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Politics of Climate Change Got More Complicated in 2019 – VOA News



2019 was the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and an uptick in climate action pledges by governments across the globe. 
From Britain to Germany, Europe’s mainstream party leaders scrambled to respond to a surge in electoral support for Green parties — and to growing public anxiety about the possible impact of climate change. 
During European Parliament elections in June, 48 percent of voters identified climate change as their top worry. Opinion polls in Germany for some weeks of 2019 put the Greens ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s storied Christian Democratic Party, which, along with its junior partner in the country’s governing coalition, has been racing to sharpen climate policies. 
British move

In Britain, the ruling Conservatives announced a hugely ambitious carbon reduction plan, enshrining into law a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so. Some smaller countries, including Finland and Norway, are earmarking dates earlier than 2050 to become net-zero greenhouse gas producers, but so far have not made their goals legally binding. 
In America, an alliance of 24 states and Puerto Rico promised to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action, despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international pact. 
Shouldn’t all these plans and pledges be music to ears of climate action activists and scientists? 

FILE – Activist Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading “School strike for the climate” during a demonstration against climate change outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, Nov. 30, 2018.

Apparently not. On the eve of Christmas, Thunberg tweeted: “I hear many say 2019 was the year when the public woke up to the climate crisis. This is a misconception. A small but rapidly growing number of people have started to wake up to the climate crisis. This has only just begun. We’re still only scratching the surface.” 
For Thunberg, her guardians and loyalists, change can’t come fast enough, however wrenching and dislocating it might be. Governments aren’t doing enough and are failing to count their emissions accurately, they complain, and corporations are dragging their feet.  

For activists, December’s Madrid climate change conference epitomized the foot-dragging and a failure to be truly aspirational in cutting emissions. For Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion activists in Britain and Australia, the key task for the Madrid gathering was to unveil ambitious new goals — and fossil-fuel-dependent countries, notably Brazil and Australia, flunked it, they say. 

Rich vs. poor
The rift between wealthy, developed nations and poorer, developing nations over who is going to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions also remained as wide as ever. And governments in Madrid stalled on agreeing on new regulations for carbon markets and the trading of carbon permits between countries for the offsetting of emissions, one of the most critical and contentious issues at the climate change conference. 
“In Madrid, the key polluting countries responsible for 80 percent of the world’s climate-wrecking emissions stood mute, while smaller countries announced they’ll work to drive down harmful emissions in the coming year,” said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based climate action advocacy group. “World leaders dithered instead of taking stronger, critical action soon to reduce the global climate threat. They ignored dire scientific reports, worsening evidence of climate destruction and demands from millions of young people to protect their future.” 

The COP 25 conference center is seen in Madrid. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)
FILE – The COP 25 conference center is seen in Madrid. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)

For others, though, the Madrid conference symbolized how politically complicated it will be to deliver climate action — a complexity activists ignore and glide over, some analysts warn. The venue for the conference itself spoke to that. The meeting was scheduled to be held in Chile, but it had to be switched to Spain because of riots in the Latin American country over a “Green” hike in transit fares. 
And it wasn’t only in Chile that protesters were taking to the streets to complain about expensive Green policies that could make living standards plunge. In France, the Yellow Vests, drawn mainly from small towns, persisted with their demonstrations against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, an agitation triggered initially by the imposition of higher eco-taxes on fuel. 
The year 2019 also saw strong resistance in Germany from motorists, as a well as automakers, to planned higher fuel prices and an abrupt shift to electric cars — yet another front in a political backlash to climate action. 

Tricky politics
For governments, even environmentally friendly ones, climate change poses a massive political dilemma, and 2019 brought that home. Impose the tax hikes and costly regulations scientists say are needed to lower emissions and move economies away from dependency on fossil fuels, and governments risk prompting a backlash, largely from lower-income workers and pensioners, who can ill afford to bear the expense. 
The alternative is to move slowly and risk blowback from climate action activists and their supporters among largely middle class and higher-income groups able to adapt with less hardship. Squaring the circle between those who demand fast-track climate-friendly measures and those who want to slow down and mitigate the impact of moving toward a low-carbon future isn’t going to be easy, say analysts. 
In Europe, Central European governments sense the acute political danger to them and have been resisting a European Union plan to join Britain in earmarking 2050 as the year the bloc has to be “net zero.”  

