As the Democrats creep slowly toward the convention, picking their way through the brush to find a candidate for 2020, an interesting figure who has been there all along rolling near the bottom presents me with a dilemma.

Walk with me on this. Imagine an American president, Harvard and Oxford educated, a former lieutenant in U.S. Navy intelligence, an Afghanistan veteran, married to a junior high school teacher, with a working knowledge of French, Spanish, Italian, Maltese and German. He’s out there now quietly stumping for election while also working on his Russian, Chinese and Farsi.

Should he, in an unlikely miracle, be elected, he could move among the players at the G7, lean to one side and speak French to Emmanuel Macron, turn to the right and joke with Angela Merkel in her native tongue, sit at lunch and compare pasta recipes with Italy’s Sergio Mattarella. Who can do that? No. Your president has trouble with English. Get real.

He’s handsome, has a nice head of hair, white teeth, a stunning education and clean pressed pants. Oh, did I tell you he’s gay?

He’s what?

He’s gay.

Your youngest son, now in college at Bowdoin or Colby, and your daughter who will graduate from high school next June will be sitting across that big turkey on the table at Thanksgiving listening to you with a frown on their faces, as you tell them what they already know.

Mayor Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg hasn’t, at this moment, a prayer of taking the laurel wreath, because in the year 2020 a gay man or woman has less chance to be president than a white supremacist who wears black face to the church Halloween party.

Because this America you live in — the one you and your father fought for — you and your family and all around you live in a country where the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, cannot be elected president because he’s gay.

I should add that a black woman like the powerful Kamala Harris — that’s a story for another page.

We, and even Trump’s base, all know that if Pete were married to a lovely young wife and had two kids, he would likely be standing in that line of the usual suspects with the best of the candidates, with the most worthy and most electable Joe Biden, way past Bernie Sanders, Kamala and Elizabeth Warren.

It’s a sure bet that those hard-core red state mechanics, coal miners, auto workers and farmers in the important, crucial states would be welcoming him with open, blue-collar shirted arms.

I grew up in a world with men who were as straight as the sidewalk in front of our house. My brothers weren’t haters. They just had no gay friends and, to their knowledge, had never met one.

They danced with their girlfriends on Saturday night to the music of Cole Porter and the lyrics and notes of Duke Ellington’s composer Billy Strayhorn, idolized the great Spencer Tracy and Leonard Bernstein. If they had known that these men were gay, would it have changed their minds? Maybe.

So it’s 2019. I long ago sadly left my gay dancer friends and famous gay men and women back in New York and Hollywood. To name some of them, some dead, some still living and on your screens, would stun you.

I live here now in wonderful Maine, surrounded by beautiful gay people. They are successful, happy people who are walking beside you every day. But we’ve been here before.

In 2013, Michael H. Michaud, a Catholic like Buttigieg, a gay man like Buttigieg, ran for governor and was defeated because he was gay.

He said at the time: “Yes, I am gay. But why should it matter? That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation millworker or a lifelong Mainer.”

Today, in these enlightened times, hundreds of Maine families nurture gay children, but there are many in Maine, many, who will never consider Mayor Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg for president.

So I confront my dilemma. I will work for and vote for Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. despite his middle name (nobody’s perfect) not just because he’s Irish, Catholic and a Democrat, but because he’s clearly the best, perhaps the only chance we have to open the wounds of this decade and draw out the pus that is soaking the carpet that Obama walked on.

But in my heart and prayers I will harbor the dream of someone, man or woman, like Mayor Pete becoming president of my country. But sadly, it won’t be this year, maybe not even in my children’s lifetime.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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