Mayor Pete Buttigieg reframes liberalism

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

With the never-ending list of Democratic presidential candidates for the upcoming 2020 election, it is almost too easy to lose track of who’s who and what they believe in. I have found my Twitter feed drowning in news about Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, all candidates who have made quite the name for themselves. Despite my refusal to endorse any candidate officially (for now), I cannot help but notice the underdog of all these names and campaigns: Mayor of South Bend, IN, Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg, age 37, emphasizes his life experiences in his exploratory committee campaign, “Pete for America.” He plays the role of the bridge between the left and the right, often talking about his identity as a veteran of the Afghanistan war, as a gay man, a member of the Episcopal Church, and a millennial who, simply put, gets it. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and a Harvard graduate, no one can claim Mayor Pete lacks credentials or is not qualified; he was even labeled as the future of the Democratic Party by former President Barack Obama. On top of all of that, Buttigieg has recently made headlines for a video that went viral, showing him casually speaking to reporters in Norwegian, which happens to be one of the seven languages he can speak.

Pete Buttigieg presents himself to the nation in a way that I admire and respect. He is eloquent in his responses, possessing a charisma that is neither aggressive or insincere, and even had the guts to go on Fox News to talk about his role as a progressive aiming to look beyond ideological labels. Buttigieg stands out from the official candidates from the Democratic party by making small changes in how he presents his ideas. He acknowledges, yet does not emphasize, his sexuality in town halls or meetings. In discussions, he avoids mentioning President Donald Trump. He embraces his Midwestern roots and has recognition for their struggles, rather than disregarding them completely. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while not an official presidential candidate, comes off as highly presidential, in that there is at least one piece of him and his identity that you can relate to.

With the conversation of Buttigieg’s role as the Democratic middle-ground, I feel the need to expand on the opinion of moderate politics. In a world where children have lead in their bodies from contaminated water, where black people are systematically oppressed and persecuted, where brown children are held in detention centers away from their parents, where people are paying thousands for insulin, and so on, I often feel that moderate politics is the least effective way to move forward. Why be friends with the oppressor for a few more votes? Why go out of your way to benefit from systematically corrupt political institutions? In a more identity-based light, why should I vote for another white man to become president? And why should I expect him to dismantle the very system he benefits from?

However, I find myself asking if Pete Buttigieg is really a moderate. He explicitly identifies as a progressive Democrat, and his policy points mostly match that label. So why are more center-left and moderate voters more respectful of his campaign? I believe Buttigieg has mastered a balance between politically progressive policies and the moderate facade he wears (with the good intentions of criticizing the Democratic party for often ignoring the Midwest during election season). I personally find this approach genius. Politically speaking, it can propel him in the polls in the long run–whether this is the real him, or a persona he crafted for the nation to see.

All in all, Pete Buttigieg is a captivating person who should no longer be ignored by the mainstream media. Following his CNN Town Hall, Buttigieg has actually gained support and national recognition. With the growing list of Democratic candidates, it is hard to truly tell if Buttigieg will stand out on the national scale to the likes of Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders; however, being the unique, enthralling candidate that he is, I definitely foresee an official candidacy announcement and the earth-shattering aftermath of it soon.