“With his air of decency and grab bag of gifted-and-talented party tricks, he doesn’t so much represent the will of the Democratic electorate but rather the aspirations of its educated elite, maybe especially those who see a shrinking market for their erudition,” Jay Caspian King writes in an appraisal of Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Point, Indiana beloved by the Morning Joe set. King:
In his weeks on the national scene, Buttigieg has built a brand squarely aimed at a certain kind of liberal intellectual — the type whose prose-driven, subjective, humanist view of the world has lately fallen out of style, replaced by data analysis and ideology. His unassuming face now seems to be everywhere. The blitz has felt less like a presidential campaign than a liberal-arts variety show — a best-case scenario for what happened to Max Fischer from “Rushmore.” A few weeks after the musician Ben Folds told a story about playing a duet with the candidate, a Buttigieg adviser tweeted a video of Mayor Pete “tickling the ivories” before a talk at Scripps College. Even his choice of song — Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” — fit the brand, nailing a demographic of upper-middle-class dads who wax nostalgic about their college radio shows and the professors who taught them to love James Joyce. As Notre-Dame burned, Buttigieg offered his sympathies in French.
In fairness to the mayor, he didn’t proffer his knowledge of Finnegans Wake; rather, he responded to a Ryan Lizza question. Judging by the comments, New York Times readers have responded as if their own erudition were under siege. As it should be. Lyndon Johnson no doubt confused James Joyce with a backwoods Texas state senator. Ronald Reagan thought trees produced carbon dioxide. George W. Bush confused My Pet Goat with a Supreme Court brief. Yet the American public duly elected them. Liberals too easily get suckered by the twaddle of coolness; we love articles like this, and a few of us shared them when the current occupier of the Oval Office and connoisseur of KFC put his hand on the Bible. This flattery is the Smart Reader’s equivalent of the old saw about having a beer with a politician.
For, really, the Smart Reader has no business supporting Buttigieg when one candidate has day after day released one detailed policy position after another while at town halls challenging her vehemence into empathy. Because Elizabeth Warren’s novelty has frayed and because she’s a woman, however, the Democratic primary voter subset remains unmoved, preferring the querulous septuagenarian Joe Biden and the inflexible septuagenarian Bernie Sanders, the latter showing his age at the FOX town hall last week when the frequency with which he brays talking points — a clever tactic in 2016 — sounds like the actions of a frail mind clawing at the familiar. Warren can do the stemwinder. She can make contact with a voter one to one. Whether she can “pay for” free college tuition and loan elimination matters less than her introducing these ideas into the marketplace at all. What I see in Mayor Pete — what a Gomer Pyle of a moniker — is articulateness confused about its intentions.