The average person can’t describe the daily responsibilities of the secretary of transportation or even name the figure who holds that position — until our transportation infrastructure fails, that is. As far as cushy political appointments go, it’s on the thankless end of the spectrum.
At least that was the case before Pete Buttigieg ascended to the role in 2021. Now the secretary of transportation is both a political celebrity and someone immune to meaningful criticism over our country’s transportation failures — and there have been many.
Though the left rarely misses an opportunity to announce that “the adults are back in charge,” Buttigieg’s failures suggest otherwise. His highlight reel at the Department of Transportation includes a supply-chain crisis punctuated with a personal leave, flight system disruptions that stranded millions of travelers and temporarily grounded all U.S. flights, rail strikes, and a series of horrific train derailments. On Main Street, people get fired for far less.
Plucked from obscurity as mayor of a struggling Rust Belt city, Buttigieg found himself among the leading Democratic presidential candidates in 2020; he even won the Iowa caucuses. Biden, who considers the former mayor a future party star, awarded him a cabinet post. It defies logic.
Where logic fails, leftist dogma can fill in some of the gaps. Buttigieg will continue checking the “first gay ___” box as far as he climbs the ladder. In the current manifestation of the Democratic Party, which selects and rejects candidates over such identity trifles, it is a powerful weapon in his arsenal. Any honest reflection on his meteoric political rise must consider identity factors. Ask incisive questions next time you meet someone who admits to being a 2020 Buttigieg supporter. It is an instructional exercise in today’s political environment.
As critical a role as identity plays in the Buttigieg story, it can’t explain everything. A lot of people check valuable identity boxes, but they don’t win golden tickets to the heights of American political power. Biden isn’t the only powerful figure to whom Buttigieg has endeared himself. David Axelrod is in his corner. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough hailed him as “the future of the Democratic Party.”
The secretary has even established his adroitness in Silicon Valley donor circles. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg officially “discovered” him during his 2017 cross-country tour. The two attended Harvard at the same time. Buttigieg was friends with two of Zuckerberg’s roommates and counted among the first 300 Facebook users. Not bad for a mayor of a small city.
Unfortunately, this demands more than eye-rolling, as Buttigieg’s powerful allies would rather see his coronation sooner rather than later. Washington isn’t a town of accidental events or subtlety. Thus, recent reports of Vice President Kamala Harris’s uncertain political future leave little doubt that some kind of seismic activity is occurring within the administration. As the Democratic Party is beholden to the identity dogma of its own making, Harris could only feasibly be replaced with another “first.”
A Vice President Buttigieg, having only an unremarkable tenure as mayor of South Bend and a terrible tenure at the Department of Transportation to his name, would be one medical event away from the nation’s top office. It is a sobering thought, particularly with the volatile foreign-policy environment and shaky economic conditions the country currently faces.
We are deluding ourselves if we don’t believe powerful figures are artificially propping up Buttigieg. It is our responsibility to change the conversation from one of Oval Office ambitions to one of accountability for an unelected position thoroughly mismanaged. Let us stop allowing Pete Buttigieg to fail upward.