He studied at Harvard and Oxford, speaks 7 foreign languages, served in Afghanistan, rebuilt a devastated city and is from a new generation. He is also calm and cultivated and there is no dirt on him. He is a devout Christian and decent family guy, who has a likeable husband. And besides being the first openly admitted gay in this position, he would also be the youngest President ever.
Pete Buttigieg. Remember this name. Well, if you can pronounce it. On his Instagram, Mayor Pete gave us a hint – Boot-edge-edge. But what makes this 37-year-old Mayor of the Midwest city South Bend, Indiana, so special? Why is his popularity growing these days? And how does he differ from his party opponents and from Trump himself?
First, he is a total opposite of Trump. He is extremely intelligent and educated. He has a moderate and decent behavior. He is from a completely different generation and has an entirely different mentality. Although he has not yet been a governor or a senator, he already has more political experience in elected office than the President and even more executive experience than the current Vice President. Besides, no one could find any dirt on him yet.
The current President avoided his compulsory draft, while Pete volunteered both in the navy and in Afghanistan. And while Trump has a problem even with English, Pete can speak another seven languages. And he learned Norwegian only to read other books of his favorite author, which have not yet been translated into English. In addition, he plays guitar and piano and performs as a guest piano soloist with a symphony orchestra. He and his husband married in a church and live in the same neighborhood Pete once grew up in.
Very interesting is also how he interprets the Christian faith. He sees it as a care of the weakest among us, as raising the most vulnerable, as a concern for prisoners, sick and strangers. He perceives the Bible as a fundamental message of love and humility, and of the idea that the individual puts God and other people before himself. He also used the term Christian Left, in contrast to the so-called Christian Right, which, in his view, rather hurts other people, such as those with a homosexual orientation, by condemning them and excluding them from society.
He regards freedom, democracy and security as the most important political values. He believes Democrats should not let Republicans to have a monopoly on the word freedom, because they only see it as freedom from the government. But our freedom can be limited by other people too, such as our neighbors or large corporations. And it is important to protect this kind of freedom too. Unlike Trump, he emphasizes we need to look to the future because the world is changing, and it is not possible to look for solutions to current problems in the past.
What is behind his growing popularity?
Personally, I think it’s primarily his decency and authenticity. He’s not playing anything. He looks intelligent and understands why a lot of people voted Trump last time. He is also able to name current problems and present realistic solutions. And he can prove it by his record in the city where he was elected Mayor for the second time (most recently with more than 80 %).
But that’s not all. It’s not just me, but many people write it in the comments. It’s a little addictive to watch conversations with him. It’s something completely different from what America is used to. As if after the enormous division, he is a hope for reconciliation between the two opposing camps. As if he could reach people on both sides. Moreover, he answers clearly and briefly without typical political phrases and without pathos.
Several appearances on national television programs caused that the general public is already getting to know him. I recommend watching his interview at Stephen Colbert’s, at Bill Maher’s, when the team of Trevor Noah’s was trying to dig up some dirt on him, when he was on The View, when he was with his husband at Ellen’s, or watching the Town Hall, organized by CNN.
It also helped him a lot when he suddenly got third in the Iowa polls just behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Now his numbers are growing even in the national polls. And I believe that both from moderate and leftist Democrats. And when we look at the comments section under his Fox News interview, it seems that not only independent voters, but also moderate Republicans or former Trump voters, are beginning to cheer him up.
In addition, this comments section shows that in America, apparently something is happening and perhaps even starting to change. Indeed, as one of the few Democrats, he does not refuse to appear on Fox News. As a result, he has a better chance to reach Trump’s voters. On the contrary, the party as such refused to let Fox News hold any of its debate.
What are Pete’s policies?
He does not hide the fact that he is a progressive candidate, but at the same time acts moderately and realistically. Unlike other stars of the current Democratic Party (Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, or Tlaib), he does not promote democratic socialism, but he rather uses the term democratic capitalism. This is also probably because apart from other left-wing politicians, he has had an opportunity to work in the private sector, which has enabled him to understand how important the proper functioning of the free market and the promotion of business are.
He is in favor of universal health care, but with private insurance. He is also a proponent of the so-called Green New Deal and for renewing the commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. He is for reducing the death penalty, for reducing penalties for minor drug-related crime and is for safe, regulated and legal sale of marijuana. He supports labor unions and wants to protect American democracy from the big money in politics.
He considers the deployment of US troops in Afghanistan justifiable, but he would now prefer to withdraw them and, on the contrary, leave them in Syria. Unlike some other Democrats, he is a strong supporter of Israel. He supports the DACA program, which protects children who find themselves in the position of illegal immigrants and is a critic of the current aggressive immigration policy. He is for federal protection of LGBT people against discrimination and is against Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. We do not know much about his attitudes in foreign policy yet, but given his outlook and education, I expect it would not be worse than Trump.
