Gary Callahan, aka The Smiler and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
by Tony Petrangelo
Nov 19, 2019, 7:00 AM

Pete Buttigieg pulls ahead

The Most Trusted Name In Iowa Political Polling™, Ann Seltzer, dropped a new poll on Saturday that showed a completely different race from the one we saw just two months ago. This time, instead of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in the lead, this poll finds the leader of a small provincial fiefdom South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the lead.

Selzer & Co. (9/21 in parenthesis, 6/8 in brackets):

Joe Biden 15 (20) [24]
Bernie Sanders 15 (11) [16]
Elizabeth Warren 16 (22) [15]
Pete Buttigieg 25 (9) [14]
Kamala Harris 3 (6) [7]
Amy Klobuchar 6 (3) [2]
Cory Booker 3 (3) [1]
Undecided 5 (16) [12]
(MoE: ±4.4%)

Here’s what I said at the time about that September poll:

It’s only September now, more than four months until February 3rd, the date of the Iowa caucuses, and the beginning of the people casting ballots portion of the Democratic Presidential nomination process. It’s still early is the point. Things can still change.

In some ways things have changed, but in other ways things have reverted back to where they were in the summer.

While Elizabeth Warren had pulled ahead in the previous poll, seemingly at the expense of Bernie Sanders, this poll shows both candidates reverting to where they were over the summer, the mid-teens. At the same time Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have basically switched places, with Joe Biden now bunched up with Warren and Sanders while Buttigieg holds a commanding lead.

Having four front-runners makes the dynamics a little bit hard to pin down, but it seems possible that the continued viability of the Joe Biden campaign may be the only thing holding Buttigieg back from running away with Iowa.

Broadly speaking there seems to be two lanes in this Democratic primary campaign, the Lefty lane and the Not Lefty lane. Warren and Sanders are the two front-runners in the Lefty lane while Buttigieg and Biden are the front-runners in the Not Lefty lane.

The degree to which these lanes remain open or consolidate could be the main factor that decides who wins the nomination. If Biden continues to bleed votes to Buttigieg, while Warren and Sanders remain roughly tied, that would be a boon for Buttigieg and is his most likely path to the nomination.

While Warren and Sanders certainly don’t want Biden in the lead, they also don’t want him gone, at least not yet. The same can be said of Warren and Sanders, the longer they both remain viable, the less likely that either one of them wins.

Whichever lane, Lefty or Not Lefty, manages to consolidate first is likely the lane that wins the Democratic nomination.

The header image above shows Pete Buttigieg next to one of the great villains of somewhat obscure comic book history, Gary Callahan, The Smiler, from Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan. The first time I saw Buttigieg I thought of The Smiler and I haven’t been able to associate him with anyone else since.

The likeness is uncanny, but not just for the visual appearance. It’s entirely possible that Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson were prophets of the dark times to come.

Transmetropolitan begins with the Hunter S. Thompson inspired Spider Jerusalem being forced out of retirement to complete a book deal. Spider goes back to work for his old (Jann Wenner inspired) editor and quickly becomes embroiled in the politics of The City.

The incumbent President in the comic is known only as The Beast and is clearly inspired by Richard Nixon, but really, could easily describe our current President. Long story short, to Spider’s horror his efforts to take out The Beast lead to the election of The Smiler, a far more evil and devious foe.

Anyway, that’s the basic contours of the story and it’s crazy to think it’s an actual timeline we could end up in.

This quote is from a 2014 article in The Independent about a 2013 book called The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business:

McKinsey’s fingerprints can be found at the scene of some of the most spectacular corporate and financial debacles of recent decades. The energy-trading firm Enron was the creation of Jeff Skilling, a proud McKinsey consultant of 21 years. But this wasn’t guilt by association. Enron, under Mr Skilling, was paying McKinsey $10m (£6m) a year for advice. McKinsey fully endorsed the dubious accounting methods that caused the company to implode in 2001.

The consultancy also advised virtually all of the Wall Street banks in the unprecedented credit boom of the past decade. Its consultants, as Mr McDonald chronicles, actively promoted the securitisation of mortgage assets, the practice that poisoned the global financial system and precipitated the 2008 credit meltdown.

If you’re not aware, Pete Buttigieg worked for McKinsey for three years from 2007-2010. He hasn’t really said much about his time at McKinsey, citing a confidentiality agreement, but this is an interesting quote given McKinsey’s vast history of wrongdoing:

“I think they’ve made a lot of poor choices, especially in the last few years,” he said. “I left about 10 years ago. But it’s really frustrating, as somebody who worked there, to see some of the decisions that they’ve made.”

Ah yes, McKinsey only became a bad actor in the last few years, long after The Good Mayor Pete was gone from the scene. Enron? Never heard of it.

The Fear with a President Buttigieg is that rather than dismantling child detention facilities, as an example, he’ll instead endeavor to make them more humane, and by humane I mean efficient and scalable. Instead of smoothing out the wealth distribution curve, he’ll instead endeavor to keep the status quo humming along.

Here’s more Buttigieg:

On his bus the next morning, Buttigieg assessed his McKinsey experience in starkly political terms and calculations. “One thing that’s clear is that most voters want to know that you are a capitalist as well as progressive,” he responded when asked how prepared he was to defend his work there, if and when the other Democratic candidates make it an issue.

“To me,” he added, “the Democratic part is really important, right? That’s why I say I’m a Democratic capitalist. The fact that I cut my teeth in the business world may relate to that.”

But he’s got such a nice smile right?

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