurts Sec. Clinton’s chances in November, with one of them arguing that “he’s doing some significant damage right now to [her] prospects” and the other saying, “It is 100% about beating Trump…and Bernie is hurting that chance.”

Sen. Sanders’ primary campaign will come to a close, one way or the other, at the Democratic Convention at the end of July. Whether he wins or loses the nomination, Sen. Sanders will definitely pivot his campaign away from Sec. Clinton and towards Donald Trump. This pivot may not mean that Sen. Sanders supports Sec. Clinton’s policies or supports her as an individual, but it will mean he’ll work to reveal Donald Trump’s weaknesses to any independent or undecided voters whom might be open to such an argument.

But that’s what will happen in August.

My friends’ concerns are about what will happen during June and July. They believe that Sen. Sanders’ continued attacks on Sec. Clinton will weaken her candidacy in the general election. I believe that they are right, and the reason is because she has many weaknesses as a candidate and as a nominee.

Asking Sen Sanders to stop pointing out those weaknesses is like the emperor’s advisors refusing to point out that his royal highness is naked. If Sec. Clinton’s weaknesses make her a poor candidate against the presumptive Republican nominee, then that’s something the Democratic Party might want to face before they name her as their champion.

Why I Won’t Be Voting for Hillary

The first reason I won’t be voting for Sec. Clinton is because, if she is elected, that will mean there has been either a Bush or Clinton in the White House for 36 of my 42 years (assuming she serves all four years of her first term). If that’s not the definition of an oligarchy, then I don’t know what is.

Second, I won’t vote for a hawk. Sec. Clinton voted for the war in Iraq in 2003, persuaded a “wary” Pres. Obama to topple Col. Qadhafi in 2011, and supports the U.S.’s increased involvement in Syria, including increasing the number of special forces on the ground and giving our current troops in Iraq greater “flexibility” to engage with the action in Syria.

Based on Sec. Clinton’s record, Jeffrey Sachs, a Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the U.N., the Director of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and one of the world’s leading economists, has called Sec. Clinton “a danger to global peace” who has “much to answer for regarding the disaster in Syria.”

To be clear, Sec. Clinton’s use of the military in Syria would not be for humanitarian reasons. Yes, it’s absolutely true that Syria is a horrible place right now and its people desperately need assistance. But that’s not why Sec. Clinton would get America involved. She’d get us involved because she wants to weaken the power of Iran in the region. Sec. Clinton sees the world through the eyes of realpolitik (hence, her fondness for Sec. Henry Kissinger), but to a liberal ideologue such as myself, who believes that America ought to act from a place of principle rather than naked self-interest, realpolitik is a dangerous perspective that leads not to increased security and prosperity for the U.S., but to increased numbers of terrorists and a generation’s worth of anti-American sentiment.

Third, (if she wins the nomination) Sec. Clinton and Donald Trump won’t be the only candidates on the ballot in November. The ballot will also include the nominees of the Green and Libertarian parties. The Libertarians recently nominated Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico (with Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts as his running mate). The Greens still have to officially nominate their candidate, but Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts is the presumptive nominee.

I don’t know much about Dr. Stein yet, but I like how she is reaching out to Sen. Sanders and his supporters, trying to give them another voice should Sen. Sanders lose the nomination in July. I’ll have to look into her some more before I choose to give her my vote, but if Sec. Clinton does take the nomination, Dr. Stein will probably find me in her corner.

Why A Vote For “Not Hillary” Is Not A Vote For Trump

The final piece of the debate I had last night can be summed up by what one of my friends told me: “Any Democrat not voting for Hillary is helping Trump. So you’re supporting him.”

First, I’m not a Democrat. I’m a member of the Progressive Party of Vermont. As a Progressive, many of my policy preferences overlay with the platform of the Democratic Party, but the two parties are not equal. Since the Progressive Party of Vermont does not nominate a candidate for President, it is up to the official candidates to win my vote. As I explained above, Sec. Clinton’s hawkish policies (and family connections) make it nigh impossible for her to win my vote.

I’m obviously not going to vote for Donald Trump, because…well…he seems to be just a few mustache hairs away from being a fascist.

