Election 2020

Pete Buttigieg Is the Most Interesting Democrat Running for President

Buttigieg urging candidates to "talk about freedom more" is a positive development not just for the Democrats but for the country.


The most interesting Democrat running for president may just be Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old, gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

He visited Boston earlier this month, and I got to see him firsthand during a small session with reporters and an appearance before a crowd of more than 1,000 at Northeastern University.

In more than a few moments, he was downright impressive.

Facing a question from a tenant-rights activist complaining about Northeastern fueling "gentrification," he pivoted to an answer about affordable housing that included the words "rethinking exclusionary zoning."

That is a big deal coming from a Democratic politician. Left-leaning economists and journalists such as Eduardo Porter, Paul Krugman, and Lawrence Summers have been making this point about zoning restrictions artificially constraining the supply of housing. It's ideologically consistent with libertarian aversion to regulatory interference in free markets. But politicians have been slow to seize the issue. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke, had earlier handled a housing affordability question by talking about aggressive antidiscrimination enforcement by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, leaving me wishing he'd at least also mentioned something about zoning.

Buttigieg's housing answer, while brief, also made another smart point: that housing policy needs to take into account regional variations. In South Bend, he said, it's a problem that houses selling for $30,000 or $40,000 are too inexpensive to qualify for conventional mortgage financing. In Boston, that money won't purchase an outdoor parking spot, let alone a single-family house. So the affordability question may not be answered with a one-size-fits-all Washington-imposed solution.

I've frequently written that one of the benefits of the Trump era is Democrats discovering the merits of decentralization. It's nice to see one of the party's presidential candidates talking about this.

Deregulation and decentralization are a good start. What else does Buttigieg have to offer voters who might not otherwise tend to consider a self-described progressive?

He talks about religion as a source of "community and morality and spirituality."

And he talks about freedom. "We need to start to talk about freedom more on our side of the aisle," he said. He says this in response to a question about a faculty labor union, suggesting that benefits such as retirement and health care should move away from "being entirely dependent on your employer." That's a bit of a straw man—Social Security and individual retirement accounts already exist. And while employer-provided healthcare has its flaws, the "Medicare for all who want it" as a "glide path toward single payer" program described by Buttigieg would have its own flaws, too.

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether Buttigieg's "talk about freedom more" is just rhetorical gloss, a marketing campaign to sell the same old tax-and-spend liberal program by borrowing language to suggest, inaccurately, that the freedom wouldn't be merely talked about but actually enjoyed by taxpayers.

What made me particularly nervous about this was when Buttigieg started saying things like, "Tax cuts for the wealthiest…some of 'em are gonna have to be reversed." Or complaining that the "neoliberal consensus" or "Reagan consensus" of the "last 40 years" has "absolutely failed us."

Other times, Buttigieg does a better job of connecting.

He's disarming with humor when he notes that before he came out, his two careers were the U.S. military and elected office in Indiana, neither of which were known to be particularly gay-friendly.

Asked a question about the experiments with universal basic income, he notes, "there's a lot more to work than income." He talks about identity and a sense of purpose and belonging. Along the way he mentions an assembly line in Indiana that used to make Hummers, the civilian version of the military Humvee, but has since been retooled to make the Mercedes R Class, a minivan-shaped vehicle not sold in America but exported to China. So American union auto workers are making German cars for Chinese customers.

One assembly-line anecdote, excellent as it is, isn't a trade or tariff policy. And the campaign is in its early days. Buttigieg will have his blunders, as he did Saturday in clumsily and publicly lecturing Benjamin Netanyahu about what is in Israeli interests, as if Buttigieg, from the safety of South Bend, is better positioned to know that than are the Israeli voters.

Early though it is, though, it's not too early to say that having Buttigieg in the presidential race urging "talk about freedom more" has the potential to be a positive development not just for the Democrats but for the country.

Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of JFK, Conservative.

NEXT: Police Sicced a Dog on a Surrendering Man. Will the Supreme Court Review the Doctrine That Gave Them Immunity?

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  1. Please, Reason, enough with the schoolgirl crushes on Democrats.

    1. They be lovin’ them some Buttgag.

      1. Pot, Mexicans, and Mayor Buttgag.

        1. You misspelled buttplug.

          1. I thought it was Butt Love!

            Hasn’t anyone asked him or his wifey how much freedom they would like to see Christian bakers receive who do not want to bake cakes for their repulsive weddings?

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    2. He’s light years better than anyone else running on the Democrat side, plus light years ahead of Trump.

