West Nottingham teacher attends DNC convention
— A county teacher has taken several steps into the political realm this year, culminating last week in a trip to the Democratic National Convention to serve as a delegate for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Connor Callahan, who teaches math at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, returned recently from the Philadelphia convention with an enhanced perspective on the country’s political climate.
In short, Callahan said he finds faults with the established Republican and Democratic ideologies, both of which have been challenged this election season by high-powered populist movements.
“If both parties want to remain relevant, to not be totally obliterated, they’re going to have to change a little bit,” he said Tuesday.
Callahan felt inspired to make his foray into politics early in 2015, when Sanders announced his candidacy. Though the 2014 graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis had a scant political resume to that point, he felt Sanders’s platform most closely resembled his own. He felt encouraged to get involved.
“I thought, ‘Hey, here’s a guy who really represents my views on a lot of issues,’” he said, referencing aims such as free college tuition and the expansion of social programs like Medicare, the Affordable Care Act and Social Security.
When he found that the Sanders campaign was calling for supporters to run as DNC delegates, he applied. Several months later, he saw his name on the primary ballot. And then he won.
But, as is now old news, Sanders was not elected the Democratic presidential nominee — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was — and that’s prompted questions about how Sanders supporters will vote in the general election.
According to the majority of recent national polls, Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump sit within several percentage
Wolfe Nelson, Graham Gallagher and Connor Callahan, all graduates of St. John’s College in 2014, stand together during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
points of each other, with many reporting a marginal lead for Clinton — one that could potentially evaporate without support from Sanders’s followers.
Callahan said he believes in voting for the Democratic nominee, though he hesitates to call himself a Clinton supporter. He added that he’s hoping to contact other progressive Democrats he’s met in the county and hash out these thoughts.
“There is a thought that [Sanders supporters] are going to go Green or Libertarian, and I understand why they’d feel that impulse,” he said. “They feel like they’re always being told to choose the lesser of two evils.”
But Callahan doesn’t quite see it that way. Rather, he views it as a responsibility to give Clinton the vote and hold her accountable if she wins the presidency. The surprising popularity of Sanders’s “democratic socialism,” especially with Millennial voters, has shifted Clinton’s platform toward the progressive, and Callahan wants to make
sure she follows through on past statements.
He noted as an example her adversarial position to the 2010 Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not limit corporations’ political spending in candidate elections.
And some of the work Callahan expects Clinton to accomplish runs parallel to that of her party at large.
“[The Democratic Party] has a lot of work to do to bring people back into its fold,” he said. “It has a lot to do to bring back in special interest groups it’s taken for granted.”
Until that happens, he’ll Connor Callahan (left) stands with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Graham Gallagher, a fellow graduate of St. John’s College, outside the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. be doing what he can to push for change. He said he wouldn’t rule out running for elected office in the future, though it’s not high on his priority list right now.
“Part of what I’ve come to understand is that local politics is where it all starts,” Callahan said. “I’m most ex- cited to see how Sanders’s momentum keeps going in the future.”
Connor Callahan sits for a Maryland delegates breakfast at the Inn at Penn.