The blog is starting to slide into all-Buttigieg-all-the-time territory, and that’s not really where I want it to go, but I feel like this is important enough that I’m doing it anyway: I don’t know how many of you watched last night’s townhall on CNN, but I thought the guy hit a grand slam. Buttigieg was funny, personable, full of good ideas, and he showed the scary-smart that I always want and don’t always get from my presidential candidates. The national response appears to have been extremely positive– I mean, hell, any Democrat who watched that and didn’t come away with a much higher opinion of Buttigieg and his chances in this race either isn’t a Democrat or wasn’t actually watching. Tulsi Gabbard, who for better or worse has a substantially higher profile than Buttigieg does right now, had the hour before him. Everyone is talking about Buttigieg; I’ve seen no one talking about Gabbard.
Interestingly, it turns out the whole thing is on YouTube. I’ll embed it here; we’ll see how long it lasts. If you haven’t watched, you really should:
At any rate: while I’m completely sure that donations have ticked up substantially in the wake of this performance, Pete needs 65,000 individual donors at any amount in order to secure an invitation to the formal Democratic debates, and if that threshold has been reached they’ve not updated the website to tell us about it yet. I’ve donated, and I’ve had two friends who watched last night tell me they have as well. We want this guy on stage, y’all. So if you haven’t watched the townhall yet, there’s another opportunity right there, at least until CNN pulls the video, and the link to donate– again, literally any amount adds you to the total– is here. Please consider it.
This is gonna be one of those book reviews that’s more about me than the book I read, so buckle yourself in for that.
The strongest single-sentence recommendation I can issue for the book my mayor wrote, Shortest Way Home, is this: Pete Buttigieg made me proud to be from South Bend.
(In case you’re wondering, he wants you to think his name is pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge,” but “bootyjudge” is also acceptable, because I’ve voted for this dude four times so far and I get to poke gentle fun at his name if I want to.)
It is rather difficult to express just how unlikely a sentence that is for me to have written. I grew up here, y’all. I escaped to Bloomington for college and to Chicago for nine years after college and then … well, my wife is amazing, I totally married up in the biggest way possible, and I literally would not trade her for anything, but my one and only reservation was how the hell did I move to a city with 3,000,000 people and end up marrying someone I went to high school with?
Which, yeah, that’s what I did. And there’s a whole story there, and I’m not sharing it, but if you had asked me even two years before we got married what the chances were of me marrying someone from high school I’d have told you zero and not been kidding, and I’d probably have been slightly offended by the question. I moved back to South Bend because one of us had to move and I hated my job and she didn’t want to live in Chicago; it just made more sense for me to come back to where my family was. (And I’m not complaining about my family! I hope that’s obvious! It’s just that they all lived somewhere I didn’t want to live in.)
And then we elected a dude who wasn’t even thirty yet to be Mayor, and I think I competed against his ass (and probably lost) when I was on the Quiz Bowl team in high school, and I voted for him because everyone else running pissed me off and he won by default … and then the guy turned out to be way more Mayor than South Bend ever deserved, and he turned the fuckin’ city around in two terms, running against and crushing by 80-20 the parent of one of my former students to win his second term.
And there was that time I almost killed him. And now he wants to be President, and I’d rather have him as my Senator or my Governor than my President right now, but I gotta admit I’m coming around. And Goddammit he’ll be a good President when he gets around to it but I’d still prefer he take over for President Harris when her second term ends in 2028.
So here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure I liked this book more than most people will because, well, I live here. And this is a memoir written by a still relatively young mayor of a mid-sized city. It may be that the appeal is somewhat limited, especially since it really is about mayoring, for the most part, and about revitalizing a city that basically none of you live in. But Buttigieg really genuinely is a smart, fascinating guy, and this is a ridiculously compelling book given what it’s actually about. It’s the second “I’m running for President!” memoir I’ve read this year– Kamala Harris’ was first– and it’s a better book than Harris’ was. (It’s also much less of an “I’m running for President!” book, for the record.) But Pete Buttigieg loves the hell out of South Bend, guys– the book is drenched with it; I thought I loved living in Chicago but it pales in comparison to how Pete feels about being mayor of the town he grew up in. And my curmudgeonly THEY PULLED ME BACK IN nonsense just couldn’t stand up against it. I’m this close to ordering a damn flag, for God’s sake.
