by Paul Kengor | February 27, 2020

This article first appeared in The American Spectator

“So mayor Pete is a Red Diaper baby! This explains a lot….”

So writes Charlie, a longtime reader of my articles and books. Note that Charlie didn’t call Pete Buttigieg a red, but a red-diaper baby. There’s a difference. And either way, it’s a point that isn’t irrelevant.

As for that red-diaper background, Charlie is referring to the work of Pete Buttigieg’s father, Joseph Buttigieg, who was the English-speaking world’s foremost expert on infamous Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Joseph, who died last year, was no less than founder of the International Gramsci Society, a fact acknowledged warmly at the society’s website. It’s so unmissable that the first thing that displays when you open the website is Joseph’s photo with a memorial tribute. As someone who regularly checks that website, I can tell you that Joseph’s photo has been the lead for a full year and counting.

Who was Antonio Gramsci?

At the age of 35, in 1926, he was arrested in his native Italy by Mussolini and spent the last 11 years of his life in prison, where he would write, write, and write—compiling a master volume of 33 Prison Notebooks. Two of those notebooks, numbers 16 and 26, dealt explicitly with culture—that is, Gramsci’s Marxist thoughts applied to culture.

That’s where Gramsci looked, particularly via his theory of “cultural hegemony.” If radical leftists truly wanted to win, then they needed to seize the so-called “cultural means of production;” that is, culture-forming institutions such as the media and universities. Gramsci foresaw societal transformation coming about by what has been characterized as a “long march through the institutions.”

Not until leftists came to dominate these cultural institutions would they be able to convince enough people to support their Marxist revolution.

This brings us to Pete Buttigieg’s father, Joseph.

The definitive English translation of Gramsci’s work is Joseph Buttigieg’s translation of the Prison Notebooks, published by Columbia University Press. Joseph produced three thick volumes, each around 700 pages. In each of the volumes, he begins with acknowledgments, concluding with special thanks to his son Pete, who helped index the volumes.

This short commentary doesn’t afford the time to lay out Joseph’s or Pete’s background at length. I encourage listeners to Google my piece at The American Spectator, titled, “Mayor Pete: Red Diaper Baby.” It’s 4,000 words long.

But this much I’ll say here:

Remember that Joseph Buttigieg’s primary interest as a Marxist, like Antonio Gramsci’s, was cultural. And his son Pete is very much a cultural leftist. If Mayor Pete is the so-called “moderate” in the Democrat bunch for 2020, it would be (at best) on perhaps certain matters of national security, foreign policy, economics, but most certainly not on cultural issues. He’s an extremist on abortion, on the full swath of so-called “LGBTQ” issues, and he’s radical in his interpretation of the Bible and religion.

And yet, having said that, this is not to say that Mayor Pete is a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. But it is to say that he was surely exposed to far-left ideas through his father. Who wouldn’t be? People, after all, are products of their environments.

A fair question for someone to ask Pete Buttigieg would be where and how his father’s Marxism influenced his political-ideological views and where it didn’t. My guess, however, is that those questions will not get asked of Mayor Pete by a sympathetic liberal media that wants to protect him.

For American Radio Journal, I’m Paul Kengor. For more, see my article “Mayor Pete: Red Diaper Baby,” at The American Spectator.