Wednesday, April 3, 2019

We don't need Mr. Nice Guy

Why You Love Mayor Pete

David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

Okay. like most Americans, I do not love "Mayor Pete." Like most of us, I know very little about Pete Buttigieg. He seems like a good enough fella, but I certainly don't know enough about him to either love or hate him. I can't honestly say that I like or dislike him. Once again, Mr. Brooks, you have your finger on the very pulse of the American electorate!

Pete Buttigieg has some kind of magic right now. His campaign bio, “Shortest Way Home,” was the 25th-best-selling book on Amazon when I checked on Monday. That put him just a few dozen places behind Michelle Obama

Twenty-Fifth. That puts him just slightly more than TWO dozen places behind Michelle Obama. Not a few. A dozen is twelve. Twenty five is two dozen plus one place. It's probably not an important point, but for God's sake, man, you're a professional writer!

In a recent Iowa poll he surged to third place

Oh my God, how long have you been doing this? How long have you been following campaigns, and you think that a poll taken a year before the Iowa caucus means anything? You know that in October 2011 Herman God Damn Cain was leading the polls in Iowa? Five months before that, Michele Bachmann was neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney with Cain a respectable third. Do you have fond memories of the Cain Administration? Are you at all nostalgic for the Bachmann presidency? "mayor Pete" is the flavor of the month. He's the guy that Iowa voters have just now heard of, so he's the name that pops into their heads when they are asked for the millionth fucking time who they're planning on voting for. It means nothing. You have to know this.

His campaign just announced that it’s raised an impressive $7 million since January.

Oh. That is impressive. I mean, Kamala Harris has raised $12 million. Bernie Sanders has raised $18 million, but obviously, Buttigieg's whopping 7 proves that he is the candidate America loves!

And I can’t tell you how many Democrats in places as diverse as Nebraska, Indiana, New York and Washington have come up to me over the last few weeks raving about the guy. 

Presumably these are the same rugged blue-collar guys tearfully hugging Cheeto Mussolini, thanking him for saving their coal mines or steel mills. You know, those guys who don't exist and are totally made up.
I mean, imagine you're some Democratic guy or gal in Nebraska or Indiana, just minding your own business, going about your day when suddenly you spy a familiar face. "Why, Maude, I do believe that's New York Times columnist David Brooks over there, I just gotta go over to him and tell him how excited I am about this mayor what's-his-name than I only heard of for the first time yesterday!" Because there's nothing that Midwestern Democrats enjoy more than wealthy conservative New Yorkers who like to pretend they understand the "common folk."

This is the biggest star-is-born moment since Lady Gaga started singing “Shallow.”

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Oh. . . don't. Don't try to be "hep" and "with it."
Honestly, it's just. . . sad.

Anyway, now that you've clearly established that we DO, in fact,looooove Mayor Pete, perhaps you'd care to explain to us WHY we love him so.

Why are people so in love with the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who almost nobody had heard of until he did a CNN town hall on March 10?
It’s important to remember that when Democrats vote next year, they’ll not only be choosing a policy alternative to Donald Trump, they’ll also be making a statement about what kind of country they want America to be.

Yeah. Like every Presidential election.

The Trump era has been all about dissolving moral norms and waging vicious attacks. This has been an era of culture war, class warfare and identity politics. It’s been an era in which call-out culture, reality TV melodrama and tribal grandstanding have overshadowed policymaking and the challenges of actually governing.
The Buttigieg surge suggests that there are a lot of Democrats who want to say goodbye to all that. They don’t want to fight fire and divisiveness with more fire and divisiveness. They don’t want to fight white identity politics with another kind of identity politics.

They want to lose.

They are sick of the moral melodrama altogether. They just want a person who is more about governing than virtue-signaling, more about friendliness and basic decency than media circus and rhetorical war.

Hmm, that sounds familiar. . . almost as if maybe that kind of candidate may have been seen before. . .
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Yeah, playing nice sounds like a sure-fire formula for success!