I’m definitely open to voting for a Libertarian because a libertarian’s commitment to individual freedom overlaps a little bit with a progressive’s social values, but economic libertarianism of the Ayn Rand variety is a non-starter in my book, and so a Libertarian candidate would have to be particularly inspiring to win my vote.

Which leaves me with Dr. Jill Stein, on whom, see above.

But my voting for Dr. Stein or Gov. Johnson does not mean that I am supporting Trump. One of the biggest obstacles to our country’s progress is the never-ending stranglehold that the two-party system places on our politics. I refuse to kowtow to that system. If one of the major parties puts up a candidate whom I can actually vote for, then I have no problem voting for that person (and hence, that party). But if there is someone else on the ballot with whom I feel more political affinity, then I am going to vote for that person, regardless of party.

Sec. Clinton doesn’t get my vote simply because I’m not a Republican. She has to earn my vote by speaking to my issues in a way that is powerful and persuasive. Sen. Sanders earned my vote back in March. If he doesn’t win the nomination, then someone else will have to earn my vote in November — the two-party system be damned.

Fighting the Good Fight

One of the critiques you hear about Senator Bernie Sanders is that, while his proposals sound great, there’s no way he’ll be able to pass them through Congress, or as the NY Times recently put it, Bernie is “an idealist brimming with inspirational (if unrealistic) proposals.”

Bernie addresses this critique directly, saying:

No president can do it alone…What this campaign is about is building a political movement which revitalizes American democracy, which brings millions of people together – black and white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American – young and old, men and women, gay and straight, native born and immigrant, people of all religions…When millions of working families stand together, demanding fundamental changes…we have the power to bring about that change.

In other words, the only way to change the system is to start an actual political revolution, one that replaces the same old politicians up and down the ticket with progressive candidates who will fight for the working families of this country.

Is that possible? Maybe.
Is that likely? No.

Which is why many people say the best alternative to the inspirational but unrealistic Sanders is Sec. Hillary Clinton, whom that same NY Times article describes as “an evidence-oriented pragmatist committed to using public authority to solve big problems.”

After all, when you’re talking about a government that oversees a divided populace of more than 300 million people spread across an entire continent, why wouldn’t we prefer an “evidence-oriented pragmatist” over an “unrealistic idealist?” An “evidence-based pragmatist” would be more inclined to find the middle ground between competing ideologies, more open to hearing every side of the argument, and more reasonable when it comes to choosing his or her battles. It just seems much more realistic to elect someone like that and expect that person to at least be able to pass his or her more moderate proposals through Congress.

Unfortunately, we now have six years of evidence to show that “evidence-based pragmatism” is not a successful strategy in Washington D.C. President Obama entered office as a pragmatist, and his actions over the past eight years have supported that claim. He does what he can to move the country in a positive direction, but he doesn’t push too hard to move it too far too fast.

Yes, he passed the Affordable Care Act, but there are still 20 million people without healthcare and a host of issues with the Act itself, and to a large extent, the Act also ensured the financial security of our for-profit healthcare system, the “for-profit” aspect of which is at the heart of everything that is wrong with healthcare in this country.

Yes, he removed the majority of our troops from Afghanistan, but he also reversed his decision to withdraw and will instead leave office with close to 10,000 troops still on the ground in that country (not to mention that “we’re still in combat everyday” in Iraq).

Yes, he passed a massive stimulus bill to get the economy going again, but because he didn’t push for an even bigger bill or follow it up with continued stimulus bills, it eventually became looked upon as a failure, which prevented Washington from even considering the option of increasing domestic investments.

Yes, his administration (eventually) supported legalizing gay marriage (thanks, Joe Biden), but it took a surprise decision from the Supreme Court to actually make it the law of the land.

Yes, his administration has effectively decimated Al Qaeda, but his increased use of military drones has caused the death of hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent civilians, including children, which creates increased hatred for the U.S. throughout the Middle East and serves as a major recruitment tool for ISIS.

On top of all those moderate successes (and moderate failures), President Obama’s legislative successes since the rise of the Tea Party provides very little to crow about.

