Chasten Buttigieg on stage with Seattle Times reporter Naomi Ishisaka talking about his recent young adult book, I have something to tell you.
By Connor Nash
Last week husbands Pete and Chasten Buttigieg had vastly different experiences and reactions when speaking with reporters. Secretary of Transportation Pete talked with Wired magazine talked about a wide variety of topics including neoliberalism, beer, and Tucker Carlson, among other topics. A topic of conversation that was lacking was what he does as Secretary of Transportation.
Even the questions that were “transportation” focused were just a cover for the reporter, Virginia Hefferman, to talk about the culture war.
“And yet EVs unaccountably fall on the femme side of the ledger, like Impossible burgers,” said Hefferman. Or “People like infrastructure, I guess. Even Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t pro-pothole.”
Or my favorite, “Running DOT seems to suit you. Are there more ways the challenges of transportation speak to your spiritual side?”
Hefferman came away from the interview believing that Pete doesn’t put much mental energy into his job which focuses on the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
“I slowly became aware that his cabinet job requires only a modest portion of his cognitive powers. Other mental facilities, no kidding, are apportioned to the Iliad, Puritan historiography, and Knausgaard’s Spring—though not in the original Norwegian (slacker).”
While Pete was being lambasted by the media and Twitter users, his husband Chasten was promoting his new young adult book, I have something to tell you, based on his first memoir. Both books talk about Chasten’s life growing up in Northern Michigan and his struggles of growing up gay in a conservative area.
In his first memoir, released during the 2020 presidential election, Chasten talks about his time going in and out of the closet, his time experiences with homelessness, being crushed under student loans, and his time struggling as a college graduate with a teaching degree.
The first book reads like a memoir you’d expect from a politician planning to run for office and talks about his own policy beliefs through his lived experience. Higher education reform, student loan reform, greater funding for public education, healthcare, and insurance reform. All topics that drive Democratic and liberal voters to the ballot box are wrapped up in a story that connects strongly with those voters.
Meanwhile, his young adult book is released at a time that is challenging the political tides. The May 2023 release of a gay-centric young adult novel. Pen America found that in the first half of the 2022-23 school year, there were 1,477 instances of book bannings happening across the nation. The organization found that 26% of those bannings were on books that had LGBTQ themes or characters.
Chasten addresses book bannings during the event, saying that many people on the other side are not discussing the topic in good faith. “Nobody has a problem with Romero and Juliet but people are up in arms about gay penguins… too many people want to jump into the culture war and not put in the work,” said Chasten.
He then pivoted to a reliable Democratic talking point on gun control being the best way to protect children. Although the point has been used over and over again with liberal talking heads, when Chasten made the point there was a level of authenticity lacking in today’s politics. Probably due to his experience as a middle school English/drama teacher before the move to his role in politics.
His past work as a teacher also helped him write his memoir into a book for young adults. “I taught 8th grade, this book is age appropriate.” the audience cheered and laughed in agreement.
The moment that solidified my belief that Chasten should be the political face of the Buttigieg household was during the Q&A when an older woman asked a question representative of the changing times. The woman tripped over her words at times but talked about how a family member of hers is so knowledgeable of gender identity and language.
The woman even messed up their family member’s preferred pronouns but she quickly corrected herself. Essentially the woman wanted to understand more about this family member’s journey and asked in a way you would expect from a Boomer that grew up in a different time.
Chasten could have chastised the woman when she referred to her family member as “transexual” or said that “LGBTQ people don’t need to educate the cis straights.” Instead, he rewarded the woman’s curiosity and bravery for asking a hot topic in front of a Seattle crowd.
He talked about how it’s a good thing to learn about these things, especially since the times are changing. That there may be uncomfortable moments, but those are just learning moments that everyone can grow from. Finally, he said, “It’s easier to go through life when you don’t have to defend yourself,” addressing why her family member is so knowledgeable on the concepts of gender identity.
Chasten can make a room feel not only heard and understood but that he cares about their lives. Maybe it’s the years of drama school, or that he is a new father, but his message of empathy and compassion feels real, and it comes from a genuine place.
The problem is that Chasten does not believe he has what it takes to be in a position of political power. He is confused why people would come out to listen to him talk about his book, how could he be comfortable with people actively voting for him for any office? Chasten does not have that narcissistic drive that every politician has, which is exactly why he should be in elected office.
Chasten’s message of kindness and empathy is a breath of fresh air in these times, especially when he says, “There are so many good people in this country but you don’t hear about them on the news.” The polar opposite of “basket of deplorables” or “American carnage.”
This is why I am “Chasten Buttigieg for any Elected Office.”