I love to watch reruns of the television show The West Wing. While it skews to the left, I think Sorkin et al did a pretty fair job of portraying Republican principles without TOO much rancor. But The West Wing went off the air in 2006 and that is a lifetime in politics.
When the show was introduced, Pete Buttigieg was a junior at St Joseph’s High School in South Bend. When the show went off the air, he was finishing up post-graduate work at Oxford (after graduating from Harvard University. He spent three years with McKinsey Consulting (mostly consulting for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the US Postal Service, and Best Buy) then, at the ripe old age of 28, he pursued elected office. Along the way, he earned a commission in the US Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer.
Is it any wonder that Pete Buttigieg followed The West Wing model of career building in pursuit of the Presidency?
While I think Bloomberg’s gambit will have him standing on the debate stage against President Trump, Curt Mills at The American Conservative thinks the center-left Democratic establishment has found its man in Mayor Pete:
But he wasn’t one of them. As liberal historian Thomas Frank notes, the unspoken credo of the Democratic Party’s establishment today is simple: education and the meritocracy. Bill Clinton vaulted from white trash to the White House; in the back of his mind, he always thanked Georgetown, Yale, and the Rhodes program for rescuing a kid from Hope. And Obama ascended through Columbia, Harvard, a blue-chip law firm, and U Chicago on a journey of personal clarification before writing The Audacity of Hope.
1- youthful? Check
2- identity polics? Check
3- elite education? Indeed. Check.
4- private sector experience? Kind of, telling other people what to do with their business but… Check
5- war hero? He deployed to Afgahanistan. Check.
Mills states that the goal is to stop Crazy Uncle Josef- I mean, Crazy Bernie:
Sanders is the candidate of those who have fallen out of the middle class. Buttigieg, though he would decidedly be the most liberal candidate to win the Democratic nomination in at least a generation, is nonetheless the avatar of the arrived, those who feel America is, in some way, still working. This is, of course, an interesting sentiment for anyone who witnessed the scene at Cedar Rapids Monday night
That’s the trick. The West Wing pitched the idea that 20th-century America still works. It was nostalgic in its high-minded, idealistic portrayal of DC; a celebration of a time when the swamp wasn’t so murky. Forget that China cheats on its trade agreements; free trade (as a principle) uplifts everyone from poverty (not untrue when all play fair). Forget that while Biden was telling coal miners to learn coding, that there were few if any tech jobs in West Virginia. The American elite have reconciled themselves ot the fact that 20% of the American population will be systemically dependent on government largesse and that most of that bill can be passed onto the middle-class… IF they can sell that 20th-century lie to the American voters.
Mills sums it up best:
That doesn’t mean it won’t work. But it will be extraordinary to watch. Buttigieg is Barack Obama without the charm, the youthful visage of the technocratic elite, even as technocracy melts down (on live TV, if the caucus room floor is any evidence). He offers the audacity of hope with little audacity and only a perfunctory pretense of hope. “Something is stirring in America,” Buttigieg tweeted Tuesday in a remark that could have been made in any year. “I believe in American unity. I believe in American boldness,” he said this week, with no elaboration.
Pete Buttigieg is their man. He may be an empty suit but he has perfected the art of saying something inspiring without saying anything. He is the perfect made-for-TV candidate for a 20th century vision of America. I won’t be surprised if President Josiah Bartlett endorses him.