Pete Buttigieg is the Son My Mother Always Wanted

My mother, God rest her soul, always had a thing for gay men. In the 1980s, when gay culture was simultaneously everywhere and yet still that obvious thing in the room that could not be named, her gaydar was almost infallible. If there was a closeted gay celebrity, she almost immediately became a fan. Not only was she light years ahead of the tabloids on George Michael, she even shocked my brother when she speculated about why Rob Halford, the macho lead singer of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, wasn’t married. Sadly, I never asked my mother about Cory Booker.

At the age of 37, Pete Buttigieg has glided effortlessly through life. From Harvard, through Pembroke College at Oxford University, through McKinsey, to finalist for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Pete Buttigieg has done everything right. There’s never a hair out of place or a wrinkle in his cleanly pressed white shirt, a sense of order and style he learned while serving in the military from 2009 to 2017. As a child, Buttigieg was almost certainly not the kind of boy, like I was, that you had follow around at family reunions and watch like a hawk to make sure he didn’t say the wrong thing. I doubt his teacher ever had to correct his spelling or his penmanship.

As I have mentioned before, my mother always told me that you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion. It’s rude. It’s immature. It’s something that right-wing losers down at the local bar do before pouring out onto the street and catcalling women. It never accomplishes anything. And it’s here we come to the biggest reason why Pete Buttigieg is the son my mother, and probably everybody’s mother, always wanted. In recently excavated video of a local children’s TV show, the youthful mayor of South Bend, Indiana manages to talk about the United States Constitution and the history of slavery without talking about politics.

Pete Buttigieg, a gifted student, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, an alumnus of McKinsey, and a multilingual polymath, is not some ignorant cretin like Steve King or Paul LePage. I’m sure he could leap off the stage and tutor your kids in Calculus or fly to Paris and help ignorant American tourists conjugate French verbs without breaking a sweat. Yet somehow he gets a basic fact of American history wrong.

Of course the founding fathers knew that slavery was wrong. Thomas Jefferson, referring to slavery in his only book Notes on Virginia, wrote that “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” George Washington, in summing up his career, remarked that “the unfortunate condition of the persons, whose labour in part I employed, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret.” Ben Franklin founded one of the first anti-slavery societies in North America. Most, if not all, of the founding fathers understood that slavery was a moral abomination. Only later in American history, did apologists for slavery like John C. Calhoun begin to argue that all men were not created equal.

Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and most of the Southern founding fathers who owned slaves knew they were committing a grave offense to nature and nature’s God, but with the exception of Washington, who freed most of his slaves upon his death, they not only continued to use slaves on their plantations, they expanded the practice. There are two primary reasons. The first is that they were large landowners who were perpetually cash poor. Thomas Jefferson went deeply into debt building Monticello. The second is the Haitian Revolution, which erupted shortly after the United States gained its independence. While largely forgotten today, it was an event as violent and radical as the French Revolution, and it scared white Americans more than the idea of universal, single payer healthcare scares the Democratic Party establishment today.

So why did Buttigieg get it so wrong? I’m sure he actually knows the history. I’m sure he’s read more books on the American Revolution than I have. In fact, I’m sure he’s read more books in Norwegian on the American Revolution than I have in English. Yet for some reason he chose to wipe his mind clean of what he learned in his required liberal arts courses at Harvard and Oxford. My guess is that he felt insecure as a very young Mayor talking to children. Say the wrong thing these days and you might just lose your job. Buttigieg didn’t get the history wrong because he was stupid. He got the history wrong because he was smart. Fresh out of his stint at McKinsey he had learned that if you want to go anywhere in corporate America, you had better be a “problem solver” and not some loudmouth who talks too much about politics. So, a master of the “McKinsey Pyramid”, he looked at the situation logically.

Buttigeig was faced with two problems.

1.) Talk about the history of slavery

2.) Not offend by being “political”

His solution was that nifty little machine, that political algorithm called the amendment process. The amendment process allowed Buttigieg to avoid any debate about the true intentions of the Framers of the Constiution by simply erasing any memory that they had every spoken about the question at all. It let him please conservatives, who worship the Founding Fathers as demigods and the United States Constitution as Biblical truth, liberals, who think everything about America is already great except for the racism, and people of color, who think slavery and racism are the primary reality of American history. It let him sidestep the debate altogether without taking any strong positions, to address slavery as an apolitical problem to be solved instead of a moral issue that the Founding Fathers punted on because they care more about the dirty rotten money than black lives, which even they knew mattered, and which was finally revolved by a bloody Civil War that cost over a million lives, an issue that still haunts us today.

