In late June the University of Notre Dame announced that Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend and sometime 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, had been named a 2020-21 faculty fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS). Meghan Sullivan, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame and director of the NDIAS, celebrated the appointment: Buttigieg, she said, was a “perfect fit” for the institute’s faculty cohort this year, which will focus on the “nature of trust.” Buttigieg expressed his delight at the chance to examine “one of the most salient issues of our time.” Fortuitously, Buttigieg has whipped off a book on the subject in the four months since his withdrawal from the Democratic race. Trust: America’s Best Chance is scheduled for release on October 6. It promises to consider “the foundational role trust plays in our democracy, and what it will take to build the trust we’ll need to recover and advance the country.” Trust should draw some favorable media attention to Buttigieg in the closing month of the presidential campaign, during which he is sure to present Joe Biden as eminently “trustworthy.” Biden, if elected, will possibly reward Buttigieg with a cabinet appointment—Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, most likely.
The Notre Dame appointment makes good sense for Buttigieg. NDIAS, as a locale for an ambitious political figure awaiting his next appointment, is hardly Harvard’s Kennedy School. Nevertheless, the fellowship gives Buttigieg a respectable holding place while he marks time before his expected move to Washington next January. His participation in the NDIAS seminar on “trust” might even cast some sheen of gravitas on his arguments on the subject. Even better, an appointment at the nation’s best-known Catholic university affords Buttigieg the opportunity to promote both directly and indirectly the issues and positions he outlined during his presidential campaign and to gain some kind of implicit imprimatur for them.
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