My latest piece is online at City Journal. It’s a look at the improbable presidential candidacy of South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg. Some excerpts:
Buttigieg has the impressive résumé one would expect from an aspiring presidential candidate. Born in South Bend, he was valedictorian of his high school, then went to Harvard and received a Rhodes Scholarship. He became a Naval Reserve officer and served in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer. He’s worked in elite business and Democratic political circles, doing a stint at McKinsey and Company and on John Kerry’s presidential campaign.
Mayor of South Bend is an odd platform from which to pursue the presidency. Being a mayor of any sort is typically a dead-end job. Only three presidents have ever served as mayor, the last being Calvin Coolidge. Perhaps because of resentment against big cities, mayors aren’t often elected governor of their states, either. The Washington Post observed that making that leap is “rare.” Cory Booker’s rise from celebrity mayor of Newark to the U.S. Senate perhaps inspired others to see City Hall as a stepping stone to greater things, but it remains an atypical trajectory.
For Democrat Buttigieg, running for mayor may have reflected limited political options. Indiana is solid red, with Republicans dominating the state since the election of Mitch Daniels as governor in 2004. Buttigieg tried running for state treasurer in 2010 but was crushed by Republican Richard Mourdock, getting only 37.5 percent of the vote. Though being gay may seem like a negative in socially conservative Indiana, the real scarlet letter for Buttigieg is the “D” after his name.
Click through to read the whole thing.