On Sunday afternoon, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially announced his candidacy for president. He reminded Americans about his extremely liberal policies on abortion, climate change, and remaking the Constitution, as well as his reserved yet charismatic style. Thousands crammed into a warehouse to hear him speak, and a trio of men in shirts reading “BOOT EDGE EDGE” led the crowd in chanting the correct pronunciation of his name.
“My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I’m a proud son of South Bend, Indiana, and I am running for president of the United States,” the 37-year-old mayor declared.
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) April 14, 2019
Buttigieg began his remarks by attacking President Donald Trump’s 2016 slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and the Republican’s successful campaign strategy of appealing to the “forgotten men and women,” especially in the Midwest.
The mayor pledged to “tell a different story than ‘Make America Great Again.'” Without mentioning Trump, he added, “There’s a myth being sold to industrial and midwestern communities,” based on “resentment and nostalgia” for “a bygone era that was never as great as advertised to begin with.”
“They’re telling us to look for greatness in all the wrong places,” Buttigieg said, warning that “there’s no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word ‘again.'”
The mayor championed his position as the first millennial presidential candidate, claiming, “I come from that generation that grew up with school shootings as the norm,” supplied the troops for the War on Terror, will be “on the business end of climate change,” and will be worse off than their parents for the first time in American history.
His claims vastly oversold the plight of millennials.
Turning to policy goals, Buttigieg laid out a platform of “freedom, security, and democracy.”
He presented many of the left’s policy goals as representing “freedom.” In fact, the candidate suggested that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which arguably prolonged the Great Depression, represented “freedom from want, freedom from fear.”
Buttigieg chided Republicans for speaking “as though government were the only thing that can make somebody unfree. Your neighbor can make you unfree. Your cable company can make you unfree. Your freedom depends on a lot more than just the size of your government… Good government secures freedom just as bad government denies it.”
He argued that government-sponsored health care is “freedom” because it means people can quit their jobs without worrying about coverage — even though a government takeover of the health care industry would mean fewer options.
Buttigieg said “racial justice is freedom” because “you’re not free if there’s a veil of mistrust between people of color and the officers sworn to keep us safe.” He also argued that “empowering teachers means freedom.”
Ignoring the plight of the unborn, the candidate suggested that abortion is freedom. “Women’s equality is freedom,” he said. “You’re not free if your reproductive health choices are dictated by male politicians in Washington.” While he did not mention abortion by name, the only way “reproductive freedom” could be seen as under assault is in the growing movement to save unborn babies — who are genetically unique and individual from their mothers. Indeed, Democrats’ radical positions on abortion are driving more Americans to identify as “pro-life.”
Buttigieg also praised “organized labor” as a force for freedom, overlooking the fact that unions are strongest in the public sector, the one place even Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned they should not be — because public sector unions create a perverse situation where workers are bargaining against the people.
Finally, the candidate turned to the issue of same-sex marriage. “And take it from Chasten and me, You’re not free if a county clerk tells you who you ought to marry because of their political beliefs,” he said, referencing Kim Davis, who famously refused to issue a same-sex marriage license.
Besides this brief statement, Buttigieg did not address the issue of religious freedom, and his very next remarks suggested a sympathy for it. He extolled “the choice to live a life of your own choosing, in keeping with your values.” Naturally, the candidate did not explain how he would balance the right to refuse to celebrate same-sex marriage on conscience grounds and the lately established right of same-sex couples to pledge themselves to one another.
Turning to the issue of “security and patriotism,” Buttigieg mentioned the threat of “violent white nationalism” and then warned against the danger of climate change. He insisted that “no region of our country is immune to that threat,” even though climate alarmist prediction models have consistently failed and even though the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming or cooling is far from well understood.
Instead of addressing the problems with such alarmism, he declared “climate security” to be “a life and death issue for our generation.”
Finally, Buttigieg addressed changes to make America more democratic — by fundamentally altering the Constitution.
“Our democratic republic is an elegant system but lately it hasn’t been democratic enough,” he said, attacking Republicans for suggesting that America is “better off if fewer citizens are able to vote.” (This unfairly stigmatized legitimate concerns about voter fraud as attempts to prevent legally eligible voters from casting ballots.)
Addressing the issues in H.R. 1, House Democrats’ attempt to remake America’s electoral system, Buttigieg declared, “It is hardly a democracy if Citizens United means that dollars can drown out the will of the people.” (Citizens United protects political speech, enabling people to join together and promote political messages anonymously if they so desire. In fact, this Supreme Court case has enabled political challengers with low name recognition to mount serious campaigns against established politicians.)
Buttigieg also slammed gerrymandering, the fact that Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico do not have electoral votes, and of course, the Electoral College. He lamented that “twice in my lifetime, the Electoral College has overruled the American people.” This statement is ridiculous. According to the Constitution, the president is elected by the Electoral College, not by popular vote, so that smaller states can be represented. The popular vote elects the House of Representatives, not the president.
Finally, Buttigieg told the story of his father’s death, focused on his mother’s health struggles and the presence of his husband, Chasten. Chasten “was at the hospital where he belonged, because in the eyes of the hospital and the state and the law he was not just someone I loved, he was my lawfully married spouse.”
“Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court,” the candidate said, referring to the decision Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage.
Pete Buttigieg says of his relationship with Chasten: “Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.” That shows how our system is broken… #PeteForAmerica
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) April 14, 2019
Buttigieg praised Medicare for helping his parents in their health struggles. While his mother started getting better, his father’s health deteriorated, and he passed away earlier in 2019. “Some people in Washington made the decision to bring us something called Medicare… When it comes to health care, I want every American to have that same benefit,” he said, seemingly advocating Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-For-All proposal that would expand an already underfunded program and cancel all private health insurance.
The candidate concluded by imagining what he would say to his teenage self. Among other things, he said he would “tell him that one rainy April day, before he ever turns 40, he’ll wake up to headlines wondering whether he’s rising too quickly into becoming a top-tier candidate for the American presidency… How can you live that story and not believe America deserves our optimism, deserves our courage, and deserves our hope?”
Buttigieg indeed represents the young Democratic hope. He is running in that lane of the 2020 primary, and he seems to be beating former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (R-Texas).
In many ways, this candidate is the opposite of Donald Trump: a young Rhodes Scholar who speaks frequently about his faith as a member of the liberal Episcopal Church and who presents a teachable persona — willing to listen to those who disagree. Buttigieg seems a fitting foil for the current president.
But despite appearances, Buttigieg is extremely radical, and it seems likely his current rise in the Democratic primary is time-bound. Those headlines he mentioned seem rather on target: Buttigieg is rising too quickly, and he’s likely to be largely forgotten by the time Democrats actually vote next year.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.