Bob Schwartz

Tag: Pete Buttigieg

Best Breakfast in America: Pete and Jimmy

The morning of the day that Pete Buttigieg suspended his campaign for president, he and his husband Chasten stopped in Plains, Georgia to have breakfast with Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.

Maybe no event could be a more fitting coda.

Among all the presidents of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Jimmy Carter holds a special place. The political qualities of his presidency are still being debated. The quality of his humanity, evidenced by decades of enlightened, faithful and humble service, are towering. His life and longevity are a gift and a model to us all.

Pete and Jimmy are separated in age by almost sixty years. In terms of spirit and love for people and country, they might as well be brothers. Just as we needed Jimmy Carter to help wash away the Nixon years, we need Pete Buttigieg, or someone like him, to help wash away the Trump years. All of us who support him know that there is no one on the scene right now quite like Pete.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have been married for 73 years. To hear Pete talk about his marriage to Chasten in the speech announcing the suspension of his campaign, he has every intention of being married to Chasten for the rest of their lives. Having seen them together, and knowing Pete’s honesty and thoughtful earnestness, there is every reason to believe that. And to believe in the real possibility that we will thankfully have Pete in our national future for a long time to come.

Democrats are looking for a phenom. They may have found one—if they can handle it.

“Phenom” is a fascinating English word. It was first used in 1890, to describe an inordinately talented young baseball player on a trajectory to be a superstar. Short for “phenomenon,” it has mostly passed out of usage, but remains an excellent descriptor.

Democrats have had recent experience with a presidential phenom. Obama was just 43 when he started to go supernova at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. A few years later, his talent and person would take him, against all odds and history, to the presidency, and also against all odds and opposition, keep him there for two terms.

In baseball and elsewhere, everybody knows what can happen with phenoms. Some shine and succeed beyond imagining. Some burn out and never make it past their first season.

Democrats would love to find and run another phenom, but are justifiably skittish about losing a precious, one-time-only opportunity to preserve American democracy. They are ambivalent about a phenom like Pete Buttigieg. He has all the right stuff—young, brilliant, accessible, charismatic, articulate, war veteran, Rhodes Scholar, speaks six languages, plays piano at a symphony level, etc. But will the American people elect a married gay man as president?

If the Democrats were confident the answer was “Yes,” we might be at the early stages of another phenomenon. If they are unsure or have already decided the answer is “no,” then we are in uncharted soul-searching territory. But in politics 2019, uncharted soul-searching territory is the name of the game.