Smoke rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland,…
FILE – Smoke rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near Bogatynia, Poland, Nov. 19, 2019.

Poland has been especially vociferous in opposition. The country is heavily dependent on coal for its energy needs and more than a quarter-million Polish jobs are tied to the fossil fuel industry. Without coal, many towns in Poland will have no economic raison d’être. “You can’t expect Poland to leap to zero carbon in 30 years,” according to Marchin Nowak, a coal industry executive. 
While smaller developing countries fret that they will bear too much of the burden of climate action compared with richer nations, so, too, do those who already feel left behind in developed countries, fearing the costs and benefits of climate action will be unfairly placed on their shoulders. 2019 saw the opening salvos in this new political war over environmentalism. 

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The Atlantic Politics Daily: Bernie’s Big Vulnerability – The Atlantic



It’s Thursday, February 27. In today’s newsletter: What Bernie Sanders’s 2020 rivals learned from Hillary Clinton. Plus: Venezuela is the eerie endgame of modern politics, Anne Applebaum writes.



(John Locher / AP)

Bernie’s rivals have found an opening to attack him from the left.

To his detractors, Bernie Sanders can at best sound like a broken record. His core 2020 message is largely consistent with the progressive message he’s been hammering at for decades. But on issues around gun violence, Sanders hasn’t always been stalwartly progressive. He opposed certain gun restrictions in the ‘90s, and though his views have “evolved” (to use the preferred parlance of wishy washy DC politicos), his record on guns may be among his biggest vulnerabilities.

Candidates like Michael Bloomberg eager to go after Bernie on guns are borrowing from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 playbook, my colleague Russell Berman points out:

The campaign saw the gun issue as potent against Sanders, a former official told me, because it resonated most with three constituencies crucial to Democrats: voters of color, suburban women, and young people. Yet because Clinton never truly feared losing the nomination, she stopped short of maximizing the impact of her attack and didn’t run negative television ads on his gun record. “We raised the gun issue in order to put some chum in the water,” the second former campaign official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. The strategy “was much more about giving something for the elites and the press to talk about than it was about informing actual primary voters.”

All the while, gun violence in America has grimly, devastatingly plodded along. Just yesterday, five people were shot and killed at the Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee. America in 2019 saw more mass shootings than any other year on record. Two of the three deadliest occurred in the span of a single day.

Gun violence has become personal for many people in a way that it wasn’t before—a shift the party can try to capitalize on, my colleague Elaine Godfrey writes.

Guns have “to be on par with health care and with quality-of-life issues,” Dan Sena, a Democratic strategist who was the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during last year’s midterms, told me in an interview. And the growing intrusion of mass gun violence into daily life could be what upgrades the issue to a top concern for voters—a shift that Democrats could try to capitalize on in the same way they seized on voters’ worries about the fate of Obamacare and their own creeping health-care costs last year. The 2020 election, Sena said, “could be the first time you actually see” gun violence take center stage as the party’s go-to election message.

But can Democrats successfully center any part of the 2020 race around guns?

Saahil Desai



(Leah Millis / Reuters)

1. “Critics may laugh and shake their heads, but the simple fact is that these people see themselves as stalwart defenders of the Constitution.”

While Attorney General Bill Barr’s critics accuse him of bending law enforcement to Trump’s political whims, but what if Barr’s efforts are working toward depoliticizing the Justice Department? That’s the argument of this former associate director for regulatory reform at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

2. “The GOP now exists to further the personal desires and wealth of one man … It is no longer a party of ideas, but a party of idolaters.”

Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is a symptom of problem America’s institutions face, three founders of the anti-Trump activist group called the Lincoln Project argue: “Defeating him is only the beginning of a national reformation,” they say.

3. “The purity test starts at the top.”

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien’s recent culling of the National Security Council may be cloaked in the language of making a sprawling bureaucracy more efficient. But really the move functions as a purge of disloyal staffers to Trump, this former Pentagon speechwriter argues.



(Emin Ozmen / Magnum Photos)

What Happened in Venezuela

“Venezuela is not an idea,” Anne Applebaum writes. “It is a real place, full of real people.” And the current state of the country represents the eerie endgame of modern politics:

Trump is not the only world leader to cite Venezuela for self-serving ends. Regardless of what actually happens there, Venezuela—especially when it was run by Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez—has long been a symbolic cause for the Marxist left as well … Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left leader of the British Labour Party, was photographed with Chávez and has described his regime in Venezuela as an “inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neoliberal economics.”

