Over the last several years, our little band over at Solidarity Hall—myself, Susannah Black, Mark Gordon, Matt Cooper, Grace Potts, and a few more—have entertained ourselves by watching various Facebook political insurgencies come and go. These are various “third way” experiments, most of which have capsized amidst angry disagreements over how Catholic is too Catholic—that kind of thing.

The Distributists, the Queens NY Distributists (a rather special enclave of one, I believe), the American Solidarity Party, the Integralists. Some, like the moon, wax and wane, but most resemble shooting stars which disappear into the dark, taking their slates of eccentric candidates with them.

In our ponderings, the notion of the perfect Porcher candidate naturally has arisen, but I have to report the pickings have thus far been slim. Perhaps that’s because of our pig-headedness in clinging to certain criteria.

To wit: our ideal Porcher president would necessarily be a committed localist. And we’d need some deeds as well as words on this score—none of that armchair agrarian nonsense.

Next, we need someone whose beliefs are a tad more vigorous than that limp phrase “faith-based” implies. I think we’d be looking for someone who self-describes as religious, without necessarily plumping for any one of the Great Traditions. (The old expression Judeo-Christian comes to mind, at the mention of which my friend Joseph Epstein always likes to ask, “So who are these Judeos anyway?”)

As enthusiastic readers of that brilliant madman Bill Kaufmann, we would certainly want an anti-militarist, God help us. Maybe also someone critical of neoliberalism and distributist (in some fashion) in outlook.

If we wanted to get really starry-eyed, we’d hope for someone who’s highly literate—even multi-lingual, now that we’re really getting carried away here.

To my astonishment, it turns out we have a chap who fills this bill—and turns out he’s been living only a few miles down the road from me, happily ensconced in the security of being mayor of that smallish Midwestern city, South Bend. I refer of course to the skyrocketing Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

His public career is a parable of the local boy who went away, made good (and much better than good: Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey, U.S. Navy), and moved back home to get down to work. Buttigieg’s new book, Shortest Way Home (title borrowed from James Joyce), is a sentimental portrait of South Bend beyond the wildest dreams of any civic booster, while also describing how a place-based and “smart city” strategy has completely changed the fate of that previously feckless-looking small city.

That Mayor Pete is also a religious person might surprise some, but they’ll be even more surprised at the enthusiasm and candor with which he discusses his faith publicly, as in this recent appearance

His criticism of NAFTA, the financial system, and our history of perpetual war are standard points now in his interviews and (assuming he announces) will find a place in his public platform.

Finally, his memoir is pleasurably written and displays something of the practical urbanism and public philosophy with which he would govern, an attitude focused on building up local assets rather than expending energy on seeking an unrecoverable past. (As Buttigieg puts it, “’Again’ is a word which should never be used in politics.”) 

That his spoken languages include Arabic and Norwegian and that his musical skills were sufficient to perform Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in 2013 as a piano soloist with the South Bend Symphony—it all begins to defy credulity. And yet that’s the package, folks. 

Needless to say, Mayor Pete’s positions on climate change, gun control, and healthcare mark him as a man of the left, although he is very far from being an ideological leftist, as is apparent in his interviews. 

For certain Porchers, unfortunately, his status as a publicly gay man in a same-sex marriage means that, like the members of the little Facebook “third way” groups I mentioned above, they will be picking up their marbles and going home in order to abandon a candidacy more wholly pro-family than perhaps any we’ve seen in decades. 

To which I would ask: have these Porchers not yet read Wendell Berry?

37 COMMENTS

  1. 1. You should have published this on a different day. I read this assuming it was a joke–there is no “Perfect FPR Presidential Candidate” after all, given the diversity of folks here. But apparently you are serious.
    2. Implying that “certain Porchers” are bigots is a garbage move. I’ve never seen any sign of that in all my years commenting here. You should either say who, and why, you are referring to, or apologize.

    • Reading the comments, good author, I think your irony could have used a little less subtlety. I would certainly have missed it myself had I not only recently read the excellent Current Affairs profile on Buttigieg.

  2. Brian:
    1. My use of the word “perfect” (with exclamation mark) is at least a touch of irony, eh?
    2. I could be wrong in my comment about Porchers (who are indeed diverse) but I didn’t do any name-calling. In my own parish here in Indiana, there are lots of friends of mine who feel they could not–theologically, philosophically–get behind an openly gay candidate–period.

  3. Is the mayor a hard-liner on immigration who will keep our country from turning into a Third World country over the next century? There are Third World countries that are very agrarian and family-oriented, no doubt, and they don’t fight endless wars, either, but I don’t want to live in any of them.

    • “In 2017, the mayor told WSBT that he supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a path to citizenship. More recently, in January, he told CBS he thinks sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is a waste of time for troops, and he’s also repeatedly said in interviews that, as a religious man, he believes religion teaches people to take care of others, including immigrants.” Not much detail but sounds suspiciously Christian.

      • Is there anything in our Christian religion that says we have to ignore issues like preserving our civilization? Will it help the cause of the Christian faith if Christians become known as the people who don’t care about the radical transformation of the countries in which they live?

        If we are supposed to take care of immigrants, how many should we let in each year? 100,000? 1 million? 10 million? 20 million? It would seem that sentimentality does not provide an easy answer to these kinds of policy questions.

