If you’ve been desperately awaiting November 2020 as much as I have, you’ve probably noticed that Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The 37-year-old Buttigieg is a Harvard grad, a Rhodes Scholar, and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, having been called up from Reserve duty while in his first term. He famously speaks seven languages and even performed Gershwin with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. He is also the first openly-gay man to run for President, having come out shortly after returning from Afghanistan and gotten married a couple of years later. (His husband Chasten, the potential first First Gentleman in U.S. history, is a delightful follow on Twitter.)
Buttigieg, the son of a Maltese immigrant professor of English at Notre Dame, was born in South Bend almost two decades after the closing of the Studebaker factory sent the town’s economy into a tailspin. After graduating first in his high school class Buttigieg left South Bend, earning a degree at Harvard and a Rhodes scholarship. He took a lucrative job as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, traveling the world working to help businesses improve their pricing models and maximize profits. Because it didn’t really matter where he lived since he was on the road so much, he returned home.
Shortest Way Home follows Mayor Pete’s journey from his early forays into local politics, his first losing run for office, and his eventual election as mayor. Along the way he discusses his reserve duty, his deployment, and the process of coming out and falling in love. Buttigieg uses local issues as mundane as snow removal, sewer design and street renaming to comment on national issues and party politics. The mayor’s writing is fluid and engaging, and his candor and honesty refreshing for a political memoir.
Buttigieg is decidedly liberal, but as a native Midwesterner he is bothered by the way the national Democratic Party has done little to address the concerns and perspectives of struggling industrial communities like his. He believes that by focusing on economic revitalization and by reclaiming values in a liberal context the party can compete everywhere as opposed to relying on big cities mostly on the coasts.
It’s an argument Mayor Pete first took nationwide as a long-shot candidate for DNC party chair, a race from which he eventually withdrew. It’s the same argument he’s making now as a long-shot candidate for President. While it might seem unlikely to go from mid-size town mayor to President, Shortest Way Home shows why a lot of people are talking about Mayor Pete.