Mayor Pete—as the boyishly handsome South Bend, Indiana, mayor is known to legions of political admirers and fans, as charmed by the ersatz folksiness of his name as they are by his bland banality—made an appearance on Fox News October 7, prior to the Vice Presidential debate.
When asked how potential voters could square the conflict between Kamala Harris’ previous statements and beliefs with the ticket on which she’s running, Mayor Peter dropped a “firebomb” so powerful, it left Twitter users still chattering about it the next day with “Pete” trending.
Swallow your coffee first, because this is apparently—wait for it—legendary.
OMG! Pete Buttigieg left Fox News scorched!!!
— ?Angie K ??? (@angie_keathly) October 8, 2020
“If people want to play that game, we could look into why an evangelical Christian like Mike Pence wants to be on a ticket with a president caught with a porn star…” he says, adding shortly after that one could also wonder how the Vice President “feels about the immigration policy he called unconstitutional before he decided to team up with Donald Trump. If folks want to play that game, we could do it all night.”
The online response was swift and immediate, mostly taking the form of some variation of “he burned it to the ground.” Only in the circle jerk of Twitter and liberal political reporting would such a mild remark cause such a slow-clap, gleeful uproar. And of course it was delivered by that human Xanax, the gay man so sexless that even Indiana embraced him, who is being celebrated for venturing into the lions’ den of a Fox News segment to trash talk their leaders.
But—and please forgive me, I’ve been preoccupied the last few months—when did pointing out glaring inconsistencies become brave? When did calmly returning a verbal volley to a news anchor qualify one for Twitter stan status? That is the actual job of politicians and reporters, but they’ve been so enmeshed in their game of “who’ll blink first?” for the last four years they haven’t bothered to see the emojis on the wall until it’s too late. People consume their news differently. People make news differently, but the reporting and the elected Democrats’ reaction to it has remained consistent: Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Stay on the moral highground, because god forbid you seem to care enough to fight dirty. Ascribe Ocean’s 11-level plotting to a carnival huckster who is distracted by whatever stray thought pops into his head, and now has the ability to make it law. Or at least a tweet that will be relentlessly dissected by politicos for however long a news cycle lasts in 2020. Fifteen minutes?
Needless to say, this is not a phenomenon from which anyone at Fox News suffers.
That vacuum has left people so starved for Democrats with spines that we’ve been given not just Mayor Pete saying “porn” on air, but Nancy Pelosi’s clap and then Nancy Pelosi tearing up her copy of the State of the Union speech. Instantly memeable, instantly brand-making. Call it the Alexandria Ocasio Cortez effect. But where AOC’s social media accounts feel like an organic extension of the work she does in office and her persona there, her less Internet savvy peers are all flash player and no embed. When’s the last time a Nancy Pelosi speech went viral?
So Mayor Pete saying something truthful and pointed about political inconsistencies is the perfect firestorm of relatable content: Someone saying what everyone has been thinking for the last four years, but which rarely comes up in discourse. The comment isn’t too loud or pushy or feather-ruffling, and it’s easily digestible. Mayor Pete gets to look, dare he hope, presidential; the Fox News hosts can pretend to be outraged for as long as the camera light stays red, then return to whatever their true personal beliefs are; and social media gets another video to pass around while everyone is bored at home because the President and Vice President are residing over a country paralyzed by an avoidable, deadly pandemic. But hey, how about that porn star, Pete!
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