      It’s not about what party affiliation he belongs to, it’s about being able to pass a Turing Test. Buttigiggle might possible be the only sapient candidate in the race.

      1. “plus light years ahead of Trump.”
        Oh? How?

        1. Well Mayor Pete
          can read several languages including Norwegian. President Trump’s attention span is so short he can not even read English.

          1. Great, Let him run for office in Norway.

          2. I don’t care if the POTUS can or can speak Norwegian, or what his reading lists are. I just want one that will not fuck me over with Green New Deals, expanded regulation, or excessive taxation to support a universal basic income, all of which Butt-gig has gone on record as supporting.

      2. I hope you’re being sarcastic. Petey is a complete phony. Wake up.

      3. He’s light years better than anyone else running on the Democrat side, plus light years ahead of Trump.

        I’m not aware that Trump has ever set foot in South Bend, IN. If he never does, he will have done more for the city of S. Bend than Buttigieg ever could.

        Trump has been handed everything on a silver platter and still managed to have a number of notable failures among his business ventures. Buttigieg, on the other hand, is more of a self-made man and has managed to pick himself up by the bootstraps and fail more with less.

    3. It’s the Reason way, isn’t it?

      Talk about freedom while accepting massive expansions of state power.

      1. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

        Buttigieg does have actual policy positions, but they’re the standard woke shitlib ones. The guy was raised by an actual Marxist professor, spouts the same cultural Marxist bullshit, and Reason’s a-flutter over him.

        1. Yes he threw in a word about freedom and his big government beliefs are forgotten.

    4. Uhhhhh, they ARE democrats.

      Decided whether they love Beto or the Buttplug more is going to be one of the toughest decisions of their lives.

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    6. Yes all we need to know is his love of Democratic Capitalism which is straight up Socialism. His father was a founding member of the Gramsci Society … What else do you need to know other than he is another highly educated communist wannbe.. What is wrong with Reason? Why the move towards Progressive / Socialism?

  2. If he wasn’t gay this guy would have 0% chance and nobody would be giving him the time of day. His being gay might very likely lead the progressives and Dem base to ignore the policies that fly in the face of their neo-socialist dreams, which would be a good thing.

    1. Nope.
      He’ll bend over for every socialist scheme they want to ram through

      1. I see what you did there.

        Those socialist schemes are always hotties, but they turn out to be rough assholes in bed.

    2. He’s mostly one of those blank slate candidates, like Obama except gay instead of black.

      Well, some searching suggests that he’s anti-gun, which pretty much blows the “talk more about freedom” line.

      And he favored the Green New Deal before voting present. What a moment of combined stupidity and courage!

      Yeah, he’s going to be relying pretty heavily on being the first gay President.

      1. I remember Obama saying some great things about supporting freedom of expression and respecting opposing views, but I don’t seem to remember any action. In fact, what action there was ran counter to those nice words.
        So you’re having deja vu, too, eh?

      2. Blank slate, with a healthy dose of “wunderkind savior” and a side of “pick me because I’m diverse”.

    3. An uncloseted homo will never become the American president.

      A fact nobody likes to talk about is that the average black American dislikes homosexuality at least as much, if not more than the average white American.

      1. Even the other members of the LGBTQA*#DZ^WTF community don’t consider gay white men to be one of them anymore. Gay white men are seen as establishment now.

        1. His real problem is that he is a straight up Socialist

    4. I doubt it. If gay is to be the winning demographic they’ll find another one who will support the neo-socialist agenda

  3. Wait. He’s gay and his name is Peter Butt-something. Come on. This is all a gag.

    1. He’ll be called “Buttplug”. Do we want a president with that nickname?

      1. “Do we want a president with that nickname?”

        Actually, that would go in his plus column.

      2. Trump would overuse that name on Twitter and end up making himself look foolish, so it works in the Democrats’ favor

    2. It is a gag. A Buttgag.

      1. Sounds painful.

        1. You have to work up to it.

    3. While I understand the temptation, it doesn’t speak well of the commentariat when half the comments revolve around puerile jokes based on the guy’s name.

      If he can make a handful of libertarian ideas semi-palatable to the democratic voters, more power to him. Isn’t it a good thing to see someone other than Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders getting a bit of traction?

      1. Take a step back and see that we ridicule the entire electoral process. Buttplug is just the joke of the day.

      2. Hes not libertarian. Listen to his rant from last week. He defines freedom as government giving people things to the point they dont have to work.

        Do better Reason.

      3. You assume that the people here are decent. Pro tip- they are not. They are authoritarians who just want their person in power. Power, not principles.

