Tag Archives: book

Mayor Pete And The Long Shot

My husband keeps telling me he’s not falling in love with any of the Democratic candidates for President until the field is narrowed. I know he’s right–and I also know that no matter who emerges at the top of the Democratic ticket, I’m going to work my you-know-what off to get that candidate elected.

I’d vote for my cat if it was running against Donald Trump–and I don’t have a cat.

That said, I’ve been blown away by Indiana’s own Mayor Pete Buttigieg. I was first impressed by him several years ago, when I attended a South Bend hearing on the addition of sexual orientation to the city’s human rights ordinance, and heard his eloquent, off-the-cuff testimony. I’ve been even more impressed by his recent performances on CNN and in various interviews.

And I just finished his book: Shortest Way Home. 

Most books by politically ambitious politicians are predictable “PR” efforts. Here’s why you should vote for me; here’s why I’m a good guy/gal. Here are my somewhat-fudged-in-order-not-to-piss-people-off policy positions. See my somewhat forced smile on the book’s cover?

Mayor Pete’s book isn’t like that. (For one thing, it’s readable and enjoyable–I finished it in less than two days.)

Not only is the book extremely well-written (wouldn’t it be nice to have a President who actually is familiar with the English language? the other seven languages Mayor Pete speaks are just icing on that cake), but it avoids both the typical “look at me” approach of such books, as well as the equally common phony modesty. It is basically the story of a learning curve, as he recounts lessons learned through his academic life, business and military experience, and personal tests.

Because I once was part of a city administration, I particularly liked the discussions of the challenges and rewards of his years as South Bend’s mayor, and the growth in his understanding of both the technical, data-driven aspects of the job and the  symbolic value of appearances that he had initially viewed as time-wasters. In large part, the book is the story of his success revitalizing a city that had been left behind by previous economic trends, with plenty of examples that other struggling urban areas might adopt. (Smart sewers, anyone?)

In fact, the book is a chronological story through which Mayor Pete shares life lessons–including forthright acknowledgments of what he learned from mistakes made and losses experienced.

If the book was written with his current Presidential campaign in mind, it doesn’t show.

I know that Mayor Pete is the longest of long shots for the nomination. But I’m so hungry for authenticity, for intellect, for someone who is smart enough to know what he doesn’t know, and human enough to demonstrate compassion and self-awareness. It helps that I agree with every forthright (non-fudged) policy position I’ve heard him take. It helps that he understands the issues of urban governance and the conservative Midwest. It helps that he so clearly understands the complexities of policy. It helps that his book reflects a thoughtfulness, emotional maturity and value structure that is so obviously missing, not just from Trump, but from most members of the current political class.

I know my husband is right–that it is too early to fall in love with a candidate. But I’ve certainly fallen in passionate like with this one….

Buy This Book!

I think I may be in love with Al Franken. In fact, I think he’d be a great President! (Of course, next to the one we have, my cat would be a great President–and I don’t have a cat. Still…)

I just finished reading Al Franken: Giant of the Senate. I recommend it highly–and not only for its humor. (But the humor is great.)

The book tells the story of Franken’s improbable voyage from Saturday Night Live (and other venues for less than decorous humor) to the U.S. Senate, and it is more informative than most textbooks if you want to learn about the political process, the operation of the United States Senate, the day to day job description of a Senator, and the pros and cons of a variety of thorny political issues.

As the flyleaf says, “it’s a book about what happens when the nation’s foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.” It’s also “a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.”

The book is a testament to democratic decision-making and public service, written by a mensch. (Google it.) Franken’s self-deprecating storytelling, his willingness to credit his staff and his family and even his constituents for his accomplishments, is particularly refreshing at a time when America’s Commander-in-Chief insists on taking personal credit for any event that is even remotely positive, whether he had anything to do with it or not. (Any day now, I fully expect him to take credit for the sun rising in the morning.)

If the real Al Franken is the same person who comes across in this book, he’s a great guy–down to earth, level-headed, self-aware–with a great sense of humor. (Genuine humor, when you think about it, requires a sense of proportion and an appreciation of reality.) Evidently, you can speak truth to power without being an asshole; you can be a committed progressive and still get along with equally committed conservatives; and you can take seriously your obligation to represent the people who live in your state without being a sanctimonious prig.

You can also learn how to be an effective “insider” without getting co-opted by “the system.”

The best thing about this book? It restored my faith in the possibilities of democracy. (Note the word “possibilities.”) Given Franken’s candid reporting on the current state of our nation, democracy is far from being realized, but it does remain a (tantalizing) possibility.

Buy the damn book.