When Americans have a choice which leaders to put in place, their attention spans are short. All things being equal, we get easily bored or maybe it’s impatient with the leaders we have, and so we want the leaders we don’t have. This holds truer now than it did before, given the speed with which things change and information and ideas spread. (In 2018 the average tenure of CEOs of S&P 500 companies fell by fully one year, from six to five years.)
This does not hold true all the time. When the leader we have is exceptional and, or, when the times in which we live are exceptional, we’re content and sometimes even eager to stay with the leader we know, as opposed to the one we do not. It’s no accident that Americans were reluctant to let go of a great man, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, even after more than a decade in office. After all, it was he who led the nation to recovery from a great depression and to victory in a great war.
But President Trump is no President Roosevelt – which explains in part why there’s every indication that many if not most Americans are restive. Trump’s preternatural ability to hold on to his base has been impressive if not astounding. But his base is not large, and he has not shown the slightest inclination to try to expand it. Hence, it’s possible if not probable that we’re in a time when a large part of the electorate will be looking for a presidential candidate who is altogether new and altogether different from the incumbant.
Several of the democratic contenders would seem to fit the bill. A woman from California with an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Kamala Harris. A skateboarding upstart from Texas, Beto O’Rourke. A longtime socialist from New England by way of Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders. There’s no shortage, in short, of Democratic candidates who seem radically different from, diametric opposites to, Donald Trump.
But none I would suggest more than Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg is temperamentally and ideologically a moderate. Trump is not. Buttigieg is intellectually competent and curious. Trump is not. Buttigieg is demonstrably a moralist and a man of faith. Trump is not. Buttigieg is from a small town in America’s heartland. Trump is not. Buttigieg served in the American military, including a tour abroad. Trump did not. Buttigieg is informed and articulate. Trump is not. Buttigieg is openly gay and speaks of his spouse with deep love and immense respect. Trump is not and does not. Buttigieg is open and disclosing. Trump is not. Buttigieg is unfailingly polite and the discourse in which he engages is reliably civil. Trump is not and does not. Buttigieg seeks to calm whatever the roiling waters. Trump does not. Buttigieg is a unifier. Trump is not. Buttigieg is Trump in reverse. Trump is Trump.