About 40 years ago, the 19th-century porcelain doll from my grandmother’s attic went missing. No one in our family saw it again—until we noticed it was running for mayor of Southbend, Indiana. That’s when I realized Peepaw’s spirit was still on earth.
My grandfather, Peter, was born into a farming community in Shipshewana, Indiana. My mother describes him as a natural-born leader with strong, Christian values. Though he was an intelligent and hardworking man, he never got to go to college because he was needed on the farm. We were thrilled to see that Peepaw had seized the opportunity for a new lease on life, by using the shiny, porcelain figurine known as “Pete Buttigieg” as a vessel for his spirit. He finally got to go to college, work in politics, and live as an out and proud gay man, all things he could never do as a farmer’s son growing up in the 1910s.
It recently became clear that Peepaw had more unfinished business—using his smooth, boyish form to run for president of the United States. The pundits were quick to point out that Peepaw doesn’t have much experience in politics. But what they failed to realize is that he has much more lived experience due to the fact that he lived a full life, was reincarnated, and then lived 38 more years on top of that. His supporters, who were able to look past the doll’s creamy skin, rosy lips, and glassy, blue eyes, understood that what’s living inside it is a wise, measured man from a working-class background who has lived for well over a hundred years.
Others were put off by Peepaw's moderate policies. He supported the public option over medicare for all. He wanted to reduce the interest on student loans instead of canceling them. Though his policies seemed moderate compared to other democrats in the field, he is actually very progressive for his age, which is 116. He also has great taste in music for his age, which again, is 116. I don’t know many other centenarians who believe in a woman’s right to choose and listen to Panic! At the Disco.
It may seem like Pete Buttigieg is just a shiny, new, carefully constructed vessel that was being used to repackage moderate versions of liberal policies, because that’s exactly what he is. That is what made him such a promising candidate. As he liked to point out on the campaign trail, our country is divided, and our party is divided. Young liberals need to start embracing a moderate agenda so we can widen the tent and actually win this thing. Maybe an old man pretending to be a shiny, young boy—and almost hitting the mark—is exactly what we needed.
No ballots were cast for Pete Buttigieg this Tuesday, but that doesn't mean his campaign has failed. He is now a household name, with the potential for a long and successful political career. At the end of the day, Buttigieg is not only a glossy-haired, 19th-century porcelain doll that is hosting my grandfather’s ghost, but also a well-rounded candidate who might just bring this country back together someday.