Chávez’s rhetoric also helped inspire the Spanish Marxist Pablo Iglesias to create Podemos, Spain’s far-left party. Iglesias has long been suspected of taking Venezuelan money, though he denies it. Even now, the idea of Venezuela inspires defensiveness and anger wherever dedicated Marxists still gather, whether they are Code Pink activists vowing to “protect” the Venezuelan embassy in Washington from the Venezuelan opposition or French Marxists who refuse to call Maduro a dictator.

Read the rest.


Today’s newsletter was written Saahil Desai, an editor on the Politics desk, and Christian Paz, a politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

You can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments, or send a note to politicsdaily@theatlantic.com.

Your support makes our journalism possible. Subscribe here.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Saahil Desai is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers politics and policy.
Christian Paz is an editorial fellow at The Atlantic.

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A Q&A With Charlotte Alter About the Politics and Politicians of the Millennial Generation – New York Magazine



Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The next president of the United States will probably be someone who’s over the age of 70. Donald Trump is 73; Joe Biden is 77. Bernie Sanders, who is currently leading the Democratic Party’s primary field, is 78. But young people are transforming American politics, driving substantive ideological trends in both major parties via the politicians they support. Sanders, for example, owes much of his leading status to the young. In fact, young Democratic voters prefer him to Pete Buttigieg, a more moderate millennial, by a wide margin.

They’re also entering political office themselves. In doing so, they begin an inevitable process: Soon enough, their generation will be the one controlling Congress and the White House. What will that America look like? Will it take up the political revolution promised by Sanders, will it tilt to the right, or will it default to the patterns established by the political class that millennials will eventually replace? Without the aid of a crystal ball, nobody can answer these questions with any certainty. But the future is beginning to take shape, and in her new book, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, journalist Charlotte Alter provides us an invaluable early glimpse into the events and movements that will influence politics for decades to come.

Alter, a national correspondent for Time magazine, recounts the trajectories of several prominent members of America’s newest class of politicians. Alter’s subjects are diverse — they range from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist; to Dan Crenshaw, the Texas Republican whose inflammatory attacks on migrants and fellow member of Congress Ilhan Omar made him infamous. But Alter identifies some connective tissue among these up-and-coming leaders — namely a view of politics that can be less rigidly hierarchical and places a greater emphasis on plurality compared to their boomer predecessors. Alter spoke to New York about her findings and what they may tell us about the future of both major parties. The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For is out now from Viking.

This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed for length.

You talked to young politicians from across the political spectrum: leftists, more traditional Democratic liberals, some Republicans, too. Are there any common characteristics that distinguish this younger class of politicians from their older colleagues?

A couple of things. Millennials obviously are much better with technology and are much more fluent in the language of social media than their boomer peers are. They definitely care way more about climate change in particular. And that’s true across the political spectrum. Republicans, too. The young Republicans I talked to told me that climate change is happening and the government has to do something about it.

They do have totally different ideas about what that should be. They’re not onboard with the Green New Deal. They don’t embrace socialism the way young leftist millennials do. They have a real disagreement about what that climate action should be. But one major point of agreement across the aisle, people of both parties is like this, is that climate change is a real threat.

Another thing that I noticed is that morality politics have changed a lot. So again, across the spectrum, young Republicans have given up on the battle against marriage equality while older Republicans who maybe have a more 1990s, Christian right sort of framework are still beating that drum. Marijuana legalization was another place where young Republicans just were not fighting a battle that older Republicans are fighting. A lot of young Republicans that I talk to think that marijuana legalization will be good for business and good for health. I think there’s a little bit more of a live-and-let-live-type attitude amongst some of these younger Republicans. One big exception to that is abortion, where both sides are still really entrenched. And I didn’t see a lot of generational movement there.

We’re seeing an intergenerational fight within the Democratic Party that isn’t just about age, but about substantive differences in ideology and tactics. Do you think that a similar dynamic exists in the Republican Party right now?

One thing that’s happening in the Republican Party right now is that they’re losing young people. There was a Pew statistic that should be very scary for anybody who cares about the future of the Republican Party, which is that only half of young Republicans stayed loyal to the GOP over the course of 2015 to 2017. During Trump’s rise, basically. So half of those people defected from the GOP, and then came back, which means they have maybe a soft allegiance. They’re still with the GOP, but were upset enough that they left and came back in. And then half of those people permanently defected. Overall, a quarter of young Republicans have permanently defected from the GOP.