Buttigieg’s secret is that he transcends many of the tensions that run through our society in a way that makes people on all sides feel comfortable.

So does chicken soup. Being inoffensive to people on "all sides" requires being dull, unremarkable and unmemorable, inspiring no one. You can't excite your base while not offending your opponents.

First, he is young and represents the rising generation, but he is also an older person’s idea of what a young person should be. 

Yeah, that's not a compliment.
"Buttigieg has a tidy appearance, defers to his elders and isn't crazy about the blacks!"
Also, I'm pretty sure most older people's idea of what a young man should be does not include the phrase "married to another man."

He’d be the first millennial president, but Buttigieg doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes that have been affixed to America’s young people.

Well, neither do most of America's young people, but that doesn't stop New York Times columnists from affixing those stereotypes to them.

Young people are supposed to be woke social justice warriors who are disgusted by their elders. Buttigieg is the model young man who made his way impressing his elders — Harvard, Rhodes scholar, McKinsey, the Navy.

Ah, yes. We can all identify with the Rhodes scholar from Harvard who worked for a management strategy consulting firm.
But seriously, you say "woke social justice warrior" as if that were a foolish and ridiculous thing to be, but that term would perfectly describe historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Gandhi. I don't get why the idea of fighting for social justice is supposed to worthy of ridicule such that the term "SJW" is supposed to be widely assumed to be an insult. I'm no milenial, but I have a hell of a lot more respect for someone who fights for social justice than a Harvard boy who chose to fight in Afghanistan.

Young hipsters are supposed to flock to coastal places like Brooklyn and Portland; after college, Buttigieg returned to Indiana.

Yes. All people under 40 live in Portland or Brooklyn. There are no hipster coffee shops or nightclubs or art spaces in Indianapolis. I live in Atlanta and I have never seen anyone under 30.

Young people are supposed to be anti-institutional, but Buttigieg is very institutional — his life has been defined by his service to organizations, not his rebellion against them.

Ooooh. Service to organizations! That'll get the voters excited!Hey, you know who else dedicated their adult lives to service to organizations?

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Second, he is gay and personifies the progress made by the L.G.B.T.Q. movement, but he doesn't do so in a way that feels threatening or transgressive to social conservatives.

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Are you serious?

His very existence feels threatening and transgressive to "social conservatives!"
Do you think that there are some Pat Robertson-watching, Rush Limbaugh-listening Red State-reading Bible thumpers out there who are looking at Mayor Pete and thinking "well, he's not real, ya know, flamboyant about it. He doesn't dress like a Village Person, I guess he's okay?" You think that "social conservatives" who vote on abortion, anti-gay rights, guns, and abortion again, are going to vote for a  pro-choice gay Democrat because he's not, you know TOO gay?

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My religion-based homophobia will not allow me to vote for a "Jack," but a "Will?" Why not?

He has conservative family values; it’s just that his spouse is a husband, not a wife. 

Yeah, that's. . . do you even know what people mean when they say "conservative family values?" They mean "not gay." Do you think they look at the thrice-married serial adulterer in the White House and thought "hey, that's not family values! That's not what the Bible says at all!" No, they said "all three of his wives have vaginas, right? And all the women he had affairs with? And all the women he sexually assaulted? And all the underage girls whose dressing rooms he barged into? They're all biologically female, right? Yeah? Okay, he's good."
Saying he has conservative family values except that his spouse is a man is like saying he's a vegetarian, except instead of vegetables he eats cheeseburgers. It means you have no concept of the meaning of the term.

He speaks comfortably about his faith and says that when he goes to church he prefers a conservative liturgy to anything experimental.

Yeah, you know who's a good churchgoing family man? Barack Obama. You know who absolutely is fucking not? Donald Trump. Which one did the "social conservatives" vote for again? And which one did they say might be the actual literal antichrist? I forget.

Oh, right.