        1. Physician, heal thyself.

      4. Like being tall, having a name that isn’t easily made into a joke is an important thing for a Presidential candidate, however much we might prefer that short people with silly names had a shot at the office.

        1. Yep. Eventually we will have had a woman president, a Hispanic president, a Jewish president, an openly homosexual president, a Muslim president, etc., but NEVER will we have a short, fat, ugly president.

          1. ah, but will we ever have a President who has a name that is easily made into a puerile joke??

    4. As Mark Twain (and others!) remarked, the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.

    5. something something Anthony Weiner

  4. I called it this morning. The reason love fest for Buttigieg has begun. “I have always wanted to vote for a gay socialist”.

    1. Mayor Buttgag isn’t a religious freedom peace creep like Tulsi Gabbard.

    2. Him attacking Pence was amusing as Pence has only spoken highly of him.

      Narrative uber alles.

      He is also open to slavery reparations which is about the biggest non starter out there.

  5. >>>And he talks about freedom. “We need to start to talk about freedom more on our side of the aisle,”

    no, he says *we* *need* to *start to talk* about freedom … which is nothing

    1. Arbeit macht frei.

    2. Stoll is an intellectual. That means he believes words have magic powers to change reality.

      1. Until very recently, pretty much everyone in the world believed that.

        1. I know right? It isn’t like they are the runes or anything………

  6. I particularly enjoyed his apparent analysis of what is wrong with a GMI — no sense of “identity.. belonging” — a
    community which work should provide, apparently, and can’t be accomplished by simply getting to know one’s neighbors, regardless of one’s “9-to-5” status. Maybe we should tie a GMI to certain social situations, such as “resettlement camps?”….

  7. He’s pretty good. But Kamala Harris is still my first choice.

    1. Trying to make Hillary jealous?

    2. I would never vote for a prosecutor, even if she sucked me off.

  8. Has anybody noticed Mayor Pete’s tergiversation regarding the term “all lives matter?”

    A couple of years ago, Mayor Pete agreed that all lives do, indeed matter. Now, he has disavowed his previous pronouncement. He now says that he is WOKE on the issue as the invocation of the term “all lives matter” is nothing more than a white male patriarchy co-optation of “black lives matter.”

    1. He is all about freedom Mike, just so long as it doesn’t involve guns, defending yourself, or making filthy profits. He is the most interesting man in the room!!

      1. He did say something of interest on Joe & Mika a couple of weeks ago.

        He said that the left should not allow the right to monopolize Christianity. By way of example, he suggested that the religious left should practice what Jesus did and one manifestation of that would be “ministering to sex workers.”

        The other day, I invoked Mayor Pete’s words on WEEI in relation to Bob Kraft. One of the hosts is an old-time progressive and the other is a conservative Christian. I said that Kraft was merely ministering to sex workers, except it was mutual ministering.

        1. “He said that the left should not allow the right to monopolize Christianity.”

          I recall Democrats getting on that horse after the 2004 Presidential election.

          1. And they’ve gone on from there to make the Pharisees look humble and the Nazis look loving.

        2. By way of example, he suggested that the religious left should practice what Jesus did and one manifestation of that would be “ministering to sex workers.”

          I’m sure he demonstrates the same level of understanding about that topic as most leftists do about biblical scripture.

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  10. Super interesting candidate, Sempai.
    Disarming humour AND he loves bumsex.

  11. KMW pronounces it “booty-zhezh”.

    1. Is “booty-zhezh” the same thing as “santorum”?

  12. In a crowded field Mayor Pete has stood out enough to be noticed. He is young and smart. I like that in a candidate and I like it even more in a President.

    1. Yes. Just like Justin Trudeau eh?

  13. Why does the article open by referring to him as the “gay mayor of South Bend”? Is “gay mayor” some special position that is distinct from the normal mayor? Does each city have one of each, now?

    Or has the author adopted the Democrats’ notion that identity politics trumps all?

    Reason is trying way too hard to Trojan Horse Democrats on an audience that ought to find them less appealing than police officers. It’s very concerning.

    We all know that even if a Democratic candidate was personally different, upon election he would become a boilerplate member of his party. Even Donald Trump succumbed to that.

    1. It’s a Homeric epithet, like the Merry Wives of Windsor.

      1. Not gay, just merry. Like Robin Hood and his merry men.

        h/t Mel Brooks

  14. The U. S. may have already had a gay Democratic President – someone who was really into chains and whips, though not for himself.