So my mother would have loved Pete Buttigieg, and she would have hated the Bernie Bros and Warren supporters who dug up the old video. Shame on them. Never talk about politics or religion. It’s rude.

13 comments

  1. It’s true slavery was a big sticking point at the Constitutional Convention. That’s why they agreed to delay the issue to 1808, I believe. But slavery has been around forever, and the British required it in their colonies. Without slavery, the British couldn’t maximize their profits. so they were the biggest slave traders around. They also had slaves in India and in Africa.

    Thomas di Lorenzo claims slavery was dying a natural death before the War Between the States, but Lincoln wanted a war. Slavery was economically unfeasible, probably because it’s a life-time commitment, but work years are much shorter. I often wonder what people did with their slaves when they became too sick or old to work.

    Lincoln, the former corporate railroad attorney, was more threatened by the Confederacy’s abolishing tariffs on foreign imports, which would make it easier for the South to trade agricultural products and buy manufactured goods directly from England and other places.

    Alexander Hamilton’s trip to the continent was probably financed by the English trader he worked for, who also dealt in slaves. In the beginning, his expenses were paid by shipments of slave-produced sugar from St. Croix. Benjamin Franklin also owned a couple of slaves in his younger days.

    Jefferson has been castigated for owning slaves, but he allowed those who could pass for white to escape. He generally didn’t buy or sell slaves, but inherited from his own father and from his father-in-law, who was a speculator and slave-trader and died before he could sell a shipment of slaves. George Washington bought and sold slaves, and sold slaves for a friend who was in debt. That George only freed his slaves on his death bed doesn’t make him a hero, in my opinion. Freeing slaves was illegal in Washington’s and Jefferson’s younger days, but it became legal later.

    Now we have a country in which all taxpayers are economic slaves to the federal government, but we call it “freedom” and ‘democracy.”

    1. Lincoln commented extensively on slavery and contrary to the propaganda you hear from Neo-Confederates, he always considered it a moral abomination. It was his main point of attack against Steven Douglas, the idea that Douglas was unfit to be President because he was unwilling to come out and say slavery was wrong.

      But there still is a difference, I think, between Judge Douglas and the Republicans in this. I suppose that the real difference between Judge Douglas and his friends, and the Republicans on the contrary, is, that the Judge is not in favor of making any difference between slavery and liberty-that he is in favor of eradicating, of pressing out of view, the questions of preference in this country for free or slave institutions; and consequently every sentiment he utters discards the idea that there is any wrong in slavery. Every thing that emanates from him or his coadjutors in their course of policy, carefully excludes the thought that there is any thing wrong in slavery.

      https://www.nps.gov/liho/learn/historyculture/debate5.htm

      Franklin actually introduced a resolution to Congress outlawing slavery.

      On February 3rd, 1790, less than three months before his death, Franklin petitioned Congress to provide the means to bring slavery to an end. When the petition was introduced to the House and the Senate it was immediately rejected by pro-slavery congressmen mostly from the southern states.

      http://www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/slavery-abolition-society/

      The fact that the founding fathers were hypocrites about slavery didn’t mean they didn’t know it was wrong. They were just unwilling to take the initiative to end it. How many lives would they have saved?

      Ironically the magic problem solving machine in the early 19th Century didn’t help end slavery. It helped perpetuate it.

      I wonder what a McKinsey position paper would have looked like.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_gin

      Thomas di Lorenzo claims slavery was dying a natural death before the War Between the States, but Lincoln wanted a war.

      Thomas di Lorenzo is just a silly Neo-Confederate who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s about as credible as David Irving. I’m sure he jerks off to old photos of Stonewall Jackson.

      Now we have a country in which all taxpayers are economic slaves to the federal government, but we call it “freedom” and ‘democracy.”

      Equating taxation to slavery is essentially denying that slavery existed. Just bad history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson paid taxes. It’s one of the causes of the Revolution. They also owned slaves. The idea that Jefferson was in the same position as the 14 year old slave he raped because he had to fork over money to King George is quite frankly obscene.

      In the end, I’m struck by the similarity between Buttigieg and Steven Douglas. If you want the guy who only cared about the railroads, there’s your man, not Lincoln. Lincoln was a nationalist and a Whig who had an idea about what the country should be. Douglas was just a corporate executive, and Lincoln called him out again and again. “Admit that slavery is wrong.”

      Sadly nobody reads the Lincoln Douglas debates these days.

      1. Of course slavery is wrong, but it needs to be put in context. It’s still going on in many places around the world. We just call it by different names.

        1. Slavery does not equal taxation, period. There is no equivalence.

          In any event, this diary is more about Pete Buttigieg than anything else and I’m pretty sure we can all agree that most of the founding fathers knew slavery was wrong. What I find interesting is how he came to the conclusion that they didn’t.

