Mayor Pete Buttigieg is breaking American history.
The young man, 37, from South Bend, Indiana, did something earth-shattering, something no straight white male contender for president has ever done. Not Abraham Lincoln. Not Teddy Roosevelt. Certainly not John F. Kennedy. Not even Barack Obama. None of these presidents dared to do what he has done.
Buttigieg has stated simply that his marriage is the most important thing to him. Smelling salts, please. I think he means it, too, fair and square.
He's a Harvard man but cut from a different cloth. The millennial seems innocent and wise at once — and he plays the piano, too.
If you fell under the spell of the Democratic mayor's official campaign announcement, perhaps you witnessed him embrace his husband, his "love," Chasten Buttigieg, a schoolteacher. Their open affection in public stirred an outpouring from the hometown crowd — and a million dollars from the wider world.
There was nothing to hide, and that felt good.
Right in front of us was the most important thing in his life. Fancy that, the two of them. A neck-and-neck Supreme Court decision made gay marriage possible, not long ago (in the sunken-pool Obama years). "Chas" even took Pete's strange last name, so that traditional touch makes it even more real. They look swell together.
In a spirited speech, Buttigieg declared that politics is personal, formed from personal experience. The law finally smiled upon his right to live with whom he loves and marry him. And he is right as he can be. The personal is political. That's the home truth of the women's movement. Did he know it?
"Politics matters because it hits home," the mayor said, deftly speaking of when his "lawfully married spouse" stayed at his side in his mother's hospital room.
For city folks watching from Washington or New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, it was something to see a social revolution happen in a small football-minded town in Indiana. I know, right? South Bend is straight up Midwestern, in a state that's gone red for years. It's the one next to Illinois. (Maybe we can flip it.)
As a reporter on politics observed, the first first man might be a gay guy, not a straight woman's husband. For broken believers in Hillary Clinton in 2016 who now like the cut of Sen. Kamala Harris' jib, that concept is bittersweet. In 2020, one century after women won the vote in 1920, don't count the four Senate women candidates out of the presidential stakes.
But if you love mid-20th-century American musicals, as I do, then you may agree that Mayor Pete as a character could have stepped out of "The Music Man" or "Oklahoma!" Like Curly the cowboy.
The shiny optimism in such songs and stories grabs your imagination by the collar and doesn't let go as the wind comes sweeping down the plain. The land is grand, and the characters usually mean well, fair and square.
That's what I'm talking about.
Optimism is the essential American DNA trait that's gone missing, presumed dead, in our political conversations. The murder suspect, President Trump, is at large with his tweets and tongue. He spends most of his day insulting other people, or groups of people, like immigrants or an outspoken Muslim woman in Congress.
The president couldn't resist telling the people of Paris that those fighting the flames burning Notre Dame were doing it wrong. Not even in the midst of a world tragedy can he say or do the right thing. The redacted Mueller report will be his next casualty.
Buttigieg is no country boy, with a polished delivery that messages he has seen the world and come home again. It doesn't hurt that he served in the Navy. He came out only two years ago.
Trump is said to have humiliated his first wife in public, at a teary farewell ceremony, when he ousted her from running a casino. "I don't need this, some woman crying," Trump sneered. "I need somebody strong in here."
His statuesque third wife, Melania Trump, is the first lady. There's little love lost now in the dark White House.
Bring on the loving Buttigiegs.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit the website Creators.com