Some of the polls that look at the attitudes of young Republicans are in some ways kind of skewed, I think, because they’re looking at the attitudes of people who still call themselves Republicans. They’re not looking at the attitudes of people who, if you’d asked them in 2013 if they were Republican, they would have said yes. A lot of those people now identify as independents. So young Republicans in particular have been especially turned off by Trump. Not only turned off by him, but he’s made their lives more complex. They find themselves constantly having to defend him, constantly having to tiptoe around him or justify him. I talked to some young Republican members of Congress who, even though they support the president, they don’t ever mention him in their speeches. You can infer that they don’t want there to be a quote out there of them saying how great Donald Trump is so it can be used in an attack ad against them ten years from now.

You mentioned that on morality issues, like same-sex marriage, there are some generational differences within the Republican Party. But race and immigration are issues that have been at the fore of the Trump presidency. Have you noticed similar generational differences there, or is it a bit more complicated?

So I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that. I do think that young Republicans generally do support immigration more than their older Republicans do. There are obviously some big exceptions, like Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, who has emerged as being particularly tough on immigration. But people like Carlos Curbelo, a former congressman from Florida, and Elise Stefanik of New York were among the people who pushed back against some of the things that Trump did on immigration initially.

I think what is important to think about when thinking about young Republicans in this context is that I think a lot of them — and I want to make sure I phrase this the correct way — have an understanding of racial justice that is closer to their Democratic peers than to their boomer Republican peers, who think of racial justice like, “Oh, segregation’s over, everything’s fine.” We see that in young Republicans’ support for criminal justice reform and things like that. But there is a culture war in how those values are expressed. And I think that a lot of young Republicans in particular are turned off by PC culture and sort of the sanctimony of some of their left-wing peers. So they’re kind of pushed away from that side of the movement, and they feel attacked.

How is social media changing the way this new generation of politicians are running for office right now?
It’s changed it entirely. Instagram is to AOC what radio was to FDR and television was to JFK. It is a completely new and essential way of communicating with the public. It’s not as if any of these people, like, started using social media the second they started running for office. It’s not a blazer that they put on that they hadn’t been wearing before, you know. So a lot of these people are used to communicating in a mass way. They’re used to being in front of a camera. They’re used to asking people to do things on the internet: “Please click this. Please check this out. Here’s what I think about this thing.” In some ways, social media has made it so that almost every millennial is a public figure in some way or another. Everybody has a side to them that is public-facing, and running for office just means that you lean into that public side way more than you would have if you were a private citizen. I think in previous generations, people had to just develop that public side out of nowhere because you didn’t have a built-in mechanism to have that public facing side of you. So many of the major social movements, particularly on the left, like Occupy and Black Lives Matter, also started on social media and kind of mimic social media in their structures. They are networked. They’re not hierarchical. There is no one person who is in charge and telling everybody what to do. There is sort of an organic way that information and ideas and attitudes kind of flow within these movements. These movements were created by thousands of voices speaking at once. And that’s what I really tried to get at in this book. That’s why it’s called The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For. In some ways, the thesis of this book is that millennial politics is rooted in a sense of plurality, that there isn’t going to be any one person like Pete Buttigieg or AOC where if they become president, it will be the era of the millennial politician. That’s not the point. The point is that this is a generation that is much more networked, has their politics much more rooted in mass movements. This is a book about politics in the plural, trying to move away from the great man idea that there is one person and the decisions they make are the most important decisions in the world.

Do you think social media is making it easier for people to run for office?

Yes, it’s definitely making it easier. I think it’s making politics seem accessible to more people. Somebody like AOC uses her social media to essentially communicate the message that I’m a normal person just like you, and I ran for office and won. That’s the point of democracy, that an ordinary person can, with the help of a lot of other people, run for office and win and represent their community in the United States government. That’s the way our system is supposed to work. A lot of the anger at the democratic system among millennials reflects the extent to which it hasn’t worked that way. It is so expensive to run for office, so it does feel inaccessible. And the people who are in power don’t feel like they’re really of the community. Social media can help that democratic impulse of allowing people to feel like they’re actually connected to the people who represent them.

The youth vote is going to be critical to a Democratic victory in 2020. Based on your reporting, what do you think the party has to do in order to turn out young voters in November? 

