Pete Buttigieg to be Biden’s Transportation Secretary

He wanted a cabinet post. And this is a cabinet post.

The small-town mayor who did surprisingly well in the 2020 Democratic primaries and then dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden at the best possible time has been rewarded.

NPR (“Biden Expected To Name Former Rival Buttigieg As Transportation Secretary“):

President-elect Joe Biden plans to name former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his secretary of transportation, a union source familiar with the transition tells NPR’s Don Gonyea.

Buttigieg, one of Biden’s former rivals in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, is the first openly LGBTQ person to be nominated for a permanent cabinet position.

Annise Parker, president & CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, called the expected nomination a “milestone,” and said in a statement that “its impact will reverberate well-beyond the department he will lead. It distances our nation from a troubled legacy of barring out LGBTQ people from government positions and moves us closer to the President-elect’s vision of a government that reflects America.”

As head of the DOT, Buttigieg would oversee an agency of some 53,000 employees, with oversight of the nation’s airline industry, along with railroads, commercial trucking, mass transit and pipelines.

It could become a high-visibility post for the 38-year-old Buttigieg, if Biden follows through on his campaign promises to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Folks on Twitter are deriding the choice, noting his seeming lack of qualification for the office. Certainly, the DoT budget dwarfs that of South Bend, Indiana.

But, frankly, this job has often been used as a throwaway—frequently given to a member of the opposition party as a bridge-building mechanism. It’s usually a rather obscure post—and even moreso since the Coast Guard was moved into the Department of Homeland Security upon its creation. Buttigieg isn’t obviously less qualified than most who have held the job.

Relatedly, to the extent that this is supposed to elevate a politician who had reached the pinnacle of his likely success in Indiana—there’s little likelihood that an openly-gay Democrat is going to be elected governor or Senator—I’m not sure it does that. Andrew Card, who served as George H.W. Bush’s SoT and then George W. Bush’s White House Chief of Staff, is the only one who went on to higher glory in politics.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    I think it’s a good move, both for Biden and for Buttigieg. For Biden, it puts a talented, new fresh face on the Cabinet, and it’s an LGBTQ nomination. For Buttigieg, it will put him in contact with and allow for relationships to be built, in virtually every state in the country. It’s not so high profile that Senate Republicans are going to go to the mat to kill the nomination (some of the conservatives will make knuckle-dragging comments on Twitter, probably), and it sidesteps the question of bringing Chasten along to Beijing had Buttigieg been named Ambassador to China.

    I’m a fan of Buttigieg’s, so I’m pleased to see this. It’s going to take time and visibility for some Americans to become accustomed to LGBTQ at the visible national level, and if this is the stepping stone, I’m good with it.

    And, of course, I think he can do the job.

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  2. Scott F. says:

    If ‘Infrastructure Week’ becomes the real thing it needs to be in a national recovery, then SoT could bring some nice exposure. Arguably, it could be one of the better cabinet posts for a smart guy like Mayor Pete to apply the lessons learned leading a small city and just making things run day to day.

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    It ain’t Secretary of State, but if Pete doesn’t make it in politics he’s got a sweet consultancy gig.

    3
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    —there’s little likelihood that an openly-gay Democrat is going to be elected governor or Senator—

    In Indiana? Yes, but who says he can’t move to a more enlightened state like MA or HI? And as @Jen: said,

    For Buttigieg, it will put him in contact with and allow for relationships to be built, in virtually every state in the country.

    Who you know is still far more important than what you know. Sec. of DoT may seem like a low key position to build upon, but just look at what he did with Mayor of South Bend.

    6
  5. Tony W says:

    I feel like we might finally get a proper Infrastructure Week – four years of it.

    Buttigieg will transform our transportation infrastructure.

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  6. Michael Cain says:

    CAFE standards. Federal money (and in some cases, strong-arming corporations) for rail. If Biden is really serious about making a run at climate change, this is a more important position than it has been historically.

    9
  7. Gustopher says:

    @Tony W:

    Buttigieg will transform our transportation infrastructure.

    Our big, gay, transportation infrastructure. I’m sure he and Chasten will just gay it all up, somehow, replacing yellow lines with rainbows, and reflective signs with glitter and that Real Americans will have to stop driving on the road to avoid getting cooties.

    I think it’s a good spot for him — it’s not so high profile that his lack of experience running and organization that size is a dealbreaker, and it gives him that experience for the next job. And he should do well at it.

    I think Mayor Pete is pretty, great, and I hope he gets to continue being a more general advocate to send out to Fox, rather than being kept in his land at DoT.

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  8. Jen says:

    @Gustopher: I hadn’t even considered the role being gay could have in highway beautification plans! WIN-WIN.

    More power to the Gay Agenda (TM), our highways are going to be FABULOUS! 😀

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  9. Jax says:

    Am I detecting a hint of excitement amongst the commentariat about a REAL infrastructure week? 😉

    It would be wonderful. A hint of normalcy returning, and think of all the JOBS that could be created!

    3
  10. Tim says:

    this job has often been used as a throwaway—frequently given to a member of the opposition party as a bridge-building mechanism.

    I see what you did there.

    5
  11. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: S

    ec. of DoT may seem like a low key position to build upon, but just look at what he did with Mayor of South Bend

    Fair point!

    @Tony W:

    Buttigieg will transform our transportation infrastructure.

    He’ll need a huge budget and the support of Congress but I’d like to see it happen.

    1
  12. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    He’ll need a huge budget and the support of Congress

    Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate (and the Houser for that matter) will spend the next 2 or 4 years doing everything in their power to make Biden fail, regardless of the damage it does to the country or how many people lose their jobs.

    8
  13. james hunt says:

    You going to get what “YOU” voted for!!! When you go from the best president to the worst socialist
    president you are going to get what “YOU” deserve!

    2
  14. MarkedMan says:

    I never know what to say to that guy who keeps announcing to the world that his girlfriend is the best ever and all you haters saying that she is screwing his best friend and his worst enemy are just jealous, and of course he had given her power of attorney because she was helping him sort out his finances and plan for his retirement and sure, there appeared to be big losses but that’s not her fault.

    5
  15. Scott says:

    17 theses on Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation

    Seventeen quick bullets by Matt Yglesias on Pete Buttigieg.

    As a soulless technocrat myself, I’ve always liked Buttigieg.

    3
  16. Jax says:

    I see reality is sinking in amongst the Trumpkins. 😉

    3
  17. Neil Hudelson says:

    @james hunt:

    You don’t need to put quotations remarks, or capitalize, “you.” All of us here acknowledge we voted for Biden.

    4