          This is a pretty good diary.

          https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/1/1/1906265/-Want-to-understand-Pete-Buttigieg-and-his-Harvard-McKinsey-background-better-Read-this-book

          Buttigieg is basically an American “gentleman” or aristocrat, pretty similar in some ways to Jefferson, who would have gone through a similar process of cultural assimilation.

          The progression from Jefferson to Buttigieg, however, can be explained by the fact that Jefferson lived when capitalism was progressive. Buttigieg lives during capitalism’s decline. Thus he can’t face up to its history. Buttigieg, unlike Jefferson, doesn’t realize that the system he believes in is morally bankrupt.

          1. People are mental slaves if they believe the federal government deserves the taxes it extorts.

            1. You’re trying to erase the history of slavery with a cliche. I mean, come on. You’re smarter than this. Chattel slavery is something very specific with a very specific history. Some vague “feeling” about the IRS is not the Middle Passage.

            2. I’d say a better comparison for Buttigieg would be George McClellan

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_B._McClellan

              Super achiever. Supreme Commander of the United States Army at 33.

              Bernie would be Ulysses Grant, a complete loser until he was 40. Knew what failure was about.

              In the end, if you want to lead you have to know what failure is. Buttigieg doesn’t. He’s won at everything he’s ever tried. Thus his shallow takes on history.

  2. John Thurloe · · Reply

    Most of the great American political leaders north and south conceded that slavery corrupted the purity of a republic of white men. There was no state in the ante-bellum south where schemes to emancipate, re-locate or colonize slaves failed to to be considered. There just wasn’t any practical way to achieve this given the lack of funds. Only with opening of Texas and the cotton boom across the deep south did more voices emerge positively extolling slavery. The problem was there were so many slaves on hand that their value diminished and so southern proponents drove to export them to new lands in the west or Cuba.

    During the Civil War it became clear to some of the Confederate leadership that slavery as it had been was doomed. This more or less began with the initiative of Gen. Patrick Cleburne and later encompassed Gen. Lee, Pres. Davis and Judah Benjamin plus a lot of newspapers and other military men. The sentiment was for the Confederacy to emancipate blacks pre-emptively and to arm as many as possible and put them into the fighting ranks. In 1865 a formal canvass of the Army of Virginia was authorized and the great majority of ordinary soldiers and officers supported freeing and arming blacks. Nothing came of all this since the Confederate Congress was dominated by plantation slavers and the blacks showed they preferred to be emancipated by Lincoln’s army. Of course, what the southern emancipators had in mind was a very limited freedom and only for some. However, by 1865 the notion of expansionist slavery was totally dead and so was any notion that somehow blacks could be freed and yet Not cutter up the white man’s republic.

    But the war aims of both north and south changed qualitatively as the war progressed. In the north resident emancipation became an anchor while in the south the full slavocracy was abandoned. But, note the Hampton Roads conference where the Confederate emissaries conceded not one inch. And neither did Lincoln.

    See: Confederate Emancipation by Bruce Levine and The Road to Disunion by William Freehling

    1. I don’t think Cleburne’s proposal was ever made public, and he died shortly afterwards in the Nashville campaign.

      Speaking of Franklin and the “white republic” has anybody ever made any sense of his bizarre letter about “stupid swarthy Germans?”

      https://www.dialoginternational.com/dialog_international/2008/02/ben-franklin-on.html

      He clearly knew slavery was wrong. But even if he’s trolling German colleagues in Philadelphia (and the letter supposedly came out of a business deal gone wrong) he’s already articulating the concept of “whiteness” James Baldwin wrote about 200 years later.

      1. John Thurloe · · Reply

        About Cleburne’s initiative: It was firstly formally submitted to army officers for consideration. Some openly supported his line of thinking but many were appalled. Subsequently it was ordered that any further such discussion was prohibited.

        But copies of Cleburne’s document did circulate and the gossip mill worked overtime. Significantly, many others came to the same conclusions shortly afterwards more or less independently. A great number of newspapers across the south gave this thinking favourable currency. And some in the Confederate leadership did the same particularly Judah Benjamin.

        From December 1863 when Cleburne and his co-thinkers first spoke up by December 1864 this sort of talk had spread far and wide. Suffice to say, that by this later date it was widely conceded that the slavocracy as it had been at the outbreak of hostilities was dead. Though there were plenty enough still in positions of power so paralyzed by this that they refused to sanction any practical action to advance an alternative. This lot of stunned bunnies just went down on their Titanic.