  15. Interested to see how far down he will go on the socialist scale, or if he will differentiate himself from the other mega give-away candidates by actually showing some restraint. Most of the dems disqualify themselves the second they open up about the policies they want big daddy govt to buy (read: redistribute our money to).

    I haven’t heard him go with the standard (very scary that this is standard now): “reparations, medicare for all, NGD” bs yet, but I feel like honestly the only way to win the dems now is by all spending and services going through the govt machine. I am just assuming it is coming from him at some point too.

    They really may be too far gone at this point.

  16. The only thing especially useful about being gay is how it would freak out teh Muslim autocrats. Saudi king would probably try to shake with his left hand.

  17. Less government, less taxes, and more freedom.

    fuck all leftist losers, mind your own fucking business.

  18. Here is a candidate who has possibly read the Libertarian platform planks urging Landover Baptist Republicans and Ku-Klux Dixiecrats to lay off of trying to lynch gays. The people in his district quite possibly understand that 4 million Libertarian spoiler votes underscored the suicidal implications of Democratic party planks written by Jeremy Rifkin and aimed at shutting down electrical power plants. Nothing like Libertarian spoiler votes to spark a sudden awakening to the facts of reality, amirite?

    1. I’ll have whatever Hank is having.

      1. You need to work your way up, otherwise you’ll get alcohol poisoning.

  19. There is nothing interesting about anyone who wants to try to take away my individual freedoms.

    1. I might die from a preventable illness because I don’t have money but have “access” to healthcare but I’ll be damned- I’m free!

      1. Shitlibs really are the most dishonest people ever.

      2. “wearingit|4.8.19 @ 9:45PM|#
        I might die from a preventable illness because I don’t have money but have “access” to healthcare but I’ll be damned- I’m free!”


    2. Only in the “May you live in interesting times” Chinese curse sense.

  20. Indiana! That’s where all the murder guns come from!

  21. Pete claimed that “All Lives Matter”..they are destroying him. He is finished.

    1. He’ll eventually meet with Rev Al and apologize
      Only certain lives matter

  22. What made me particularly nervous about this was when Buttigieg started saying things like, “Tax cuts for the wealthiest?some of ’em are gonna have to be reversed.” Or complaining that the “neoliberal consensus” or “Reagan consensus” of the “last 40 years” has “absolutely failed us.”

    Ahh, so what made you nervous was him telling the truth. The fact that maybe, just maybe, cutting taxes, especially for the rich, at all times is a bad idea.

    Got it.

    1. Taxes have been cut for “the rich” since Kennedy. Care to guess how often the revenue-to-GDP ratio reached 19% or higher since the end of World War II, and when that took place?

      1. You people are supposed to be math nerds yet you’re mind-bogglingly terrible with numbers at convenient times.

        A one-percent shift in that ratio is a lot of money. “It’s a small range” is a matter of opinion. The fact is, when taxes go up, so do revenues, and when they go down, revenues drop, by as large amounts as you might expect by doing math and subtracting the voodoo.

        1. You people are supposed to be math nerds yet you’re mind-bogglingly terrible with numbers at convenient times.

          Doesn’t change the history. The revenue-to-GDP ratio has only passed 19 percent five times during the post-World War II era. None of them were during the late 40s and 1950s, when we supposedly had a “fair” tax rate in place. One of them actually took place during a recession.

          The average has been about 17.5 percent in a very narrow range, regardless of where the tax rates have been. If spending had also remained in that range, we wouldn’t have the issues we do now.

          The fact is, when taxes go up, so do revenues, and when they go down, revenues drop

          That’s not true. At all. You might want to read the OMB charts sometime.

          1. Math to idiots like Tony is like holy water to a vampire.

  23. He’s feinting to the center, which means his party’s hyenas will gang up and devour him when the race gets going in earnest.

    1. He’s trying to get his left wing nut bona fides by lying about Pence, supporting infanticide as choice, and chastising Christians for supporting a philanderer rather than a abortion loving rape enabler

    2. He’s feinting to the center

      Which means he’s lying.

  24. No, it’s definitely Gabbard.

  25. Good God. Petey’s a complete pantywaist wiener. Come on Reason!

  26. Reason:

    Nicest, most honorable police officer ever? Fuck that guy!

    Democrat who has a single non-communist position? MARRY ME!

  27. I’m all in on him as long as you rightwingers don’t start calling him Peter Butt and getting all homophobic. Promise? Someone tell Trump to hold it back?

