By Ross Douthat
April 27, 2019, 601
Pete Buttigieg spoke to a group of high school students from Massachusetts and New Hampshire this month in Nashua, N.H.
Credit Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times
“One of the central problems in Western politics is the impasse between a governing class that lacks legitimacy, and populist alternatives that are poorly led and unready to govern. This impasse reflects a deep trend of the last few decades — the working-out of meritocracy’s iron logic, in which the most talented young people (or at least the most talented résumé-builders) self-segregate in a small group of metropoles while the hinterland declines.
For a clinical rather than impressionistic assessment of this trend, you can turn to the new report from Senator Mike Lee’s Joint Economic Committee, which tracks “brain drain” trends across American states and finds a pattern, both longstanding and accelerating, in which the highly-educated cluster in “dynamic states” and “major metropolitan areas,” leaving less-educated Americans in “rural and post-industrial states” behind. The report describes this “geographic sorting” as one factor behind economic stagnation and social breakdown; it’s also clearly a factor driving the class-based polarization that’s given us Donald Trump, and in European politics the Brexiteers and gilets jaunes and more.
This background is part of what makes Pete Buttigieg, the bright young man of the Democratic field, such an interesting figure. In many ways Buttigieg is a kind of uber-meritocrat, a child of academic parents who made a swift climb up the meritocracy’s cursus honorum: a Harvard degree and then a Rhodes scholarship, a brief stint in D.C. followed by three years at McKinsey. And beyond the résumé, an obvious part of his appeal depends on his performative intelligence, his college-interview style of “humble” showing off.”
David Lindsay: Ross Douthat, there you go again. I had a busy weekend, and didn’t get to the Sunday NYT till Sunday night after dinner at 9 pm. By 10 pm, I was struggling to stay awake as I practiced my intellectual “flossing” by trying to follow the gymnastics of right wing, ultra religious conservative Catholic, Ross Douthat, as he cut up Pete Buttigieg, and accused him of going back to South Bend Indiana after a spectacular early career, because he was plotting for the presidency. Reading Douthat, I kept closing my eyes to sleep, and this morning, I drank in the most recommended Times comments, 2 or 3 dozen, which shredded Douthat for the narrow, intolerant, fascistic but brilliant Catholic that he is. These comments were so much more focused and clear headed than I was capable of last night. If you want a clear delineation of what is evil in conservative right wing evangelical or Catholic meddling in politics, I recommend these comments. They also are a powerful recognition, that in Pete Buttigieg, people hear the intelligence and calming clear voice of another Lincoln, FDR or Obama.
About my fabulous, bitter-sweet weekend. Kathleen was busy all day Saturday at the Hamden Earth Day Fair at the Hamden Middle School, where she was manning the table for her Sustainable CT initiative, where she is working relentlessly to get Hamden certified by the Sustainable CT organization, a massive two year effort. In the morning, I was reading in the Times that Obama loved having Biden as his running mate, twice, because Biden could speak and win over white working class males from the rust belt. I reworked the old song, “I’m Ready When You Call me Lord, But Give me Just a little More Time.” When I got to the Earth Day Fair, I found Kathleen in front of her table, free style dancing to rock and roll with a 10 year old boy and his mother, because, “the young man really wanted to dance, but was too shy to do it by himself.” I found many vendors who could guide me in making my house and life more sustainable.
On Sunday, one of my music partners Gail Pells came over and we three rehearsed our three songs, before singing with many others at the Memorial Service of my long-time friend and former singing partner David Green of Branford, at the Evergreen Woods Life Care Community. It was great to see his widow, my friend Ginny Shaw, and hear her articulate, teary-eyed daughters and family. Kathleen and I went in the afternoon to Bill and Gina Dunlap’s house Concert to hear Hughie Jones of England and the two Bobs of Staten Island, Bob Conroy and Bob ? in concert that was extended by songs led by some of CT’s finest traditional singers, who were in the audience. In the kitchen pub sing after the concert, Kathleen and I performed, the half traditional, half David Green version of “I’m Ready When You Call Me Lord, But Give me just a little more Time,” for the second time in the same day.
And now, here is Ross Douthat, see if you can see any faults in his crafty, articulate logic.