President Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg leaned against the Resolute Desk and thought long and hard about that Saturday twelve years ago. The night before Super Tuesday in 2020 — the night Barack Obama told him to drop out of the race for the Democratic Nomination. It was a shadow endorsement from the former President, a man unwilling to openly endorse any particular primary candidate, yet dedicated to preserving the status quo of the party. Even if it meant losing the general election.
“Uh look, Pete,” Obama explained, “you’re still a young man. Your time has not yet come, but it will. I need you, the party needs you to step aside and let Joe take this on.”
“I understand Mr. President.”
“The center must hold Pete,” the former President misquoted Yeates.
The words sparked a memory of an essay Pete had written 20 years before.
Politicians are rushing for the center, careful not to stick their necks out on issues
“I hate to say it Pete, but the country isn’t as liberal as Bernie, or even you or I.”
Most Democrats shy away from the word ‘liberal’ like a horrid accusation.
“You still there Pete?”
“Yes Mr. President.”
“So you’ll call Joe?”
“Right now Mr. President.”
As he hung up the phone, more of his own words rushed to mind. Words he had written about Bernie Sanders, the man he had called “divisive” a few days earlier. The man whose political obituary he may have just written.
I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service. I can personally assure you this is untrue.
Mayor Pete wondered if he had just betrayed his own words, or upheld them.
Twelve years later, President Pete sat back down at the Resolute Desk. There were two bills sitting on it. One for free public colleges, another for medicare for all. Next to them was a speech explaining why he would veto them both.
The President straightened his tie and stood as the press corp invaded the Oval Office.
“Mr. President! Mr. President!” the Greek Chorus of the Fourth Column called out that beautiful constitutional moniker, that final line on his storied curriculum vitae.
President Pete wrapped his heart in the word like a flag as he fought back tears.
The election of 2020 was the most brutal in living memory. The Proud Boys clashed with Antifa on the tear-gas fogged steps of the nation’s state houses as two geriatric baby boomers publicly sundowned in an unprecedented display of vitriolic incoherence. With all the allegations of election interference, voter suppression and outright fraud, historians are still arguing over who really “won” the election that year. A winner was called on election night, but the opposing candidate contested the results in several states, the outcomes of which were ultimately decided at the courthouse. When the “winner” finally raised his hand to take the oath of office the following January, Lady Liberty was still nursing the bruising black eye of that fatal November battle.
The Proud Boys clashed with Antifa on the tear-gas fogged steps of the nation’s state houses as two geriatric baby boomers publicly sundowned in an unprecedented display of vitriolic incoherence.
It’s hard to say when that great, lumbering silent majority of complacent moderates coalesced around the Democratic party as the GOP surveyed the scorched landscape the most corrupt President in American history had left them. But Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg always thought it was the morning of Mitch McConnell’s funeral. Seated next to Texas Governor Beto O’Rourke, then Senate Majority Leader Buttigieg noticed how empty the church was. Many of the late Majority Leader’s friends and colleagues had already taken the long and winding road to meet their maker. Others stayed home, hoping to forget the damage the man had done to the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Former President Donald Trump was golfing in Mar a Lago.
“Great guy, terrific,” was all he said.
As the proceedings came to a close, Senator Buttigieg unexpectedly walked to the dais and delivered an impromptu speech.
“Senator McConnell and I were ships that passed in the night,” he explained, “a handing of the torch between generations. But I’ll never forget the words he told me on the day of my inauguration. ‘Everything I’ve done has been for my country,’ he told me, ‘and I trust that everything you’ll do will be for the same.’ I think of my friends of different faiths every time I remember that conversation. We pray in different houses of worship, with different books in our hands, often speaking different languages. But we all pray to the same God. I have led in another direction than Senator McConnell did. But we both led the same nation, the United States of America. God bless her and God bless the soul of Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr.”
Secretary of Labor Occasio-Cortez called Senator Buttigieg a traitor to the working class and people of color. The Democratic party carried Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg to the convention on their shoulders that year and selected him as their nominee for President.
He worked with young, moderate Republicans to pass clean energy bills and universal background checks. He patched up Obamacare and kept it on life support as Trump court appointees waged war against it. He compromised with advocates of tuition free public universities to fund free “Coding Colleges.” Previously sought-after skills became commonplace, deflating the wages of young people looking to enter the tech industry. The vast swaths of citizens encouraged to “learn new career skills” slumped into a new category of working poor. The 1% retained their grip on the majority of wealth while the rest continued to take on the majority of debt. But the stock market remained stable and exports stayed strong. Thanks to his tax compromise with the GOP, a diverse coalition of voters clawed themselves into the middle class and formed a moderate Democratic firewall to last a generation. But it was President Pete’s foreign policy that won him a landslide victory in his re-election bid.
When Iranian hackers brought down half of the electricity grid on the Eastern Seaboard, President Pete marshaled the support of his former colleagues in the Senate to beat the drums of war. After the fall of Tehran, the United Nations supported his plan to move Palestinian citizens to “land reservations” in occupied Iranian territory. The American media applauded President Pete for finally bringing “Peace” to the Middle East. His only primary rival for the Presidential nomination, Rashida Tlaib, called it the “Silk Trail of Tears.”
His only primary rival for the Presidential nomination, Rashida Tlaib, called it the “Silk Trail of Tears.”
Pete Buttigieg’s most vivid memory of receiving the Nobel Peace prize was the sight of protestors in Oslo flinging rotten pomegranates at his motorcade chanting “Pax Americana.” As he stepped to the podium to receive his prize, he remembered Bernie Sanders’ speech at the 2020 Democratic Convention in Milwaukee.
“Our multi-generational, multi-racial coalition does not disband tonight. Our vision for a better future does not fade. Our fight against income inequality does not end. Tonight it begins anew.”
President Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg likes to think he made that vision come true. But in his darkest moments, he knows that his America is a broken mirror of that vision espoused by the man who convinced him to get into politics in the first place. He wonders what would have happened if he had told President Obama “no” that Saturday before Super Tuesday. If he had stayed in the fight or joined Bernie Sanders in his. If Bernie Sanders had become President.
“Mr. President! Mr. President!” the reporters roused Pete Buttigieg from his revery.
“Yes, Ms. Fontaine,” Pete pointed at a young reporter.
“Will you veto these two bills or sign them into law?”
Just as they had that night in 2020, the words of his old essay came flooding back.
Fortunately for the political process, there remain a number of committed individuals who are steadfast enough in their beliefs to run for office to benefit their fellow Americans. Such people are willing to eschew political and personal comfort and convenience because they believe they can make a difference. One outstanding and inspiring example of such integrity is the country’s only Independent Congressman, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.
For the first time in decades, Pete Buttigieg experienced an old but familiar feeling in his heart. He felt the Bern.
He felt the Bern.
The President smiled and pulled a pen out of his pocket.
“I could answer that for you,” he explained to the reporters, “but actions speak louder than words.”
President Pete sat down at the Resolute Desk and put pen to paper.
Filed under “Future History.”