Clinton and Sanders and the End of the Road

So let’s talk about last night.

1. First and most obviously, Clinton had the night she needed last night: Decisive victories in the two largest states, New Jersey and California, wins in New Mexico and South Dakota, and a close loss in Montana that netted Sanders a single delegate. Sanders only blew out Clinton in North Dakota (a caucus, his favorite). Clinton ended the night netting two more states, 89 more pledged delegates and roughly 650,000 more votes than Sanders. She didn’t just run out the clock on Sanders, fending him off as he ate into her margin in a surge of populist enthusiasm, she legged on him, expanding her already sizable leads in every category. She won walking away, and is the nominee. Yes, there is one more primary (District of Columbia) next week, but it doesn’t really matter (and Clinton’s gonna win it anyway). Clinton won.

2. Conversely, Sanders lost, and he lost both convincingly and in a way that kicks the legs out of any cogent argument that he has for moving forward. The Sanders folks had pushed their chips on California, hoping a victory there would justify him taking his campaign to the convention. But in the end he was 13 points and over 400,000 voters behind. California didn’t deliver, and because it didn’t, he’s done. Sanders took to a stage last night and vowed he wasn’t done yet, but at this point it’s not really up to him. The Clinton train has left the station and he’s still on the platform, holding his hat.

3. Which I understand is hard for Sanders and many of his supporters to deal with, but I have to confess at this point I’m finding it difficult to be overtly sympathetic. My own politics lie ever so slightly more with Sanders than with Clinton, and had he prevailed over Clinton, I would have happily voted for him in the general over any of the candidates the GOP had in their field this year. For all that, it’s been clear to me since New York at least that Sanders wasn’t going to take the nomination from Clinton. The existential threat of President Trump is enough that I’ve been impatient to get to last night so everyone could stop politely pretending Sanders had some sort of shot at this and focus on stuffing Trump into a dark hole, electionwise.

I mean, yes, Sanders supporters, I get many of you are upset and even grieving about Sanders missing his chance. Sorry about that. Take a few days! It’s okay. But after those few days are over if you’re still trying to find some way for Sanders to win — or less charitably, trying to find some way to punish Hillary Clinton for the heinous crime of having won more states, more pledged delegates and more actual votes than Bernie Sanders — then you should really be asking yourself if you’re letting your own definition of perfect become the enemy of the entire world not becoming a rampaging goddamn trash fire, because that’s really the other option at this point.

This is not to say I don’t expect a certain percentage of Sanders fans to spin off and possibly join the Greens (who are openly trying to reel them in) or, somewhat less congruously, the Libertarians, or whomever, or just sit out in a huff. It’s a nice exercise of one’s privilege to do each of those things. But from my point of view, here’s the thing: Donald Trump is manifestly the worst and least-prepared major presidential candidate in modern history, and unlike some previous GOP presidents who come to mind, he’s not nearly tractable enough to be managed by a cadre of presumably more-engaged minders. He’s the walking manifestation of Dunning-Kruger, a racist and an increasingly-dangerous blowhard, and the fact the GOP is under the delusion they’re going to somehow keep him in line should fill every thinking human with terror (the GOP doesn’t really think they’ll be able to keep him in line, incidentally. They just need to convince you they can do it). As a practical matter, if you don’t want a President Trump — and I don’t — then Clinton’s your gal.

And, yes! It sucks that because the GOP has let a genuinely appalling human become its nominee, you might be called upon to be responsible for the welfare of the entire planet, and vote more practically and responsibly than the GOP did this year. But it really has come to that. I know many of you Sanders supporters will have rationalizations how this isn’t the case, but: Nope! It really is. Get your shit together, folks. It’s actually important.

4. Likewise, this week Sanders gets to show us whether he’s interested in implementing his actual ideals, or is just in it for his own bit of glory. Bluntly: Sanders is never going to be president, ever, so he can either help Clinton (and help save the world from Trump), or he can stay in her way. If he helps her, he’s got a good chance of pushing his ideas further into the working DNA of the Democratic party. Which I suspect will be good for the party in the long term, given Sanders’ popularity with younger voters. He can be the progressive Moses — maybe not getting to the promised land himself, but getting his people there.

