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Pete Buttigieg Just Might Be President Pete

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Pete Buttigieg could actually win this thing.

I will first say this is NOT an endorsement; this is purely observation. I hold judgment until I see how candidates perform on the debate stage – that’s where they go to thrive or die and I’m looking forward to the show.

But I do know the next president should be a person who 1) does not fanboy or fangirl over brutal dictators, 2) does not make fun of disabled people or use racist and violent rhetoric on the national stage, 3) does not think it’s okay to grab people by the pussy or any other nether region, 4) has actually read, understands and appreciates the U.S. Constitution and 5)  four is more than enough to snatch us up someone more qualified than what we have now.

Before we dive into how Mayor Pete could actually be on the path to President Pete, it’s important to note there are some bright alternatives out there vying for the Democratic Party nomination. Elizabeth Warren is a largely underestimated player in this game, with solid policy agendas the public could benefit from hearing and debating, if only media would give up some coverage and stop writing Hillary-esque hit pieces way too early in the process. Kamala Harris is still showing strong support. Joe Biden, although he has yet to announce, and Bernie Sanders are killing it in the polls. There are others…so…many…others.

Pete Buttigieg. Photo courtesy of BBC

Of the 18ish potential candidates, Pete Buttigieg has been the sneak attack. Although he, like Biden, is still in the “exploratory phase,” he would be a fool not to declare given the heat he’s putting out and the astronomical fundraising he’s pulling in. At the end of February, he was a nobody in terms of wide name recognition. Today, not only do many people now know how to pronounce his tongue twisting name, but his mentions in news and on social media have skyrocketed in what amounts to just about one month. Like him or not, you can’t deny he has a special something that seems to resonate with a lot of potential voters, and people are catching on at an incredible rate.

I am approaching these observations with an eye toward qualities that a large number of voters will respond to. This is not about which candidate supports my specific needs or aligns with my beliefs. Simply, I am looking at who can actually win and why. And I am saying that, although it’s a long shot, this guy might be in the best position to pull it off.

So, what is it about the 37-year-old out-of-nowhere candidate that poises him to maybe, just maybe, take this thing all the way? Well, simply, he checks a lot of boxes for a lot of different kinds of constituents.

Young

His age may be more of an asset than a burden on his candidacy. As he explained in an interview with Stephen Colbert, his age helps him better understand the problem of gun violence in this country, having grown up in the first generation to worry daily about being shot on school grounds. He has a solid grasp of current technology, beyond rudimentary abilities to tweet from the toilet, and has a balanced view of its benefits and risks. As mayor, Buttigieg had to confront realities and consequences of a changing climate. It’s not to say that an older president couldn’t effectively tackle those issues, but having someone with a vested interest in living another 50 years on this planet might not be a bad thing.

For people looking for fresh blood, he’s just about as baby powder fresh as they come.

Gay

Sexual orientation (like gender, religion, marital status, blah, blah, blah) should not be a “box” to check off, but if we’re being honest and purely observational, the left would really like to see someone occupying the White House who isn’t just another straight, white, Christian male. Buttigieg is still pasty, Christian and only has one Y chromosome but him being an openly gay and married man is a pretty big deal, even if just for the doors he would open. If this generation will become known for breaking down archaic barriers, electing the first gay president is a surefire way to skedaddle a little further in that direction.

None of that necessarily means Buttigieg will be adored by everyone in the LGBTQ community – he is not – but there is no singular way to think or act regardless of who we go to bed with. It is fairly safe to assume his experiences as a gay man will lead him to prioritize policies that further equality, maybe even for the multifaceted all of us.

Buttigieg’s comfort in discussing his sexual orientation, not as a focal point but as a matter of fact, appears to have a disarming effect on some people who may not be all that familiar with gayness. I’m not saying that makes him right or wrong, but the way he carries his identity certainly takes up a large chunk of the venn diagram where progressives and conservatives share some moderate ground.

His husband, Chasten Buttigieg, has so far only served to elevate Pete’s standing as the country considers the first, First Gentleman – be he married to a man or a woman, it would be a first. His dedicated and adoring husband has taken time away from his career as a middle school teacher to hit the campaign trail, and the country is taking quite a liking to the man. I hate to admit the president’s spouse matters in these situations, but for a lot of voters, it still matters a lot.

Vet

Before he became the youngest mayor to be elected in a city with a population of over 100,000 residents, Pete Buttigieg served his country in Afghanistan as a U.S. Navy Lieutenant. He understands the sacrifices war demands and the realities of loss. His military discussions balance the need to support our troops and the need to not be involved in never-ending conflicts, and when asked about strategies he would employ in certain regions, he has educated answers spiked with personal experience. Not bad qualities in a Commander in Chief.