  4. If “Again” is a word one should never use in politics, according to Buttigieg, I wonder how “Buttigieg” could be a word one could ever use in discussion with agrarians and localists. While I understand he’s referring to a specific kind of ‘again’ which does not really align with localist or agrarian interests but with military might, industrial economy, and civic pride, it seems the problem with such is not that MAGA is harkening back to something but rather that which MAGA is harkening back to. At least the Porcher and the MAGA-hat wearer, in this respect, speak a similar language and can debate over the merits of their lost causes they’re trying to resurrect. I’m not sure one can succeed in promoting a Porcher ethic without reminding people of something lost and in need of being found again, whether it be the health of a land, the history of a place, etc.

    • A very good point. Whether Pete’s loyalty to his home town is somehow also Berry-like, I don’t know. The risk (given especially his McKinsey background) is that he’s imbibed a bit too much neoliberalism. I guess the jury’s still out on that one.

  5. So someone who refers to the country as a “Democracy,” rather than a Democratic Republic, and who says the electoral college needs to go is the perfect front porch REPUBLIC candidate? Is this some kind of April Fools’ joke?

  6. This is a good take, Elias. I love the invocation of Wendell Berry, who was my write-in choice in the last two presidential elections. Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities was titled, “It All Turns on Affection.” Buttigieg seems to embody that cast of mind and heart. For Trump it all turns on resentment. We need something better.

  7. Solidarity without morality is Libertarianism. I do not see the difference between the values espoused by this guy and the left wing pot smoking libertarians I’ve known.

    • All? As far as I am concerned (and I am only one person) those whose ONLY reason for being unwilling to support Buttigieg is that he is in a committed homosexual relationship are welcome to stay away from the ASP. Then again, I am only willing to consider two of the ASP candidates, so there’s that.

  8. I also thought this must be an April Fools Day joke. Instead, it is a revelation about FPR, at least to me. Mayor Pete is an enemy of the family and of unborn children, even born children whose birth was undesired. He dresses up his contempt for so-called traditional values in the language of Christianity that he absorbed in a Catholic high school (my own alma mater, alas). If opposing this is bigotry, I am overjoyed to be counted as a bigot–and a former reader/follower of FPR.

  9. Thanks for the article, Elias. I’m more skeptical than ye. I’ve seen a few Tweets about PB by Glenn Greenwald over the past few weeks. They ‘re interesting. He seems to have wanted to like him a lot but, at the same time, he seems to be peeling layers off of an onion named “Mayor Pete” and each layer reveals something that looks like a good veneer hiding the reality of a front for more oligarchic control; another version of the same old game.

  10. Looking forward to hearing Buttigieg roll out his seven-point plan for the renewal of small-scale economies on Dorothy’s Place.

  11. Anyone who might be worried about “radical transformation” in this country might do well to read a little history. Our worst periods seem to be those during which we spent most of our time trying to suppress a radical transformation that was already underway. Not that a historical review of said radical transformations is unblemished by any means.

  12. I think this guy’s better than the mayor of South Bend:
    https://www.weltwoche.ch/ausgaben/2019-13/artikel/edito-thierry-baudet-die-weltwoche-ausgabe-13-2019.html
    “The point of the several arts and crafts movements that arose in response to the industrialization in the second part of the 19th century, was that despite mass-production, and mass-society, and urbanization, and so on, we still need to feel embedded. That is why ornaments and facades, as well as the use of natural materials, were considered so important: they helped engender a proper sense of home for the spiritually homeless. The problem with modern architecture is that it emphasizes the ordinariness in such a way that it completely atomizes people. You can’t tell the difference between the modernist buildings in Brussels from those in Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang. Nor can you spot a difference between the individual apartments or offices in each of those buildings: they are all completely interchangeable and that makes people very unhappy, I believe, because they become completely interchangeable individuals in their mass apartment blocks. People want to have a house that is theirs. Even though such a house may not be very specific, or very grand, it is still their house, their place on earth, ideally with a little piece of land around it, with a neighbourhood they connect with — in short, something that makes them feel that they belong somewhere, that they have a certain place of origin and are part of a certain destiny.”

  13. The winner of every presidential election since Bill Clinton beat ElderBush has been the one who had a peace and non-intervention platform. None of them kept their promises once elected. So take that away and what you have is “Barack Obama, now in Vanilla Catholic..”

    I don’t underestimate him, but he’s not a localist he is just working in government at the local level, like a community organizer.

  14. I only posted this a few days ago and I’m discouraged already: Pete took a trip to Israel recently, got the Potemkin village tour, and came back a Bibi booster.

    • Too funny.
      Not supporting Mayor Pete because he’s gay — BAD.
      Not supporting Mayor Pete because The Joos got to him — GOOD.

  15. I read elsewhere that this man also supports the right of abortion. No person who supports infanticide can be described as pro-family. Not only because a child is being murdered, but also because easy access to abortion lessens the responsibility that ought to go with sexual activity. The lack of feeling of responsibility associated with sex has certainly increased the occurrence of out-of-wedlock births, and if the couple does not then marry, or at least live together as a married couple, a family does not exist and trouble for later generations results. And dissociating the procreative purpose from sexual activity removes some reason for many, probably, to settle down and marry.

    • Sorry, Lane, did you not get the message that it is now totally taboo to have any concerns about “dissociating the procreative purpose from sexual activity”? Logic and reason are not allowed on this point — only the emotive classification of “bigot” and “non-bigot” are acceptable here.

  16. “New shit has come to light, man.” (The Dude in the Big Lebowski).

    FWIW, I’m appending a Mea Culpa here. My pal Mike Sauter (and quite a few others here) wuz right. Apparently Mayor Pete is not sufficiently free from either Mammon or Mars to deserve our support. Yes, you told me so.

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