If he doesn’t help Clinton, and she wins anyway, then both he and his agenda are done, because you don’t reward the people who fuck with you. If he doesn’t help Clinton and she loses, well. I’m not pegging Trump and the GOP as being on board with Sanders’ progressive agenda, you know? And while I know there are some people who believe things like “Four years of Trump is just what we need to bring on the revolution!” those people are wrong, and assholes besides.

If Sanders is smart, then sometime soon — I expect not too long after his meeting with President Obama on Thursday — he’s going to pack it in, endorse Clinton and get to work helping to get her elected. This would be, incidentally, pretty much what Clinton did in 2008, and her getting with the program has obviously paid its dividends. Sanders won’t get the exact same dividends — he won’t be the nominee in 2024, for example. But there will be a lot he will be able to do, if he wants. Or, you know, he can decide not to. And we’ll see where that gets him, and us.

5. Yes, yes, Scalzi, but what do you think of Clinton? Leaving aside the obvious historical aspects of her candidacy, which are really cool and probably deserving of their own entry at some point, I’m very okay with her. I understand a lot of people feel negatively toward her, with the range going from “mild dislike” to “fervent loathing,” but I’ve never been one, and the idea that she’s somehow corrupt doesn’t really seem to have panned out to any great extent, now, has it? We’ve had Clinton under the microscope for a quarter of a century, and either she’s innocent of all the crimes to which she’s been accused, or she’s such a genius at exploiting the legal and governmental levers of this nation that, honestly, it’s a miracle she wasn’t made dictator for life decades ago. Her only real “crime,” if you want to call it that, was marrying Bill Clinton, who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and made everyone’s life miserable because of it, and then staying married to him despite it all. But, hey! Maybe she loves him.

Otherwise, we have a presidential candidate who has been a senator, a Secretary of State, a first lady and a first-hand observer of the politics in America for four decades. She’s had amazing successes and crushing failures. She’s smart and flawed and savvy and a politician and she’s neither as inspiring as her most fervent supporters want her to be nor as terrible as her most hateful opponents want us to believe she is. I don’t support everything she’s ever said or done but most of what she supports I can get behind. She’s not perfect! But neither am I. She is good enough on her own terms to get my vote for president.

And this year, also: Jesus fucking Christ, the GOP is nominating Donald Trump. I would vote a lukewarm bowl of soup into the White House before Donald Trump. Every day of the week and twice on Sunday (were it allowed by the Constitution, which it is not). So while I would be perfectly happy to vote for Clinton in most scenarios anyway, given her major opponent this year, voting for Clinton is in my opinion not only a perfectly good choice but also a moral necessity. Welcome to 2016! And since I live in Ohio — one of the vaunted “swing states” — my vote may actually help push the state toward electoral sanity. I’m perfectly all right with this.

So, yeah. As they say: I’m with her.

The Big Idea: Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

For today’s Big Idea, Na’amen Gobert Tilahun looked at how people like him are imagined to be, and for his novel The Root, how to make positive the qualities that are often perceived by others to be negatives.

NA’AMEN GOBERT TILAHUN:

A lot of the plot ideas in The Root are actually smaller ideas that become bigger and more expansive in the second and third books of the trilogy. Some deal with family or religion or betrayal or all three. I was struggling to decide which to talk about when I realized that with most of them it would difficult if not impossible to avoid spoilers. So I thought back to the ideas that got me writing The Root in the first place, the two ideas I thought were small and the idea that joined them together. In The Root many of the characters get a few scenes from their point of view, but the two main characters are definitely Errikos Sabastian Allan and Lilliana Blackthorn Johns, or Erik and Lil for short. Both of them started as a bare sketch, a broad idea for a character in response to something.