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from President Obama. There have been very significant and positive changes to this country since he took office in 2008. But because so much of what he accomplished was done by executive order, so much of it can be wiped out with the stroke of a pen. That’s not change we can believe in.

I have no doubt that a President Hillary Clinton would continue with President Obama’s legacy of fighting Congress when she thinks she can win and using executive action when she thinks she can’t, always with her eye on moving America in a more socially progressive and market-oriented direction; in other words, I have no doubt that President Clinton would give us more of the same.

And maybe that’s all we can really hope for right now, and maybe we ought to be glad to get it.

But I’m sorry: that just doesn’t work for me.

Because more of the same means continued stagnation of worker’s incomes, continued shenanigans on Wall Street, continued intransigence on gun control, continued prioritization of the corporate bottom line over the rights and lives of workers and communities, continued commitments to a hawkish foreign policy, and continued increases to our adversarial government.

Sen. Sanders is pushing for something different. He understands that we are at a pivotal moment in our country’s history, and if we don’t change something major about the way we govern this place, then we’ll never be able to address the major challenges facing us as a nation.

Sanders sees those challenges as income inequality, climate change, and campaign finance reform (which is really just a stand-in phrase for “stop having a government of and for millionaires”). Sec. Clinton and President Obama see these challenges as well (or at least, they saw the latter two, and now Sanders is forcing them to see the first one), but they aren’t demanding nearly enough to address any of them.

If President Sanders doesn’t get the political revolution he’s calling for, I have no doubt that he’ll be just as forceful as Sec. Clinton when it comes to fighting Congress on the issues he thinks he can win and using executive action on the ones he thinks he can’t. He’s not going to get rid of any of the advances President Obama made, nor will he fight any less than Clinton to make even more advances when he can.

The difference is that he will be a continued voice for income inequality long after the election is over, a continued voice for taking real action on climate change, and a continued voice for campaign finance reform. He won’t ever stop pushing to enact major and fundamental changes on those issues.

Sec. Clinton, on the other hand, will. She simply will. She’ll “take what she can get,” and then move on to something else. Bernie won’t give up.

And that’s why I won’t give up on him. I will continue to support Sen. Sanders’ campaign until the day he asks me to stop. And I will do so with my voice, with my wallet, and with my vote.

One Vermonter’s View after Super Tuesday

Here’s what the numbers are telling us: Secretary Hillary Clinton demolishes Senator Bernie Sanders when it comes to African-American and Latino voters. According to Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com, Clinton’s worst performance among African-Americans so far was in Oklahoma, where “only” 71% voted for her. In Texas, she defeated Sanders among Hispanics by over 40 points. In a party where the minority vote is absolutely critical to win not only the nomination, but also (via turnout) the general election, it seems as if Clinton is a lock.

It’s tough to dispute that.

It gets even tougher when you consider that the Democratic nominating contest awards delegates on a proportional basis, which means Sanders doesn’t only have to win in more states than Clinton, but he has to win by bigger margins than he is probably capable of.

The only way Sanders wins a significant number of delegates compared to Clinton is if something big changes the dynamics of the race.

The question is: what might that be?

Those on the right would probably argue that Clinton’s biggest potential issue is, as Bernie says, “the damn emails.” As most everyone knows, when Clinton was Secretary of State, she channeled her official email through a private, unsecured server, and some of the emails moving through that private server were classified. If true, Clinton could be indicted and found guilty of mishandling classified information.

But according to MediaMatters, there’s not a whole lot to this particular story that can’t be explained by the media’s need for conservative clickbait. It only has legs because it plays into the right-wing talking point that the Clinton family can’t be trusted. But as the National Law Journal wrote, “It is difficult to find prior cases where the unwise handling of classified information led to a federal indictment.”

So “the damn emails” probably aren’t going to change the dynamic (especially when you add on the fact that Bernie has already said, “Enough with the damn emails!,” signaling that he won’t try to make any hay out of this particular controversy).

What else we got?

The left might argue that Clinton’s biggest potential issue is whatever she said on “the transcripts,” where “the transcripts” is shorthand for Clinton’s apparent ties to (in Bernie’s parlance) the millionaire and billionaire class.