    1. Odd since Trump was far more pro gay as a candidate than any Dem President ever.

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  29. Lest we get carried away:

    Buttigieg has said the Democratic party needs to be in conversation with labor unions and supports the economic opportunities presented in the Green New Deal.

    Buttigieg joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which supports comprehensive background checks and opposes guns in schools and permitless carrying.
    “Just expressing one war vet’s hurt at seeing weapons of war used on peaceful Americans here at home.”

    “…but we know that a lot of people in this country are not paying their fair share. There’s this talk about this being some crazy left-wing position, but I think the idea that some people aren’t paying their fair share, and we’ve got to change that, that’s something most Americans get.”

    Buttigieg supports increasing the minimum wage?He also told the podcast Pod Save America that he thinks it’s worth taking universal basic income seriously, saying, “It’s the right moment to have the conversation.”

    we need to depoliticize the Supreme Court, with one option being expanding the Supreme Court to 15 justices with 10 appointed “in the political fashion” and five appointed by a unanimous agreement of the other 10 justices.

    Buttigieg has made it clear that he believes climate change deserves crisis-level attention from the government

    he also spoke about voting reform, including creating automatic voter registration

    1. What he is selling I am not buying. No matter how you package it.

  30. I cannot support his goal of abolishing the Electoral College.

    1. It would be for no purpose but to benefit Democrats by throwing the outcome to a simple majority vs. a plurality of States. Personally I do not want the POTUS to be chosen by NYC or the “gold coast” of CA. We would have about as much say as people in interior CA of upstate NY over their choice of governor; their goal is the marginalize the flyover deplorables as much as possible as we get in their way of dystopic dreams.

  31. Reason dictionary: Anything anti-Trump is libertarian. Even statists.

  32. So, Reason hates Trump because of immigration and his trade policy.

    They love Pete IN SPITE of his support for the GND and slavery reparations.

    Cannot figure out why Libertarianism isn’t taken seriously.

    1. When TDS overcomes “Reason.”

  33. I hope he chooses Hank Johnson for his running mate. Then we can have the gayest presidential ticket since Buchanan/Breckenridge.

  34. It seems that SArah Palin’s Buttigieg has stopped commenting here.

    So sad.

  35. I agree with most of the commenters here. He is not a freedom loving politician. He is making a dishonest attempt to deflect from the idea that government is the primary source of restrictions on freedom and instead arguing that government should take care of you so that you are free – which is entirely incompatible with any sort of libertarian thinking. He started one speech by blaming conservatives for hijacking freedom to only mean “freedom from”. Those bad guys want freedom from regulation and freedom from governement. But hey look there is other forms of opression – like from the cable companies, or from too many guns, or being afraid to take a risk to start a business.

    It’s a blatant attempt to say freedom doesn’t mean what you think it means, in fact it’s the opposite so let me expand the government and it’s role in your life to make you freer.

    What you have to give the guy props for is being able to dress up the usual progressive leftist drivel in a way that disarms even thinking libertarians like the author to even consider that he has something interesting to say. I even began to think he had a farily non-judgemental practical element to his approach until I heard his speech moralizing on how Christians who don’t think the way he does about his faith misinterpret their religion. This may be his undoing with the progressive left because he’s trying to bring faith into the picture now.

  36. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Buttigieg’s “talk about freedom more” is just rhetorical gloss, a marketing campaign to sell the same old tax-and-spend liberal program by borrowing language to suggest, inaccurately, that the freedom wouldn’t be merely talked about but actually enjoyed by taxpayers.”

    It’s hard to tell, is it? Actually, truly, really, really really hard to tell?


    Mayor Pete. Beto. AOC. Cute names to go with un-cute policies.

  37. In South Bend, he said, it’s a problem that houses selling for $30,000 or $40,000 are too inexpensive to qualify for conventional mortgage financing.

    The weasel word there is “conventional.” I don’t know how Stoll is defining it, but there are plenty of mortgage financing options for inexpensive homes in that price range in my area.

  38. I don’t think average voters (Israeli, American, or other) have much awareness of what is in their country’s best security interests. So it’s completely plausible that, “Buttigieg, from the safety of South Bend, is better positioned to know that than are the Israeli voters.”

  39. Two-faced Buttigieg now totally projecting that exact personality disorder onto Mike Pence, who has apparently been nothing but supportive of him. Buttigieg is the epitome of the Scorpion stinging the Frog here.

  40. To the spammers who keep coming here saying you can make money with Google: Just apply to Reason to be part of the libertarian (sic) circle jerk in the comment sections. You’ll need to provide writing samples, but their standards aren’t high.

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