I’ve been a large black man all of my life and I’ve experienced the fear and suspicion that comes along with that. I’ve had people clutch their bags at the sight of me, tell me seats were taken when they were later given away, even cross the street to get away from me. These are just a few of the assumptions of anger and violence that I experience every single day. One day I thought: What if I wrote a black man whose power came from his anger? What if that angry black man was one of the heroes of the story? What if that angry black man was shown to be so much more than his anger? What if he was allowed to be smart and noble and vulnerable and all the things a hero should be? What would that character look like?

For me, it turned out to look like Erik. Writing him proved difficult because we have so much of the experience of a black man in America in common,, but in other aspects we are completely different. I often found myself having to go back and correct the story so that he would act in a way that was about what Erik would do in that situation, not what I would do. I hadn’t anticipated this problem but I should have, because not only was I crafting a character similar to me but also the kind of character I wanted to see more of as a reader. I also had to resist the urge to make him the perfect hero, because I had been so in need of characters like this. I wanted him to be everything to everyone which is impossible. I had to remember I didn’t want an idealized protagonist, I wanted a real one who was nuanced and could allow people to see him as a fully human person, deserving of all the respect that entails.

I’ve never been a black woman but I have spent most of my life around them as mothers, sisters, friends and cousins, as family who I loved and cared for and an intrinsic part of my community. I’ve also seen them called loud, obnoxious, ugly, stupid and far darker things. Black woman are not respected by our society at all, I’ve watched what we say they are in our media, how we erase them from history, how we ignore the things they contribute to society. And I thought: What if the black woman’s very power lay in her voice? What if you could not silence her no matter what? What if by voice I didn’t just focus on physical voice but also on the way she walked in the world, the things she thought were right, and would not be silent about? What if what she wanted more than anything was the truth? What would she do for it?

And so Lil was born. Writing Lil was challenging for different reasons than Erik. Unlike Erik, when the book opens she still has some bit of innocence left, she clings to her belief in certain people. I knew the first book was going to be a hard road for her because seeing someone lose that belief?

It’s rough.

Both of my characters would have hard journeys because they were trying to save two worlds and that’s no easy task. However, Lil’s story had to be even more nuanced than Erik’s because of my lack of personal experience with that identity. I wanted to show the way she’s dismissed as so many women of color are, her intentions misconstrued, her protestations ignored. I wanted to show Lil’s strength, not some mythical black woman strength that meant she didn’t get hurt or could take more punishment because of her black womanhood, but the strength in knowing what she was doing was right. I had to show this without slipping into any of the tropes and horrors that follow the depictions of black women in our society. I didn’t want Lil’s story or pain to feel exotified of exploitative and the stories told and revered in our society encourage us to use women’s pain as window dressing, as something to spice up a tale. Luckily I have my friends to look to, all the black women in my life that counter this message simply by existing and telling their own stories.

Once I had the ideas for both of these characters the rest of the story began to grow out from them. I didn’t have everything worked out yet but I knew that these two characters, all too rare in speculative fiction for being black and queer and three-dimensional, would be the center of the story I was telling. Then around these two ideas/characters developed another big idea like some delicious flaky crust. These two characters, these reactions to real life stereotypes could and would exist between the covers of an adventurous, fantasy story that was not solely focused on their identity.

Maybe that’s why at first I didn’t think of these things as big ideas. First because it was born of all these smaller ideas coming together to form a story and secondly it’s what I’ve always wanted to write. For Lil and Erik, their pasts affect them and influence their decisions as with any good character, but their identities, the colors of their skin, their sexualities are not all that they are by any means. I wanted to see people like me and my friends concerned with surviving, with fighting bad guys, with saving the world, with falling in love, with living through an urban fantasy landscape that all too often didn’t look urban at all.

I sometimes still hesitate to call that a Big Idea because it seems so obvious to me but from a lot of the reactions I’ve gotten – the anger AND the thankfulness it seems like it’s more of a big idea than I ever thought.

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The Root: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.