How Pete Buttigieg predicted his battle with Bernie
DID a high school essay by a kid from small town Indiana in the year 2000 predict the Democrats' quandary 20 years later? It sure looks like it.
The essay, which won the John F Kennedy Library's Profile in Courage contest, was full of praise for Bernie Sanders, who was then just a lonely independent socialist congressman from Vermont.
The young student was full of praise for Sanders' far left politics: "In a country where Communism is still the dirtiest of ideological dirty words, in a climate where even liberalism is considered radical, and Socialism is immediately and perhaps wilfully confused with Communism, a politician dares to call himself a socialist? He does indeed."
It concluded, "Sanders' positions on many difficult issues are commendable, but his real impact has been as a reaction to the cynical climate which threatens the effectiveness of the democratic system. His energy, candour, conviction, and ability to bring people together stand against the current of opportunism, moral compromise, and partisanship which runs rampant on the American political scene."
So, who wrote these prophetic words?
None other than a young Peter Buttigieg, then in Year 12 at St Joseph's High School in South Bend, Indiana, where he would later become Mayor.
Yes, that's the same Pete Buttigieg (he went by the more formal "Peter" back then) who finished second against Sanders in New Hampshire yesterday, trying to appeal to the moderate middle.
If you tried to sell this script to Hollywood, you'd be knocked back in an instant for being too unbelievable.
Now, of course everyone's politics change over time. As the saying goes, A man who is not a liberal at age 25 has no heart, and a man who is not a conservative at age 35 has no head.
Yet it is eerie that 20 years ago a now leading contender for the presidency picked Sanders as the rival insurgent and the cynicism of the political class that would see millions flock to him as an alternative.
And the Democratic establishment doesn't know what to do.
Having pretty much irretrievably blown up last week's caucus in Iowa, denying the populist socialist Bernie Sanders his likely win, they are now faced with a Sanders who is all the more empowered having won New Hampshire as well.
Nor have the Democrats done themselves any favours re-fighting 2016 rather than finding a more moderate, mainstream candidate who could take on Trump in 2020.
And while yes, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg may swoop in to save the day, the fact is he's probably going to do more to enrich campaign consultants than the working class.
With Bernie Sanders in the box seat going forward, Democrats are in a real bind. While no candidate looks likely to unseat Trump in November, Sanders - who makes no apologies for his pro-borders, pro-trade protectionist policies - is the only one who can peel working class voters away from the president.
But like Trump, he is fighting his own party as much as his rival.
As Buttigieg wrote back in 2000, "this disturbing trend reveals cynicism, a double-sided problem, which is perhaps, the greatest threat to the continued success of the American political system."
Or at least to the Democrats, who having not figured out how to deal with an insurgent, anti-Establishment Republican in 2016, have no idea about what to do with one in their own ranks in 2020. The danger is, if Bernie continues his momentum, Democrat powerbrokers may try to pull a fast one, deny him the nomination, and cause a civil war in the party.
As was once said of the French kings who were restored to the throne after Napoleon, they have learned nothing - and forgotten nothing.
James Morrow is opinion editor at The Daily Telegraph. Catch James every Sunday at 9am on Outsiders, Sky News Australia