it's the latest edition of
The Recommentunde Newsletter
For the week that began 9 February 2020
Me with James West, a lifelong family friend who showed me how to be free. See my Black History Month story about him on Instagram.
I’m worried about Mayor Pete.
Pete Buttigieg is the most impressive recent teenager I’ve seen run for president. If he’s the democratic nominee, he will have my vote and all the votes I can muster. But before we get there, I need to lay out some concerns.
He’s Smart And He Knows It And He Shows It
Harvard. It’s an impressive place. I know. I graduated from there in 1999. While there, I came across some Petes. He’s the kid who always has something articulate to say. Half the time, you’re think, “Wow, what an intelligent person! It’s so obvious why you’re here.” The other half of the time, you think, “Shut. Your. Mouth!” because he has an answer and is clearly proud of himself for having an answer. You can almost see him giving himself a pat on the back with a self-satisfied grin. Nobody likes that person. We often like the person who is smart. We don’t like the person who knows they are smart and shows it.
He Cannot Withstand Criticism
Pete knows a lot including rare things like the Norwegian language. That’s impressive. But I think he needs to be right about everything, and if you challenge him, he rarely admits he’s wrong or doesn’t know. He just deftly applies another layer of beautiful bullshit. Sometimes it works. Other times, the truth is right there on his face. There was that time in the New Hampshire debate when moderator Lindsay Davis asked him about his mayoral record on race and marijuana arrests. I’ll save you some time. Pete didn’t answer the question multiple times and dodged. I wanted to shake him.
He just refused to engage with the facts. What I heard him say with his body language was, “Why isn’t this working?? Don’t they know I’m the smartest person up here and deserve to be president? Engaging with valid criticism is so annoying! Somebody reboot this device!”
That lack of preparation for incoming hits is alarming because so far he’s only being prodded by allies. What happens when the ugly forces of this president and his orcs pile on? This will be a hideous campaign from the republican side. I believe Bernie can handle it. He’s an old man who ran out of fucks 85 years ago. Also he most likely died in the fall after his heart attack, and what we see now is a zombie or apparition or the results of a soul swap worked out in the ante chamber of the afterlife. Warren can take it. Her message discipline is literally terrifying. Klobuchar can take it. Remember how she handled Kavanaugh on the question of blackout drinking? I’ll save you some time. She didn’t attack him, but she calmly created a space for him to come across looking like a mad man.
Pete, on the other hand, clenches his jaw and looks ready to explode when confronted with non-fawning questions or comments. I don’t think Pete is ready for the level of the game he’s playing, and in a crisis he might just start smashing the controller.
He’s Being Taken Far More Seriously Than Others With More Credentials
I’m going back to the classroom for this one. If Pete is the smart, talkative student who always raises his hand even when he doesn’t know the answer, Amy Klobuchar is the student who actually did the reading, understands the context, and definitely knows the answer, but the teacher never calls on her. If it’s shop class, Amy built the chair. She’s sitting in it, spinning around, showcasing its stability and functionality. But the teacher goes to Pete every time to hear him talk about the theory of chairs. It’s a good theory, but you can’t sit on it.
I’m not even down with Klobuchar like that. But Elizabeth and I were talking about this, and she makes a convincing case that if we’re going to have that more moderate voice in this primary who speaks to the white men and women of the midwest who are uncomfortable with Trump, who can actually win in blue, purple, and red districts, and who has passed actual legislation through the US senate, Amy really is number one. And she knows it.
He’s a Risky Combination Of Inexperienced And Impressionable
As White Obama (hat tip to SNL), he has studied the intonation and the moves and he performs it well. But his shifting stance on issues and recent call to focus on the deficit have me wondering just what he believes. My theory is that Pete is listening to the money in the room or what he perceives to be the power in the room and he’s catering to where he thinks that can attract votes. This is a fine balance act because attracting votes is the entire point, but there’s just something about how he navigates that strikes me as off.
Here’s a bad scenario: Pete wins the White House but still has to face a GOP senate and Mitch McConnell. He tries to show how bi-partisan he is, wants to make a deal, doesn’t realize McConnell is a real life cartoon villain and sells out major parts of his constituency to look like he got a win. We saw something naive like this happen with Actual Obama. He showed up to make deals. The GOP showed up to slaughter him. We can't replay that novice move again.
Shoutout to Coach Tom Steyer
I agree with Steyer in the New Hampshire debate. I think he might have freebased dark roast coffee beans before the debate started because I’ve never seen him so animated. He was like the halftime coach berating the team with “DO YOU WANT TO WIN OR ARE WE JUST HERE TO WASTE EVERYBODY’S TIME?!” If he were wearing a headset, he would have slammed it to the ground in disgust. He basically said, all the dems have better plans than Trump, and all will make better presidents, but to make it to the presidency, you’ll have to go through Trump and make that case on the economy, which will be hard. He practically yelled at the entire room for not talking about race. This was the white billionaire. So, Woke Coach Steyer? Things are weird.
Who has the fortitude to navigate the campaign journey intact? Who can build the coalition needed to win whether it's young and minority folks, new working class voters, independents and non-fascist Republicans, or some other combination? Who can stand toe-to-toe with an authoritarian demagogue? Who understands the digital battlefield and how to run effective offense and defense on that terrain? Who can lead a ticket that will not only win the White House but defend the House majority and take the senate back from Sith McConnell? I’m unresolved on this issue myself and haven’t declared for any particular candidate. I like things about all of them. I have doubts about them all as well. Today I shared some of my doubts about Pete, who I acknowledge, is very impressive for a man-child.
And with that unresolved ending, here are just two article links because the above is a lot.
The David Brooks Edition??
I read these two pieces and realized after the fact that they were both written by David Brooks. I would not describe myself as a fan of his work generally, but I can’t ignore my responses to both of these as being overwhelmingly positive and challenging.
“When you put everything together, we’re likely living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history. The causes are economic, cultural, and institutional all at once.”
“while social conservatives have a philosophy of family life they can’t operationalize, because it no longer is relevant, progressives have no philosophy of family life at all, because they don’t want to seem judgmental.”
“In 2016, in Pennsylvania, 117,000 Sanders primary voters went for Trump in the general, and Trump won the state by 44,292 ballots. In Michigan, 48,000 Sanders voters went for Trump, and Trump won the state by 10,704. In Wisconsin, 51,300 Sanders voters went for Trump, and Trump won the state by 22,748. In short, Sanders voters helped elect Trump.”
“An opposition party can retake the White House in a time of rising economic conditions, but it can’t do it by denouncing capitalism and it can’t do it by denying the felt reality of a majority of Americans.”
If Hogwarts Were an Inner-City School - Key & Peele
Peace and Love.