I know, I know. I promised I’d write about Disneyland this week.
But first, like everyone else on the planet, I want to talk about Pete Buttigieg. Or ‘Mayor Pete’ as he seems to be quite wisely branding himself.
A month or so back I wrote that we are living in an Assholistocracy. That is, a world governed and controlled by unredeemable assholes, all trying to out-asshole each other in order to appeal to a small but vocal asshole sector of the electorate.
Then, two weeks ago, I wrote about the decline in popularity of religion, which is being replaced by the twin pseudo-religious concepts of “wellness” and “spirituality.” All the ritual and sense of belonging but none of the stigma of God as interpreted by right wing bigots and evangelical hypocrites.
Implicit in both of those posts were a couple of questions: Is the assholishness trend, on a national and global level, irreversible. Even if, individually, we all try our best not to be assholes, is the world on an inexorable path towards more divisiveness, selfishness, and assholishness?
Enter stage center-left, Mayor Pete who – in a single candidate – gives me hope that the answer to both questions could be “no.”
Now. Let me start with the caveat that, having not yet been vetted on the national stage, Pete Buttigieg (Boot-Edge-Edge) may yet turn out to be a serial killer, a liar, or – I dunno – a secret Republican. He is a politician, after all. I also know better than to place my hope in any white dude who craves high office: That really hasn’t worked well in the past. But for the sake of this one newsletter, allow me to embrace optimism over experience.
Let me also say that, in a right and proper world, the democratic nominee would be someone like Stacy Abrahams or Elizabeth Warren; that is, either a true breath of progressive fresh air or an experienced policy wonk unafraid to take on Trump on his own terms. And also a woman. Unfortunately, as previously stated, we live in an assholistocracy. And, in an assholistocracy, even woke democrats seem hell-bent on nominating a white dude. It’s insane, but apparently it’s also America.
So, as recently as last month, with creepy Joe, brocialist Bernie, and mopey Beto the three front-running candidates for the role of Chosen Democratic Dude, I was mentally preparing for four-to-eight more years of yelling and gaffes and bombast and bluster and bullshit, regardless of which party won in 2020.
And then, out of a clear blue sky, came Mayor Pete who, according to the most recent polling out of Iowa and New Hampshire has leapt into third place behind Bernie and Biden, leaving Beto in the dust.
If the democrats will insist on nominating a dude, it’s hard to imagine one who’s a more perfect antidote to the Assholistocracy, or a better response to the bastardisation of religion (and specifically Christianity) by bigots and frauds like Mike Pence than Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg clearly realizes this. That’s why he’s cleverly chosen Pence, not Trump, as the foil to his message that you can – gasp – be patriotic (a navy veteran of Afghanistan) and religious (a Catholic-turned-Episcopalian, who cites Jesuits as his biggest influences) without being a total fucking wanker. Moreover that it’s possible to be religious and well-read, religious and honest, religious and uncreepy, religious and… well… every single thing that Mike Pence isn’t.
It helps that Buttigieg is also the kind of Obama-esque born-for-primetime candidate whose rhetorical abilities leave his rivals in the dust. If we must have a white guy as the Democrat candidate, then please God let it be someone who says things like “If you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Let it also be someone whose personal biography reads like a list of things Donald Trump would/could never do in a million years. Things like…
…Speaking eight languages (and teaching himself Norwegian so he could read his favorite un-translated author)
….Playing guitar and piano (including with Ben Folds, and the South Bend Symphony Orchestra
…Serving in the military, and actually seeing combat
…Rescuing two dogs, or really doing anything at all to help any living thing
And let it be a non-asshole with many of the right policy ideas. Ideas which (per PBS) include supporting labor and DACA immigrants, identifying climate change as a national security threat, implementing deep background checks for gun ownership and a single payer system for healthcare.
And let it be a non-asshole who might also be able to reclaim Jesus from fucking nutjobs like Mike Pence and in doing so force Trump’s evangelical base to own their own bigotry and hatred.
If that non-asshole candidate also happens to be our first openly gay** president then, heck, isn’t that just the icing on the cake?
Does Buttigieg really have a shot at victory, in the primaries let alone the general? Was President Obama right when he described Buttigieg (and Kamala Harris) as “the future of the democratic party” way back in 2016? Is America really ready to elect a man called “Buttiegieg”? And, more seriously, how will America’s first openly gay presidential candidate fare against America’s deep-rooted homophobia? (Because make no mistake, Democratic voters just as capable of bigotry – especially in the form of unconscious bias – as their Republican neighbors.)
I have absolutely no idea the answer to those questions. Not least because in an assholistocracy nobody knows anything. I also don’t know if, strategically speaking, Buttiegieg would make a better VP candidate with a more experienced woman at the top of the ticket.
Here’s what I do know: Even though as a green card holder I can’t actually vote for the next president, I will still have to spend four to eight years explaining him or her to Eli and Evie as he or she either continues to divide the country or tries to repair the damage done by Donald Trump. For that reason – and if the polling is correct and Democrats stubbornly refuse to pick a woman – I desperately need there to be at least one non-asshole candidate with a shot at the nomination.
Right now, Mayor Pete seems like our best hope of ending the Assholistocracy. Please God.
* Fun fact: In 2000, Buttiegieg won the Kennedy Profile In Courage high school essay contest with an essay praising Bernie Sanders. Nobody’s perfect.
** I don’t know about you, but I find the phrase ‘openly gay’ incredibly jarring. I understand the implication: That perhaps previous presidents were gay, but secretly so. But it also has a weirdly seedy undercurrent: A self-confessed homosexual! Can we imagine a news organization describing a candidate as ‘openly straight’? Or am I overthinking things?