Nobody personified the stiflingly boring preachiness of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary field more than former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg – so the news that he has accepted a position on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame is only fitting. A cozy university job away from the real world is the perfect landing spot for an emoter, not a doer.
In his new role, Buttigieg will be accorded a certain “status” without having to perform a single, useful task to earn it. Pity the poor, deluded students who will have to endure Buttigieg’s windy, content-deprived lecturing as he teaches “an interdisciplinary undergraduate course on the importance of trust.” Yes, this is to be his field of expertise. Imagine paying good money to endure a semester’s worth of all that.
“We all have a stake. We all do better when all do better,” Platitude Pete told Iowans in November while trekking the campaign trail. “On issue after issue, we have a chance to make big meaningful change.” This trite, hollow verbiage doesn’t fly in the working world, where ability and results matter. But it certainly can find a place in what passes for higher education in our nation today. Overpaid professors comfortably embedded with secure tenure coast on the knowledge that their students are being charged outrageously high tuition fees made possible through lavish federal loan programs that lock these young adults into years of debt. Americans have been told for decades that a college degree is mandatory to succeed in life. University attendance is thus a requirement for millions of youths each year. You can’t just change the channel, as with a mind-numbing Democrat debates.
‘Trust’ the Progressive Order
Behind the stale rhetoric, however, there does linger a higher purpose. Buttigieg is a dull yet unabashed champion of big government, both at home and abroad. This is very much on his mind as he mulls his new role as Professor of Trust at Notre Dame.
“People and countries around the world are struggling to trust the United States right now for very understandable reasons, because we haven’t been predictable or upstanding in certainly the last three years,” Buttigieg told The Chronicle of Higher Education in an Aug. 3 interview. He elaborated:
“We don’t have a century to build that trust back up. There are ways to accelerate the process of building trust. Sometimes it’s taking very intentional steps. That’s why truth and reconciliation models are getting a lot of fresh attention. Sometimes it happens just by stepping up to a huge challenge. The U.S. gained a huge amount of global trust swiftly around World War II. These are some ideas I’m looking forward to exploring.”
It’s obvious that Buttigieg plans on using his “trust” theme to promote a muscular global role for America. Far more interesting, though, is his revelation that he wants to use his new college gig to bolster public trust in establishment entities. “We have problems of mistrust and problems of misplaced trust,” he told The Chronicle. “So when somebody isn’t listening to public-health experts, what’s the broader concern? The fact that they don’t trust an epidemiologist or the fact that they do trust the president, who is leading them to harm?”
Buttigieg correctly believes colleges can serve just as important a role as elected politicians in fending off the unwanted questioning of anointed ruling institutions that played such a crucial role in President Trump’s populist rise:
“People’s readiness to receive certain messages is often shaped outside of the political space and by culture and education, too. That’s one reason why it’s an important moment to be spending time in educational institutions and not just political ones. This is going to be a generational project. We need consistency and transparency in our processes and institutions, but we also need to defend against cynical attacks on trust.”
Taking Over, Not Destroying
Buttigieg was perhaps the quintessential 2020 campaign pupil of the man who continues to shape Democratic political posturing four years after leaving the White House. Barack Obama was always more Lecturer-in-Chief than president during his 2008-2016 White House tenure. Obama fostered a redemptive-messiah narrative that decidedly marked the 2020 candidates as they endlessly espoused grandiose progressive shibboleths throughout the presidential primary process. Climate change and “criminal justice reform” are two such issues infused with stark moralism on the left. Buttigieg backed both with glee.
What was always lacking were specifics. Posturing trumped detail because Democrats, following the Obama template, sought to be transformative beings rather than actual agents of real change. And for good reason. Obama was looking to radicalize establishment institutions, not overthrow them. Buttigieg’s entry into academia shows he fully understands this overriding agenda.
“Education is part of the way out of the moment we’re in right now, where even basic questions of fact seem to be politically contested,” Buttigieg told The Chronicle. The progressive dream has always been that they would be the ones who get to decide what those facts were. Rejected for the White House, Platitude Pete Buttigieg is seeking another avenue to claim his personal role in this satisfying venture.
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