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Mayor Pete and the Whole Ball of Wax

January 10, 2022 |  1,302 words |  Politics, Philosophy, Economics

The primary race for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election is old news by now, but I only just watched a documentary about the quixotic run made by the youngest member of the field, Mayor Pete.

Mr. Buttigieg is certainly an interesting character.  One of the first things that register about him are his relative youth and his sexual orientation.  (He is married to another man, and the couple is raising two adopted children together.)  He is very articulate and well-spoken, as are many other politicians.  That’s sort of a pre-requisite at this level, a recent bellicose occupant of the White House notwithstanding.

He strikes me as unusually composed for someone who has not run the gauntlet of high public office.  {Sorry, Pete, but holding down the mayor’s job in South Bend, Indiana for eight years [2012 – 2020] doesn’t qualify in this context.)  Could his unflappable nature be a kind of beginner’s luck?

What impresses me most is how introspective he seems to be.  Sure, he does a good job of marshalling his talking points and delivering a stump speech, as does any politician worth their salt.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, though, he is more than just a polished reader.  He comes across as someone who has actually thought about and shifted through all these policy issues in depth.  We could use a little more of that in our elected officials.  

One might even go so far as to say this young man is a benevolent philosopher king in the making.  Which is all we can hope for from anyone with the outsized ego it takes to run for President.  If Mr. Buttigieg manages to maintain a measure of humility as he continues his ascent, he might just do some good.

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About midway through Mayor Pete, there is a little vignette featuring a casual encounter on the campaign trail between Buttigieg and Joe Biden, off to the side at an outdoor event.  It occurred just as candidate Biden was regaining his sea legs in South Carolina, after a disappointing showing in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Mr. Biden appears positively effervescent in this clip.  Such a contrast with the tired old man we are now watching and listening to, only a short time into his term as President.  It makes me realize we need some fresh blood in our presidential politics.  Older hands should not be kicked to the curb.  Their experience and perspective should be tapped whenever possible.  But often, they no longer have the energy to drive the train.

 

Another take-away from this entertaining documentary is a reminder of just how bizarre the primary process is.  The endless town halls and meet-and-greets the candidates subject themselves to are exhausting.  Their non-stop pitching, and trying to appeal to every possible demographic, every segment of our diverse population, makes my head spin.  After a while it seems like pandering, even on the part of the most principled pol.

And witness how painstakingly “we the people” evaluate each candidate while making up our minds, as if picking out a new car.  We carefully parse each one’s tone of voice, demeanor, attire and body language.  Every conceivable detail is scrutinized, as we embark on the reoccurring search for the next political messiah who might fill in every valley, and make every mountain low.  How can a flawed human being live up to such expectations?

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Mr. Buttigieg is not the sort of candidate conservatives are ever likely to seriously consider though, due primarily to his professed homosexuality and support of LGBTQ+ issues.  They see these things as running counter to the complementary nature of creation – yin and yang, male and female.  Starting with anatomy and reproductive organs, and extending to things like temperament, modes of thought and all the rest.

But don’t we all have a combination of male and female traits in our characters and personalities?  And aren’t devoted same-sex couples capable of a comparable level of complementarity that similarly devoted heterosexual couples occasionally manage to achieve over the course of a lifetime?

Perhaps most important in this regard is how same-sex attraction itself has been with us throughout history.  It is not some new, unprecedented deviation from tradition.  And though it may be experiencing a surge in public acceptance these days, nervous conservatives need not worry it involves anything more than the same small percentage of the population that has always registered such an attraction.  So why do they find it so difficult to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward this minority?

 

Most everyone has a friend or family member who has found deep commitment and lasting love in a same-sex relationship.  Such a bond is what we humans long for.  That the majority population will typically find it in a heterosexual relationship should not prompt them to denigrate those who happen to find it with someone of their own gender.

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It is common knowledge conservatives don’t much care for the promotion of gay rights, or for any activism that falls under the broad heading of “identity politics.”  But where they tend to view such activity as an unjustified demand for special treatment, the minority population doing the agitating sees itself engaged in a primal struggle for respect and fair treatment.

 

We in the majority population – in this case the white, straight population – should accept there are legitimate aspects to the complaints of any oppressed minority.  And practically every minority is oppressed to one degree or another, almost by definition.  Not every grievance is a figment of their imagination, as those in the majority population with a conservative bent are inclined to believe.

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Some conservatives are a little too quick to cross swords on this subject, and become energized when doing battle with a perceived cultural enemy.  They genuinely feel they are defending truth with a capital “T” whenever they take a stand against homosexuality and denounce homosexuals.  A familiar tactic in their arsenal is to unequivocally state anyone who acts on a same-sex attraction is committing a sin.  

Such castigation is on display in Mayor Pete, when a man attending a random parking lot rally is shown shouting at Buttigieg through a bullhorn, saying over and over again “God loves you, but not your sin.”  

This speaking on God’s behalf is a tricky business, since determining who is and who is not a sinner is generally thought to be above the pay grade of mere mortals.  Denouncing others for their alleged moral transgressions is not only presumptuous, but it also too easily descends into disdain and sometimes even a degree of hate for the accused.  Which in turn violates justice by denying the basic dignity we are each endowed with at birth. 

For me it all boils down to this:  Our sexual preferences do not define us.  We should not be evaluated one way or the other – either praised or condemned – by whom we seek out to embrace at the dimming of the day.  Rather it is our commitment to an intimate partner, along with our daily interactions with friends and family and co-workers, that mark us as either a person of integrity, or someone who can’t be trusted.  We all must earn our bona fides in this world, regardless of our station in life or sexual orientation, and should be judged by the content of our character.

Following this logic, Pete Buttigieg’s professed homosexuality does not make him any more or less qualified to serve in public office.

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The Democrat’s ticket for 2024 is shaping up as Kamala Harris for President, and Pete Buttigieg for Vice-President.  And they just might win, if Republicans continue to focus on their knuckle-head platform of economic freedom at the expense of social solidarity.  As expressed by their stubborn free-market approach to governance.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr

January 10, 2022

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