Trump glorifies himself. Buttigieg glorifies public service.
His website explains
that the first step in his plan would be “to increase service opportunities from 75,000 to 250,000 in the existing federal and AmeriCorps grantee organizations and through new Service Year Fellowships, targeting high school, community college, vocational, HBCUs and MSI students, and opportunity youth (out of school and work). Emphasis is placed on high-quality service positions, on-the-job training, leadership development, and mentor-mentee sponsoring.” Second, local and state governments can be enlisted to develop “competitive grant funding for cities, counties, and communities to create ecosystems of service around regional issues. These grants would be built on the Cities of Service model.” And, finally, aim to scale the program up. (“Quadruple service opportunities to 1 million high school graduates (by 2026 — the 250th anniversary of America’s Independence”). ...
There is a lot to like in this.
For one thing, Buttigieg’s plan loosens’ Democrats obsession with free college, and instead provides a post-high-school project whereby young people could earn something. Only about 30 percent of Americans go to college, a number out of whack with the time spent trying to give tuition away to generally wealthier students. In the debates Buttigieg pointed out that we should also look out for ways to make not going to college affordable. This program might lead to college, but it might also lead to non-college accreditation and meaningful work that doesn’t require a college degree.
In addition, Buttigieg’s proposal is a repudiation of the Trumpian autocratic promise that “I alone can fix it,” a tagline for every tinpot dictator who insists the answers are “easy” as long as he is in power. Back on Earth One, our nagging social and economic problems are complex, longstanding and not amenable to snap solutions. A core principle of patriotism and democracy is that the citizens attend to their own well-being; they are not passive observers of the Great Leader.
Ironically, Buttigieg’s plan is the sort of thing conservatives favored before they joined a cult supporting consolidation of power in the executive branch of the federal government. It encourages activity outside the federal government, fostering local and state engagement through the kinds of civic institutions that have withered in recent years. While Trump never leaves us alone, intruding into every crevice of society (Fourth of July, even), Buttigieg reaffirms that the federal government is supposed to be limited; it is our potential that should be limitless.