        As for Franklin his views about the alien Germans was pretty much verbatim what the English thought about them when the Hanoverian option was forced on them. They were (shudder) Lutherans or worse. They had no bishops! They were almost as bad as the papist Irish. Franklin would have died if he’d lived through to the Great Awakening of the 1820s.

        1. As for Franklin his views about the alien Germans was pretty much verbatim what the English thought about them when the Hanoverian option was forced on them. They were (shudder) Lutherans or worse. They had no bishops! They were almost as bad as the papist Irish. Franklin would have died if he’d lived through to the Great Awakening of the 1820s.

          Usually the term “Great Awakening” refers to the New Light Presbyterians in the 1730s and 1740s. Are you referring to the growth of Evangelical Christianity in Kentucky, Ohio and the border states in the early 19th Century?

          Franklin, I think, was from a Congregationalist, not an Anglican family, so he wouldn’t have had a problem with German Protestants not having Bishops. He was an almost purely secular figure. Recall that passage from his autobiography where he talks about having to read religious tracts refuting deism and coming out of it thinking the deists had a better argument.

          In any event, the “intersection” of white supremacy and religious bigotry in the 19th Century was always directed far more against the Irish than the Germans, mainly because so many Germans were Protestants and almost all Irish immigrants in the 1830s and 1840s were Catholics. Germans and Irish became fully “white” in 1924, when the Johnson-Reed Act (which profoundly influenced Hitler through his American friend Putzi Hanfstaengl) favored them over Eastern and Southern immigrants, who were declared racially inferior.

          But I’m still intrigued at how completely Franklin racialized the issue. It takes a lot of overdetermined historical ideology to imagine Germans are more swarthy than the English, let alone that there are some Germans, namely Saxons, who are less swarthy than other Germans. It’s just a bizarre letter, and yet somehow completely modern.

          Speaking of swarthiness, Buttigieg claims it for himself.

  3. John Thurloe · · Reply

    You are correct in fixing the First Great awakening to the early-mid 18th century with such as Jonathan Edwards as an inspirer. But it is the so-called Second Great Awakening circa 1820 – 186 that I referred to ironically with Edwards grandson Theodore Wright as an early leader. The great ‘burned out’ areas of NY state and so on. The influence of this upheaval profoundly influenced Abraham Lincoln and many of his times. Their extreme Protestantism and anti-Catholic attitudes fueled the American or Know-Nothing nativist movement. And the Five Corners.

    Again you are correct about Franklin’s own religious ideology. I meant to refer specifically to the English reaction to the incoming non-Episcopalian crowd from Germany. Oddly, Germans were often marked as being dark skinned not the Nordic types we might think. Much of Franklin’s antipathy might have been due to so many German military units serving in the British military during the Revolutionary War. Later German immigrants were often anababtists, regarded as the communists of their day or Mennonites who deserted the new republic and trekked north to the Canadas along the Trail of The Black Walnut. If he had lived in that time Franklin would have been a Leveller or Fifth Monarchist in 1649 England.

    Excellent to site good old Putzi. Who smoothed the way for Hitler to better embrace the culture of the western monied elites. The very non-Jewish Brahims.

    1. Franklin does acknowledge that the Germans and English were ethnically identical. He attributes whatever differences he thought they were to the social conditions.

      When I consider, that the English are the Offspring of Germans, that the Climate they live in is much of the same Temperature; when I can see nothing in Nature that should create this Difference, I am apt to suspect it must arise from Institution, and I have sometimes doubted, whether the Laws peculiar to England which compel the Rich to maintain the Poor, have not given the latter, a Dependance that very much lessens the care of providing against the wants of old Age.

      https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-peter-collinson/

      The interesting thing about the Know Nothings is that they were actually liberals. They were anti-slavery. They favored the vote for women. They were anti-Catholic largely because they saw the Catholic Church as an authoritarian, European institution. Lincoln opposed them because he knew the Union would need Irish and German immigrants to serve in the army. He was also ideologically opposed to xenophobia in general.

      Franklin was very much a modern Republican. I’m not sure why “libertarians” hate him so much. He sounds like one of them.

      Ben Franklin or Milton Friedman?

      I have heard it remarked that the Poor in Protestant Countries on the Continent of Europe, are generally more industrious than those of Popish Countries, may not the more numerous foundations in the latter for the relief of the poor have some effect towards rendering them less provident. To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity, ’tis Godlike, but if we provide encouragements for Laziness, and supports for Folly, may it not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed Want and Misery as the proper Punishments for, and Cautions against as well as necessary consequences of Idleness and Extravagancy.

      https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-peter-collinson/

      Ben Franklin or Ethan Edwards

      When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return, and that this is not natural to them merely as Indians, but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.

      https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-peter-collinson/

      Stand aside Martin

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