 Social conservatives will always - always - vote for the candidate with the (R) after his name. If St Peter ran as a Democrat with the Virgin Mary as his running mate, they would vote for the Republican. These are not people who can be reasoned with. No Democrat is ever going to attract the religious right vote. And shouldn't. They're terrible and they want terrible policies. Also, it's a fool's errand. Anything  a democratic candidate does to try to appeal to "social conservatives" will not only net zero "social conservative" votes, it will alienate the Democratic base.

Third, he is a localist and a Washington outsider, but he carries no populist resentment and can easily speak the language of the coastal elite.

Oh, yeah. People hate populist resentment. I mean, it's not like populist resentment was a winning strategy for the current president or anyth. . .oh, right!

You know, or you would know if you ever got out of your NY/DC bubble, people are angry. People are pissed off about the current state of affairs. Especially the milenials who followed the sage advice of the establishment and took on thousands of dollars in debt to pay for college only to find that there are no jobs for them.
People are angry that home ownership has become a luxury for the elite that working stiffs can no longer reasonably aspire to. And that retirement is fast becoming another thing that their parents took for granted but could be a pipe dream for them.
And people are angry that they can't afford medicine. And that even the relatively weak tea of Obamacare has been sabotaged at every step by Republicans who now want to gut Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the millionaires.
People are furious when they see a company like Sears closing down stores, laying off employees, then getting the okay from the courts to pay out obscene bonuses to the executives who destroyed the company, then turn around and cancel retired employees' life insurance.

If the Dem nominee doesn't bring some goddamm populist resentment, we're gonna get 4 more years of the Turd Reich.

Buttigieg has spent his political career in Indiana, where pols are expected to go to county fairs and eat the catfish fillet and cheesecake on a stick. He wasn’t alive when the Studebaker plant shut down in South Bend, but he has the trauma of Midwestern deindustrialization in his bones. He lives in a house near his mother where the mortgage comes to about $450 a month. On the other hand, he was friends with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, earned a first at Oxford and thrived as a corporate consultant.

Yeah, everybody hates Mark Zuckerberg. And everyone hates corporate consultants. You really have no idea how normal people think, do you? If you didn't spend your time at Georgetown cocktail parties with corporate consultants,, tech billionaires and the people who rely on "contributions" from corporate consultants and tech billionaires you'd understand that normal people don't see "I was friends with Mark Zuckerberg" as a selling pont.

Finally, he’s a progressive on policy issues, but he doesn’t sound like an angry revolutionary.

he's not, though. He doesn't support single-payer healthcare, He's proposing something called "All-payer rate setting" which leaves Americans' healthcare in the hands of private for-profit insurance companies. He's for universal background checks but not as assault weapons ban.

"We had an assault weapons ban in this country in the '90s. I would like to see more research on the effect it had. . . Somewhere between a slingshot and a nuclear weapon, we’ve decided that the American people would draw a line. Whether, for example, an AR-15 is on this side or that side of the line, I’m skeptical that it belongs in our neighborhoods in peacetime, but let’s at least have a healthy national debate about what’s best for keeping our families, our homes, and our schools safe."

So that means nothing. We don't need to have a "healthy national debate" about assault weapons. We know what those weapons do. WE don't need "more research" on the effectiveness of the ban. We need to ban assault weapons.

And his prescription for dealing with the climate emergency is weak as hell:

 He supports every U.S. house becoming “net zero” consumer of energy, and is in favor of the government subsidizing solar panels. 

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Finally, he’s a progressive on policy issues, but he doesn’t sound like an angry revolutionary. Buttigieg’s policy positions are not all that different from the more identifiable leftist candidates. But he eschews grand ideological conflict.

Yeah, well guess what. We are currently, as we speak, at this moment in history, IN a grand ideological conflict. This is like the 1930s with hard right reractionary governments taking power in places like Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, Hungary. And with the US President openly admiring of them. The US is currently trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela and install a far-right usurper. In our own country, racism and hate crimes have risen alarmingly in the last two years, we have a president who encourages violence against his enemies, and the extreme religious right is packing the courts with monsters who will be deciding policy for a generation. This is no time to try and make friends across the aisle. These people need to be defeated and sent to the dustbin of history where they belong. And playing nice is not going to do it.