As we toil under a president who loves the military only when the cameras are hot, it may be in our best interest to next elect someone with real experience and concern for the men and women who serve.

Pete Buttigieg as a U.S. Navy Lieutenant. Photo courtesy of Military.com

 

Religious

This pill is a little harder to swallow for the growing demographic of atheists and agnostics, and for just those of us who prefer religion be kept out of government and all public services, but he is super Christian, of the Episcopalian kind…and talks about it as openly as he discusses his husband. Here’s the thing with this piece of the puzzle: Every single president has had to pass the religious litmus test that somehow conveys people can trust them, ’cause Jesus. It is not something I agree with but it is still very much a thing, and honesty time…if he were gay and atheist, he wouldn’t stand a chance in hell at this particular point. His Christian connection helps soften the blow, so to speak, for portions of the population not as tolerant to the LGBTQ community as we would like. That’s just a fact.

Buttigieg has pulled off an interesting trick by tying his religious beliefs to his sexual orientation, making it harder for some to judge either segment of his identity. As mayor of South Bend, Indiana for eight years, he and Vice President Mike Pence crossed paths when the VP was governor. The candidate addressed Pence’s infamous views on homosexuality and gay marriage during a fundraising event Saturday, and said:

“Being married to Chasten has made me a better human being because it has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware and more decent. My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”

Think what you will about religion and it’s place in civic life, but you have to admit that Buttigieg is pretty crafty in his navigation of two controversial topics.

Rhodes Scholar

The young candidate is just plain smart. It takes all of three minutes watching him be interviewed to confirm he is quick on his toes, even if you don’t agree with what he has to say. His thoughtful, extensive, non-crazed answers with valid sources and real words on just about every topic thrown his direction is evidence he’s studied up on basic subjects that matter when it comes to running a country, especially this country. He fluently speaks languages of economy, military management, foreign policy and environmental science, and does not assert that he and only he has all the answers. It turns out, he’s game to listen to experts and learn more as he makes important decisions that could annihilate the Western world.

The new guy also speaks something like six other actual languages.

He’s the kind of smart that doesn’t feel the need to be pretentious. Buttigieg is less aggressive partly because he doesn’t have to be – his big stick is his mind, and he just knows it. After living under the wrath of the biggest brain and the best words, the country is craving genuine intellect, not because we’re having an elitist fit but because it turns out the nation is safer when someone can complete sentences.

In case you were wondering what the rubber band effect looks like in a real-world scenario, imagine the transition from Trump to an actual Rhodes Scholar. It’s a selling point…just sayin’.

Moderate

I know, I know… A lot of progressives believe the Democratic Party should lean as far left as possible to fight back the rise of the right. And they may be right.

The Dems need voters to turn out in enormous numbers in order to combat any push back on election results, and without a doubt, there will be push backs. Typically, the turn-out is dependent on super charge at the party’s base – rallying the troops, firing up the crowd. But this time around, this particular candidate, might be able to pick up the middle ground as a moderate. And remember, I’m just talking about who can run away with the most votes here.

He advocates for aggressive climate change response but stops short of fully supporting the Green New Deal, calling it instead a good “framework” to start from. He takes a “Medicare for All Who Want It” approach with a slower, less intrusive evolution into a possible single-payer system. He doesn’t want troops stuck in combat zones forever but weighs the consequences of leaving unstable areas too quickly. He criticizes the current economic structure as unequal but does not embrace Democratic Socialist ideology. In terms of the gun control debate, the candidate prescribes universal background checks and questions the need for average citizens to have AR-15s handy, but expresses no interest in knocking on doors to take guns from responsible owners.

Fiscally conservative, more socially open voters who may have been lured by bullshit coverage about windmills, hamburger bans, death panels and attacks on the Second Amendment could find some solace in Buttigieg. He has a calming effect on people and makes some conservatives more comfortable than they anticipated.

He addresses the needs without hitting people over the head with change, and although I think an occasional head smashing is not only appropriate but required, his method is attracting more bees than I ever would. Moderate may not be the hero we want, but it may be the hero we need…this time around.

Obama won in such historic fashion because the base was excited, but that excitement was a perfect storm culmination of circumstances. People were desperate to believe and hope, and he was magnanimous, well spoken and compassionate – we needed a savior and we appointed one. And then…we were disappointed, because no one man or woman can be the everything each one of us needs. The best will come in with the best of intentions and will soon be confronted with harsh realities of forced compromise – at the end of the day, the president has to do the job of running the most powerful country in the world, with it’s complicated past, entangled but divisive present and uncertain future. In this weird moment in U.S. American history, Pete Buttigieg might be the guy who can win.

Looking through today’s lense, let’s just say, worse things could happen…

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.