The Empty, Depressing Excellence of Pete Buttigieg

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg holds a news conference in the parking garage at Union Station in front of new EV charging stations in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)
Buttigieg’s conception of virtue is personal success that can be quantified, graphed, and outlined in a PowerPoint presentation.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE ‘V irtue is an excellent thing and we should all strive after it,” Mildred Lathbury thinks to herself in Excellent Women, “but it can sometimes be a little depressing.”

The sort of virtue that Mildred, the single, thirtysomething hero of Barbara Pym’s comedy of manners, has in mind is rather dour: cleaning Anglican church pews, caring for impoverished gentlewomen, and dutifully making neighbors cups of tea. Hers is a consciously limited life, made crushing by the fact that her peers all agree her existence ought to be slight. Philip Larkin describes her plight well: “Mildred is suffering, but nobody can see why

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