BY CHRISTIAAN MITCHELL
Mayor Pete is having a moment right now that has captured much of the nation’s attention. Of course, there are skeptics. And we have seen these kinds of moments with candidates before where they burn bright and fast. But this moment has all the signs of durability that could well rocket him to highest office in the land. The hardest thing for his supporters is trying to explain to the uninitiated just what it is that is so compelling about him.
The first thing is that he has hit uponthepolitics that we need to carry us forward as a nation. Readers of sophistication and taste will recall the six-part series I wrote for The Observer calling for a Millennial politics [please clap … ].
I was reluctant and, frankly, not smart enough to articulate just what that would look like. But the way that Mayor Pete approaches policy issues – his intense focus on the ways that our highest values are meaningless outside of their impact on lived experience, the way he successfully avoids the frustrating ideological cleavages that have divided and neutered our politics – is exactly what I had in mind.
What draws us so quickly to Mayor Pete is the way that he is writing into reality our deepest hopes and aspirations of what is possible for our politics. It’s the way that he is responding to the needs and desires that we could not even articulate for ourselves.
Even having spent a lot of time thinking through what this politics should look like, I still find that I cannot quite explain his appeal without falling back on “you just have to watch/listen to him speak.” And that’s because so much of Mayor Pete’s appeal comes down to how ridiculously normal the guy seems. He’s anything but: Harvard educated, Rhodes scholar, youngest mayor of a town over 100,000 people in the nation … running for president. The man is objectively brilliant and probably one of the best communicators this generation will ever produce.
Yet, when he speaks, as he brilliantly deconstructs the political vocabulary we have been trapped in for decades, one can’t help but feel like he’s just a particularly smart, kind, and gentle friend giving you his better-researched-and-thought-through take on whatever issue. His allure, the thing that has inspired instant loyalty from so many of us, is that he presents an image of who we would like to think that we are, individually and as a people.
Mayor Pete’s fans – this author very much included – can often be a little overzealous in our attachment. In our better moments, I think most of us would admit that we understand that this looks a lot like a cult of personality similar to that which grew up around Obama in the run-up to 2008. But if that’s so, it’s because Mayor Pete, just in who he is, gives us a reason to hope for American politics again.
He may turn out to be a disappointment, but so far, he’s the only person out there on the national stage showing us that our politics can be normal again.
– Tulsa attorney Christiaan Mitchell is former chair of the Washington County Democratic Party