One of the smaller tragedies of the 2016 presidential election is that America lost its chance to have a “First Gentleman” in the White House. With four married heterosexual women running for the Democratic nomination in 2020, that particular portion of the glass ceiling could soon be shattered. But there’s a fifth possibility, too: that the first “First Gentleman”could be Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of openly gay South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who at the moment is having something of a buzz festival.
Luckily for the candidate, his husband, a middle-school teacher, is handling the often-awkward job of being a political spouse with aplomb, and is drawing rave reviews. The daily bread of the chattering classes, Politico, has just published an appreciation entitled: “Chasten Buttigieg is winning the 2020 spouse primary.” The headline is fully justified by the text:
[T]he husband of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a constant presence, at least on Twitter, where he posts a steady stream of commentary in fluent millennialese. Follow his account — as, at this writing, more than 108,000 people do — and you’ll learn that he is a father of dogs, a Harry Potter fan, a theater geek, an enamored husband with a knack for choosing the right GIF. You’ll also see why, in some circles, he has taken on the status of folk hero. “Pete Buttigieg’s husband Chasten is the Twitter celebrity we deserve,” read a recent headline in Mashable….
Campaigns spend ample amounts of money on image consultants; they hire staffs to develop multifaceted social media strategies and strategize endlessly about publicity stunts. At this early point in the 2020 race, Chasten seems to be lapping other campaigns on all of those fronts, while lounging in slippers in his living room. It all feels a little unfair — like bringing Mozart in to join the high school orchestra.
The laid-back charm of Chasten Buttigieg has probably made it easier for Mayor Pete to present himself as a thoughtful policy wonk without being suspected of taking himself too seriously. And it has attracted a whole different type and volume of media attention to a very long-shot candidacy. Elle’s Eric Thomas is just one of an emerging tribe of Chasten fans:
While the president bullies his enemies and shouts misspelled lies on Twitter, Chasten is over here doubling down on lovable nerd antics and all-around goodwill…
It’s like … he’s not even on Twitter. This is not how this platform performs anymore. Somewhere around 2016 Twitter pivoted to being a direct conduit to rage and airline complaints from celebrities. Nevertheless, Chasten persists, painting a picture of a somehow well-adjusted American person in this, the year of our doom, 2019. Remarkable!
Chasten’s Twitter account is rather addictive, and yes, it’s a far cry from the usual political rants:
For other spouses of 2020 presidential candidates, Chasten Buttigieg may set a difficult standard to match, particularly if his husband’s bid for the White House becomes genuinely viable. If nothing else, he shows that a prospective First Gentleman can have a distinctive public presence without fear of undermining the stature of the next president of the United States.