Before she began running for president, Clinton was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to give speeches to a number of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs. The Sanders campaign, as well as the press, including the New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton, is calling for Clinton to release the transcripts of those speeches. Sanders’ supporters suspect that Clinton won’t do so because the transcripts reveal just how much she is in the pocket of those who caused the financial meltdown. According to a report in Politico, that suspicion may be true.

But even if it is true, even if the transcripts show her to be “so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now…more like a Goldman Sachs managing director,” would that be enough to change her appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters? Frankly, I don’t think so. She’s winning by such large margins among those groups that even if the transcripts were a deal breaker for a number of them, the number probably won’t be big enough to swing the election.

Which leaves Sanders with…what?

The only other thing I can think of (outside of some major surprise, such as the mainstream revelation that both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are widely reported to have visited the private island of a man who is now being charged with keeping underage sex slaves on that island)…outside of something tawdry like that, the only thing I can think of that might change the dynamic of the race is Donald Trump himself.

It’s safe to say that Trump is going to win the Republican nomination: Kasich and Carson are also-rans, and Cruz and Rubio are both too self-involved to sacrifice their campaigns for the good of their party, which means they’ll all keep splitting the anti-Trump vote just long enough for him to win the nomination. Trump will have the whole thing wrapped up by mid-March (unless by some miracle, Rubio chooses to drop out later today, which he won’t do).

The Democrats, however, could be fighting for the nomination until at least May, and Sanders has already vowed that he won’t drop out until all 50 states have voted. That would give Trump a solid two or three months when the only person he has to campaign against is Hillary Clinton, while Clinton will still have to be defending her left flank against Sanders. Those months will give the Democratic electorate a chance to see how Trump plans to go after Clinton, and to decide whether they think her questionable skills as a candidate are up to the challenge.

The New York Times recently put together a graphic showing the differences between Sanders’ and Clinton’s core voters. It reveals, among other things, that Clinton gets voters based on the idea that she “can win.” But if Trump runs as masterfully a tuned campaign as he has throughout the Republican primary, the idea that Clinton “can win” against Trump might start to erode, especially since it’s clear that Trump is going to have a field day with all the skeletons in the Clinton closet.

Sanders, on the other hand, gets voters based on being “honest and trustworthy.” This is a man who has the highest approval ratings in the Senate, as well as the highest “favorable” and lowest “unfavorable” ratings among all the candidates (for what it’s worth, Clinton has the highest unfavorable ratings among all candidates). What this means is that people generally like the guy, and they trust what he says and why he says it. He basically doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet either (we would have heard about them by now).

In essentially every poll, Sanders does much better against Trump than Clinton does. Her unfavorability ratings are a real thing. We all know people who absolutely refuse to vote for her, for whatever reason (and yes, some of those reasons are absolutely sexist, but not all of them are). These are people who would vote for a Democrat, but they will not vote for Hillary Clinton.

What’s more, all of those reasons they won’t vote for her are going to trumpeted near and far by the Donald, and not just in September and October, but starting immediately after he wraps up the nomination, which will be in about two weeks.

That will give Democrats who have yet to vote in the primaries the chance to decide whether Trump’s juvenile tactics will actually do real and lasting damage to Clinton’s electability. If Democrats start to question whether Clinton “can win,” then maybe, just maybe, they’ll be smart enough to nominate Sanders.

But that’s an awfully big “if”.

Haikus #9 – #15

married bickering
“stop killing each other, guys”
two years old, but knows

mama dives headfirst
long legs and slender torso
she pops: “did I splash?”

we vacuum the house
spider webs sucked down the hose
‘rachnid tilt-a-whirl

ninety-degree day
find me a place with AC
we’re museum bound

eleven red fools
sharing their bankrupt ideas
three hours, no hope

Thursday afternoon
the river is cold and fresh
not a bad workday

she lets go the kite
middle-aged man gives it chase
the string lifts: bye kite

Haiku #8


spilt your dreams on me
can’t look you in the eyes now
turn on the tv

Haiku #7


“it’s your turn to speak”
scared smile shaky hands flushed cheeks
scared shitless: still speaks

Haiku #6


“look at me, dada!”
her little face dunks in lake
“i’m brave” — she’s so brave