As you and I both know, Bernie Sanders is the candidate of choice for young people. Though I saw a really interesting poll recently that showed that among young Democrats, Bernie was at 53 percent and Warren was at 17. So 70 percent of young Democrats were with one of the two progressive candidates.

I think a lot of this goes back to Barack Obama, because the election of Barack Obama was an incredible, mobilizing moment for so many young people who cast their first presidential vote for the first black president. He won in this unbelievable historic moment that many people remember as one of their first moments of political awareness, one of the first times they participated in the political process. He was somebody who was cool and gave these soaring speeches. He created in many young people a sense that your vote was something you only gave to somebody who you truly believed in.

And I think that that is something that’s going to be a real challenge for Democrats, because young people will vote if they really believe in somebody, if they think it’s incredibly important and if they feel like it is a major transformative moment. What you’re seeing in youth-voting patterns is that when there is an uninspiring candidate or somebody where it doesn’t feel that urgent, they don’t show up. And I think that that’s one of the main reasons that Hillary Clinton struggled with young people. The Democratic Party should worry that if they nominate somebody who doesn’t really speak to these young voters, they risk a lot of them not showing up because young voters don’t think of voting as a duty. They think of it as something that they need to be inspired to do.

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Pete Buttigieg, the Political Junkie Who Is Running for President – The New York Times



CHARLESTON, S.C. — Pete Buttigieg has tailored much of his campaign message to the idea that he is best able to speak “flyover country,” in addition to all those other languages. As the onetime leader of the fourth-largest city in Indiana, he understands this most crucial of regions — the Midwest — that supposedly represents the most “authentic” part of the American experience. He fashions himself an “outsider,” always contrasting his experience with the “Washington” mind-sets and résumés of his opponents.

In fact, Mr. Buttigieg has far more in common with the standard Washington type and whiz kid political animal than any candidate in the race.

While much has been made of the former South Bend mayor’s elite background, polyglot skills and pioneer status as an openly gay candidate for president, it’s easy to overlook just how hard-core of a political obsessive he is.

One could easily envision Mr. Buttigieg as a peripatetic presidential campaign operative, or election commentator; or imagine him organizing “watch parties” in college where like-minded revelers at Harvard’s Institute of Politics could gather to enjoy that week’s episode of “West Wing.” Or see him live-blogging the Indiana primary for Slate in 2016, and angling to become the chair of the Democratic National Committee. That’s because he has actually done all of these things.

“I was just fascinated by it, just getting to be around these people,” Mr. Buttigieg said, describing the opportunity to experience “proximity to politics” as an 18-year-old college student and volunteer for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. “You know, some people geek out to actual rock stars,” he said. “For me, it was seeing people who I’d only watched on TV, getting to see them around.” He cited Donna Brazile, the ubiquitous cable pundit and former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Buttigieg presents himself as a 38-year-old embodiment of a generation that has little in common with the current septuagenarian front-runner (Bernie Sanders), former front-runner (Joe Biden) and incumbent (Donald Trump). But he also very much reflects a cohort of young politicos who were weaned on mass media and pop culture portrayals of the profession; they are just as likely to idolize Toby Ziegler from “The West Wing” or George Stephanopoulos as they are Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy.

In the fall of 2000, for instance, Mr. Buttigieg worked as a volunteer driver for special guests who were attending a general election debate between Mr. Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush at the Kennedy Library in Boston. “Do you remember the ‘Real People?’” Mr. Buttigieg asked. He explained: In preparing for his debates with Mr. Bush, Mr. Gore had enlisted the help of about a dozen ostensibly “regular Americans” who were deemed to be sufficiently representative of the national quilt, or at least the demographic threads the campaign wished to reach.

“You had these twelve people,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Diverse. The schoolteacher and the nurse and the older woman who had some medical horror story, something like that.”

It was young Pete’s job to shepherd “a van full of the real people” around Boston on the night of the debate. “It’s not like I was anywhere near the beating heart of the campaign or something,” he said. Still, this was one harrowing ride for a teenager who’d never driven a van before, never driven in a city and never navigated around packs of Ralph Nader protesters.

He did however have his own police escort for when he was tasked with shuttling the real people to Boston’s North End, where they had a date to eat cannoli with Ted Kennedy.

