Dear President Trump,
I was confused when I saw Michael Gerson’s byline attached to the WP editorial entitled “By Any Measure, Buttigieg is Trump’s Proven Superior” since I was pretty sure that Gerson is one of the WP’s little posse of conservative editorialists. Well, he is in that camp – his party affiliation is still listed as Republican on his Google bio page and he has enough conservative creds that there really can be no mistaking him for a sheep in wolf’s clothing. I double and triple checked all this after reading the essay because the guy comes out and makes the case that Buttigieg is charismatic, smart, has an uncanny talent for politics, and has the goods to promote a strong campaign based on moral restoration. Although he undercuts it by closing with the idea that Buttigieg isn’t necessarily the strongest candidate to go against you, the second to last paragraph is pretty shocking:
“If the former mayor ends up facing Trump, the most vivid and immediate contrast would be ethical rather than generational. By any measure of public or private character — basic honesty, service to country, family values, tolerance, concern for the vulnerable, commitment to the common good — Buttigieg is the president’s demonstrated superior. Just ask: Which human being would you, as a parent, want your son or daughter to grow up to be like? The question answers itself.”
And no, Donald, it isn’t shocking because someone had the temerity to say that someone is a better role model for children than you. Rather, here we have an avowed Republican-voting person with a big, huge platform saying that an out gay man who’s running in the Democratic presidential primary race is who he thinks Americans would want their kids to grow up to be like over the likes of you. There’s no leap here for me, not even a tiny worry about stepping over cracks in the sidewalk to avoid breaking my mother’s back – it’s abundantly clear to me and pretty much everyone except that strange lady in Iowa who wanted her ballot back after learning that Buttigieg is gay, that you and he aren’t even in the same moral stratosphere. Right. Check.
But for a conservative Republican editorialist to argue that all of us should want our kids to grow up Pete-like (and he didn’t make any lame attempts to peel away Pete’s gayness) rather than Donny-like is really something.
And lest you become worried that I’m becoming a Gerson fan, even though I’m surprised and pleased about the lack of homophobia, the sexism apparent in the column was neither surprising nor pleasing. Midway into it, Gerson floats the idea of what it would be like if Biden were to be the Democratic nominee and then he pretends to imagine what it would be like if Sanders gets the nod, though he cuts that one off like it stung him. What he doesn’t do, at all, is entertain the idea of either Warren or Klobuchar running against you – total crickets when it comes to the possibility of a woman being the Democratic nominee. No, he didn’t go down the entire line of men in the primary race, but Warren is arguably leading Biden in the race and she somehow, conveniently, was overlooked as a frontrunner let alone as the person to take you on.
Here’s the final paragraph of the editorial:
“This does not mean that Buttigieg would be the strongest candidate against Trump. But he would certainly be the better man.”
I think it’s telling that he didn’t simply say “the better person.”
May we be safe to be our whole selves.
May we appreciate progress and still call out prejudice.
May we invest in radically inclusive moral restitution.
May we not make peace with half measures.