South Bend, Ind., is a grimy industrial city of 100,000 people located on the St. Joseph River. It’s known for being the “home” of Notre Dame University — which isn’t really true since Notre Dame is technically located in Notre Dame, Indiana.
But South Bend, whose second claim to fame is the Studebaker National Museum downtown, is the home of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. The highly ambitious Buttigieg is seeking the presidency despite serving two terms as mayor of a small city.
A job that most would see as entry-level employment in politics as a stepping stone to the presidency? That’s sort of like a burger flipper applying for the CEO position at McDonald’s.
There are many South Bend residents who wonder about that too.
When residents of this city’s impoverished West Side reflect on Pete Buttigieg’s two terms as mayor, a few things come to mind:
A spike in violent crime, development that largely ignored the African American community and how their only well-lit street is the one that leads to Notre Dame University.
So how, they wonder, can Buttigieg possibly be trusted to run the country?
“If he’s the next president, I fear for our country. He couldn’t run our city. How can he run the United States?,” said Michelle Burger, 42, a stay-at-home mom who lives in South Bend’s impoverished and predominantly black West Side.
Much has been made of Mayor Pete’s trouble with “people of color.” There appears to be something to that criticism as economic development during Buttigieg’s tenure in office seems to have been lagging in the black community.
Another West Side resident, Cornish Miller, 62, said of Buttigieg, “Rating him 1 to 10, I’d give him a 2.”
“Buttigieg talked about all the improvements he made, but he hardly made a dent,” said Miller, who works for a military supply company.
“The West Side is the most neglected part of town. The street I live on is the only street around here that has lights. That’s because we’re a gateway to Notre Dame.”
Young, articulate, attractive — and gay. Is that why Democrats are taking this guy seriously? To go from being a mayor of a city with at $350 million budget to running a country with a $5 trillion budget would seem to be a leap too far.
But he’s a Democrat and he’s gay so he’s got that going for him.
Taking credit for the work of others is part of politics but Buttigieg appears to have taken the concept a bit too far.
But Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer countered that while Buttigieg “certainly had a few economic development wins,” he actually had “little, if anything, to do with that.”
“I found it ironic that when he announced his presidential run, he did it in front of Studebaker Building 84, which had sat vacant since 1963,” Hupfer said.
“But it was $3.5 million from then-Gov. Mike Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative that made that project go.”
Hupfer said increased employment in the area covering South Bend — where the unemployment rate dropped from 9.3 percent in 2012 to 3.6 percent in 2018 — was largely a function of “statewide economic strength under Republican leadership.”
Rush Limbaugh had the temerity to point out that Buttigieg’s election to the presidency would be extremely difficult due to his homosexuality. We can bemoan the unfairness of it, criticize those who wouldn’t vote for him because he’s gay, and make fun of those with religious objections to his lifestyle.
But you cannot deny the reality that Pete Buttigieg will lose a presidential contest against Donald Trump because he’s gay. And South Bend residents say we should breathe a sigh of relief because of it.