As Mr. Buttigieg battled a cold on the morning of Tuesday’s Democratic debate in South Carolina, he sounded almost nostalgic for those days. It was as if he missed being able to partake of politics as a carefree tourist, from a position of even slight remove from the pressure-cooker he now occupied.

He took a sip of something warm, and began to describe another formative pit stop along his fast-track tour. In 2004, he moved to Arizona to work as a research assistant in the communications shop of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He sat all day in a cubicle, monitoring five TVs in an effort to track what people were saying about the campaign.

“That was when I learned what message discipline was,” Mr. Buttigieg said, as if he was checking off another job-training box. “You’d see all these Bush surrogates. You’d have Condi Rice on this Sunday show, Colin Powell over there and Karl Rove over there.” He kept the televisions on mute and used close captioning, the better to record what exact words they were using. “You’d learn about how they said what they wanted to say,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “And nothing else.”

One of the strange qualities of many politicians is that they are loath to be seen as too nakedly “political.” Candidates are told to avoid talking publicly about the insider-y facets of a campaign that are best left to the professionals behind the scenes or on TV. Mr. Buttigieg may have missed that Power Point presentation. In fact, he becomes especially animated in detailing how valuable it was to get to watch a bunch of talking-heads all day while working for Mr. Kerry.

To many observers, such a diet of drivel would be a recipe for despair — or at least jadedness. But Mr. Buttigieg said that while he felt some of that, becoming a mayor of his hometown — at 29 — served as its own antidote to cynicism. “It’s politics for sure, but it’s very real,” he said, of leading the city. As a mayor, he now had the opportunity to cavort with real-life “real people,” not just the curated photo-op variety assembled by the Gore campaign.

And yet, Mr. Buttigieg seemed eager to leave that behind in 2017 when he launched a bid to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a job saturated with exactly the kind of Washington inanity he had just been talking about. He said he ran to be chair of the D.N.C. because he felt that his skill set matched up with what he viewed to be his own strengths (being from “the industrial Midwest,” winning as a Democrat in a Red State, appealing to younger voters.) The more skeptical reading of this places Mr. Buttigieg’s bid in the context of a precocious striver who was desperate to raise his national profile by climbing whatever ladder happened to be available to him.

Either way, Mr. Buttigieg conspicuously gritted his teeth when it was mentioned to him that Tom Perez — the eventual chair of the D.N.C — seems to currently occupy one of the more miserable jobs in American politics. “It crossed my mind,” Mr. Buttigieg said at the prospect of being one of the last Democrats standing in a presidential field rather than dealing with caucus fiascos in Iowa and fighting off calls for his resignation.

Still, as you watch Mr. Buttigieg move through his campaign, there are certain settings in which he becomes seemingly indistinguishable from the talking heads and hangers-on who populate this insider bubble.

On the morning of the New Hampshire primary, for instance, he was working his way backstage following an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Hey, longtime follower, first time hand-shaker,” Mr. Buttigieg said, extending his hand to David Wasserman, a campaign and elections guru at “The Cook Political Report” and semifamous inhabitant of this political-media ecosystem.

A self-described “nerd for maps,” Mr. Wasserman represents just the kind of campaign super-junkie that only the most fanatical of politicos get aroused by.

Likewise, Mr. Wasserman became equally gob-smacked over Mr. Buttigieg’s ability in their brief encounter to forecast exactly what regions of New Hampshire he expected to perform well in (the Lakes Region, the western towns near the Vermont border).

On Tuesday morning in Charleston, S.C., before heading into a prep session for that night’s debate, Mr. Buttigieg was asked if his life as a political aficionado had prepared him for making strategic decisions on his own presidential campaign. “Not really at all,” he said, noting that it’s incumbent upon a candidate to relinquish as much of those considerations as possible, and focus on all the infinite stresses and demands of actually running. In so much as he follows the race as a spectator, he describes it almost as a kind of causal diversion.

“I thumb through Twitter, like everybody else does,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “I flip through cable when I’m ironing my shirts in the morning.”

Mr. Buttigieg has frequently been asked why he is running for president, a question every candidate gets but much more often in his case given his age and how unusual it would be for a small city mayor to jump straight to the White House.

His practiced answer is that after serving as a mayor for eight years, it occurred to him that the best way to help America’s cities would be to give them a better president. By that logic, it was pointed out to Mr. Buttigieg that any mayor in the country could run for president, right?

“Yes,” the candidate agreed. “But I’m not like the others.”

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