Anyway, we can also imagine his policy from what he is advocating as a Mayor in his city. He restores dilapidated buildings and supports economic recovery programs. At the same time, he advocates greater road safety, traffic calming measures, pavement extensions, the addition of bicycle lanes, the introduction of roundabouts and the beautification of public space through trees and decorative bricks.
What are his advantages over his opponents?
Like the other three big favorites of the Democratic primaries, Biden, Sanders and O’Rourke, he is a white man. This may not be an advantage in a party that advocates minority rights in the current era. But Pete differs from them not only because he is gay, but also because, unlike the first two, he is not in retirement age, and unlike the third, he did not spend his young age breaking laws and didn’t become famous mostly for failing to beat Ted Cruz in the Senate election.
Joe Biden, as the former Vice President, has the highest qualification to be the President, and he is moderate and, from a European and foreign security perspective, would be the best of all candidates. But he is quite old and I’m afraid he sometimes looks a little bit senile. In addition, in a #metoo era, his intrusion into the personal space of women (and girls) seems quite strange.
Even some time ago, one of the main videos on YouTube after searching “Joe Biden” was a compilation of such cases or the one in which he has a nickname “creepy uncle Joe”. And several women have accused him of improper touching in recent days. So, it seems his candidacy may end even before it started. And he, unlike the other nearly twenty candidates, has not yet officially announced it.
The star of the last Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders, also is not the youngest. Unlike Biden, however, I see much more energy in him. Moreover, almost all the other candidates, who would like to win his voters, took over his leftist agenda today. But the problem is that he calls himself a democratic socialist.
In my opinion, he is not a democratic socialist, but a moderate social democrat. However, socialism is a dirty word in America, and I am afraid Trump would beat him because of that. After all, I’m not entirely sure Bernie’s foreign policy would be better than Trump’s. From his visit to the Soviet Union at that time, Putin would have been happier than Central Europe.
Beto O’Rourke, like Mayor Pete, is from the new generation. But this is also reflected in the fact that it is not a problem to find the various scandals of the time when he was younger. Obviously, if you didn’t mind him being in a punk band, then you could have a problem with something what was already ok for G. W. Bush, thus being caught driving under the influence.
Only O’Rourke was even having an accident during it, and even before that he was a member of a hacker group, and he and his friends were once arrested for burglary. He’s a good speaker, though. For example, when he explained why it isn’t un-patriotic when NFL players kneel in protest during the anthem. Sometimes he speaks on a table or on a car roof. However, in my opinion, unlike Mayor Pete, he seems terribly superficial, and moreover, we just know he couldn’t win against Trump’s man and his biggest problem is mostly the fact that he was taking money for a campaign from oil corporations.
Even before I heard about Mayor Pete, I bet on Senator Kamala Harris. She is charismatic and inspiring. Her speeches, and especially her confrontational interrogations, give hope that she could deal with Trump. Critics, however, blame her for not being on the side of the weaker and poorer during her career as a California attorney. Besides, her campaign is a little bit boring. But I think she would be very well suited to the position of Vice President to Mayor Pete. He said he would like to have a woman as his VP. And that, given her Indian-Jamaican origin, could be a great advantage.
Another woman is Amy Klobuchar. She differs herself from the progressive left-wing Democrats from centrist positions. But they will easily object that she is doing so also because she is a candidate of large corporations and previous establishment. She made herself visible during the announcement of her candidacy in a snowstorm, while a small child tweeting at the White House did make a comment on global warming. However, very quickly, there was an information that Amy is a little bit hostile to her colleagues. She reacted to this so that she can be tough and has great expectations not only of herself but also of her people.
So far, none of the other candidates seem to have a great chance. Cory Booker is for sure interesting, but America has already had an African-American President. Julian Castro is a Hispanic, however, because of his surname, he seems to have no chance. Due to her attitudes in foreign policy, Tulsi Gabbard is more popular within the far-right backed by Moscow.
The other candidates seem to have no chance. Interesting, though, is the politically inexperienced entrepreneur Andrew Yang, but his main topic is universal basic income, which is probably somewhat ahead of time. Also, another woman could jump into the race, the author of love novels Stacey Abrams, who didn’t become the first woman of African-American origin as governor, only very closely and during very strange circumstances. Because of the Biden’s scandal, the centrist billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, could still change his mind about his candidacy, but he might be too right-wing for the current Democratic Party.
Will America have the first gay President?
As I said before, no one has ever been able to dig up any dirt on Mayor Pete. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy for him to succeed. Is American society ready to have a gay President? And how would the world respond to this and all those ultra-conservative authoritarian regimes that suppress the LGBT people’s rights even these days? What would it mean to all those people born with a non-heterosexual orientation?
Perhaps it would be a similar turning point as when the world’s most powerful politician in Obama’s person became an African-American. It could lead to enormous emancipation and even further elimination of prejudice. Especially since all opponents of LGBT emancipation will be bothered by one thing. Mayor Pete is not a stereotypical and eccentric gay. He is a normal Midwest guy, a decent and moderate Christian who sets the mirror to both sides and gives hope to bring the currently divided society to a sensible dialogue and truly unite it.