Nah, we don’t think he’s going to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for President.
From the Mayor’s office in South Bend Indiana to the Oval office in Washington, DC, it is just a leap too far. But, in our judgment, he’s the best of the bunch. And we say that not so much as our commentary on the Democratic field, but rather as our commentary on this impressive relative newcomer to the rough and tumble of the American political scrum. There’s nothing “manufactured” or stage-managed about Pete Buttigieg. He’s just plain outstanding.
The Democratic front runners in the debate Thursday night were, we thought, strikingly unimpressive. Joe Biden seemed to get high debate marks for simply not getting too many low debate marks, although we thought his remark that no one should be in prison for non-violent crimes was rather breathtaking. Certainly, he got Bernie Madoff’s vote with that one (yeah, we know, Madoff doesn’t get a vote).
Elizabeth Warren’s pivot went unchallenged when George Stephanopoulos suggested that her Medicare-for-all plan would raise taxes on the middle class. She simply answered that medical costs for the middle class would go down, and dodged the tax implications. The increase in taxes for the middle class would be a certainty—the lower costs, a chimera. Her comment that she’s never met anyone who liked their private health insurance was, of course, ridiculous. Too many studies show the opposite to be true. The vast majority of people who have private health insurance like their private health insurance.
Bernie Sanders was, well, Bernie Sanders—free everything paid for by someone other than whoever votes for him.
But, back to Pete Buttigieg. When have we had someone so uniformly impressive vying for the public’s nod in a presidential election? Just think of it; a candidate to be Commander-in-Chief who actually volunteered and served in a combat zone, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, as an intelligence officer. A Harvard graduate (magna cum laude, no less) and a Rhodes Scholar with high honors in philosophy, politics, and economics. And, yes, he was valedictorian of his high school graduating class too. He’s consistent if he’s anything.
Early on in his career, Buttigieg worked as a consultant at McKinsey and Company. He’s a serious thinker and a decisive decision-maker. And he strikes us as one of those rare individuals who really are determined to make a difference. He believes, it seems to us, that one person can make a difference and that every person has an obligation to try.
Undoubtedly, Buttigieg could have pursued a very lucrative career in business or in consulting. Instead, he chose public service in the rough and tumble world of politics, the one career field where, especially in a struggling Midwestern city, announcing to the world that you are gay, could be a career-ender. With an anti-gay governor like Mike Pence leading your state that had to be a tough decision, but that’s what Buttigieg did. And he did it in the midst of his re-election campaign for Mayor.
But Buttigieg was doing good things for South Bend. Buttigieg’s ambitious “Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative” to repair or demolish blighted property, also known as “1,000 Properties in 1,000 days,” succeeded and succeeded right on schedule. After years of decline, the city was experiencing growth again. The defunct Studebaker factory, now known as Ignition Park, is reportedly attracting new tech companies and the downtown center is undergoing redevelopment, and unemployment has declined markedly. Many have begun to refer to South Bend as the turnaround city.
The debate Thursday night ended with the candidates being asked to describe the greatest obstacle in life they had to face and overcome. They all gave good answers—good answers that were worthy of the best campaign consultants. Buttigieg, however, candidly discussed his decision to openly attest to his life as a gay American, his decision to live openly and to marry the person he loved. And in a remarkable sign of the times, midwestern South Bend re-elected Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 80 percent of the vote.
When we ponder all that seems wrong with the political discourse and the divisiveness that seem to permeate our body politic, it’s reassuring to know that young leaders like Pete Buttigieg are also part of the political landscape—that committed, brave, bold and highly intelligent young leaders are among us. Pete Buttigieg probably won’t make it to the White House in 2020, but we’re very glad he’s in this race. It reminds us that there are really good, brave, selfless and talented people who are still willing to enter the disheartening and divisive morass that characterizes political reality in America today.
In Pete Buttigieg, we see clear-minded determination, maybe a touch of idealism, unfettered by the cynicism that permeates American politics today. In Pete Buttigieg, we see hope that the best and brightest and most energetic among us will still aspire to public service.