(Shout-out to the graphic designers, who incorporate elements of South Bend’s flag throughout the book but never call direct attention to it, in a way that I find clever. The current flag was a product of his administration, and looks like this:)
I still really don’t think Buttigieg is going to be President in two years. For the record, he hasn’t officially announced yet; he’s still in the exploratory committee phase. But there’s a townhall on CNN tomorrow night at nine, and maybe you ought to watch that? And maybe if you watch that, and you think, hell, Luther’s right about this dude, then you should probably check out this book. If nothing else, for the chapter about meeting and courting his husband, which is the most ridiculously fucking adorable thing I think I’ve ever read.
It’s a good video. It’s a real good video. I’ve mentioned recently how wild I think it is that my life keeps intersecting with Democratic Presidential candidates– not that I can find the post right now, but I swear I have– and now my mayor Pete Buttigieg has announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee to run for President.
I, uh, don’t really want to be in a position where I have to vote for him. This is a weird thing to write, right? Hell, I didn’t think Barack Obama was ready to run for President early on in his run, when he’d only been in the Senate for two years, and he very quickly proved me completely wrong on that front. Pete Buttigieg passes one of my first smell tests for someone running for President, which is do I think this person is smarter than me, and he also passes my second smell test, which is do I think this person would be a better President than I would. He is, and he would. However, I would be a pretty terrible President, so that second one in particular is kind of a low bar. I do not think that being mayor of a town of 100,000 for, what, six years or so adequately prepares you for the Presidency no matter how good of a mayor I think you were– and don’t misunderstand me, I’m quite fond of the guy. I just don’t know what the hell he’s thinking right now, because even if he’s essentially trying to run for VP he’s up against Mike Pence, and frankly as much as I despise Mike Pence I think Buttigieg is not enough to move Indiana back into the blue column given that a former Governor is the VP right now.
(Fun fact: there have been more Vice Presidents from Indiana, at six, than any state other than New York. There have been two just in my lifetime.)
If I had my druthers– and the world working the way it does, I have actually told him this– Buttigieg would have his eye on the Governor’s mansion or a Senate seat right now. Indiana has had both Democratic Senators and Governors in the not terribly recent past; while the state is pretty uniformly red right now, it’s not going to last forever, and I think we have another wave election or two potentially headed our way at the moment. I think eight or twelve years down the line we will be looking at him much more seriously as a Presidential candidate– again, my main objection is to him running now. I can very easily imagine a world where I’m happier to vote for him further on down the road.
But hey, I’ve been surprised before. Maybe the dude is even savvier than I think he is and he’ll find a way to light a fire under his candidacy. That would be damned impressive, close to impossible, but maybe. At any rate, it’ll be fun to keep an eye on.
(I am, at the moment, on team Kamala Harris. My affiliation is loose; I haven’t bought a jersey yet or anything, and of the currently declared candidates the only one I really have genuine problems with is Tulsi Gabbard. But just so y’all know where I’m coming from.)
I’d like to point out that I was calling the Mayor “Mayor Bootyjudge” way before he came out of the closet today, and I can’t decide if amending his nickname to Manbootyjudge is homophobic or not, but at least for the time being I find it hilarious. Is “lovingly homophobic” a thing?
At any rate, I’m glad to have played a part in allowing him to live long enough to make his big announcement today by not hitting him with my car back in December. Keep an eye on this kid, y’all– and I can call him that, because he’s still like twelve years younger than me, even if he’s got a gray hair or two now– because while I don’t doubt any of what he says in his statement to the Tribune, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is Bill Clinton-level scary-smart, and he knows full and goddamn well that this is only going to raise his profile. He’s still the youngest mayor of a city with more than 100K inhabitants in the country, and now he’s one of only a handful of openly gay mayors. He picked up a profile in the WaPo today, ferchrissakes. You know when the last time was that the Washington Post mentioned South Bend? I do. It was the last time they wrote a profile on Pete Buttigieg. It’s happened more than once.
You watch. I don’t know if he’s planning on ending up in Washington through the Senate or the Governor’s mansion or both, but by 2032 everybody in America is gonna know this guy’s name.