Pete Buttigieg’s Empty, Depressing Excellence


Buttigieg’s conception of virtue is personal success that can be quantified, graphed, and outlined in a PowerPoint presentation.


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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