Election 2020

The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Is Running for President

Pete Buttigieg wants to move forward, not backward. What a novel campaign platform!


Meet Pete Buttigieg! He's the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and an openly gay (and married) retired Naval reservist who was deployed to Afghanistan. He has organized an exploratory committee to run for president, he announced today. Here's his announcement, explaining all about himself:

Well, that actually doesn't say a whole lot. Honestly, the entire video is carefully crafted to feel like a campaign ad to the point that all you get out of it are moods and intentions and a vague sense that Buttigieg is definitely a Democrat who supports liberal causes and thinks economic development in cities is, in general, a good thing.

Pete Buttigieg
Pete for America

I was particularly amused by one weird way Buttigieg describes his desire for a forward-thinking, progress-oriented America. He says early in the commercial, "There's no such thing as 'again' in the real world," an observation that he or his advisors somehow think is compelling and memorable enough to repeat later in the ad. It gives the entire script the feel of something written via a machine learning tool that has been fed hundreds of previous campaign advertisements.

Buttigieg has also launched a campaign site that also doesn't have a whole lot to say, other than a relatively brief biography and a declaration that he's a millennial at the age of 37. He's right on the edge between Generation X and millennials, so it's kind of interesting that he's making sure he's getting lumped in with the younger group. He notes in his bio that he ran for Democratic National Committee chair (but leaves out that he withdrew).

There is no issues section of the site. The New York Times' coverage of his announcement also is pretty light on any policy plans or even any ideas at all that he might have other than being "untethered to the policies of the past," plus typical political pabulum about moving forward and not looking backward.

After Trump was elected in 2016, Buttigieg wrote an essay on Medium titled "A letter from flyover country," which makes him seem as though he might grasp from the left how overregulation is a burden to average families, but then he immediately grabs the idea of "freedom" and runs it to a different place, making it less than clear whether he understands how much the heavy hand of the government often makes lives harder for his constituents:

I am a Democrat because I believe in protecting freedom, fairness, families, and the future.

First, freedom?—?not just the thin idea of freedom from overregulation but the freedom to choose our destinies, not to mention our spouses. Freedom from things like crushing medical costs and student debt, from dishonest banking practices and anything else that affects the most basic of freedoms: freedom to live a life of our choosing.

Living a life of our own choosing does come with a price tag. Much of Buttigieg's writing here seems to be an attempt to slap together simplistic and incredibly vague Democratic policy ideas in such a way that he doesn't fall into the "Well, how exactly are we going to pay for all of this?" trap.

There's nothing in Buttigieg's advertisement or on his site that explains what makes him different from other potential Democratic candidates or why he's trying to jump all the way from mayor of a city of 100,000 to the presidency. The New York Times even notes the irony that Buttigieg complained back in 2016 that the Democrats were so focused on the White House that they ignored important state and local races. And now, here he is running for president instead of for governor or Congress.

We'll probably see more seemingly quixotic campaigns like Buttigieg's. President Donald Trump is such a divisive figure that many folks on the left (and even a few on the right) want to jump at the possibility that there's an opportunity here to make him a one-termer. And then there's the fact that Trump himself defied expectations and essentially demolished a "norm" about where winning candidates come from. Who are we to say Buttigieg cannot possibly win?

Because of Trump's rise and how it threw a lot of media off-guard, we're also culturally in a situation where nobody wants to downplay these sorts of announcements. Because what if Buttigieg's campaign takes off? The media doesn't want to be caught in that position again. Particularly, since, as Buttigieg explains, there's no such thing as "again" in real life.

Nope. Still don't get it.