Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is barnstorming across Iowa this week. While the LGBTQ community eagerly awaits, Buttigieg is weighing a formal announcement that he wants to beat Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race.
And while he’s relatively unknown outside his hometown, Buttigieg has also been called the “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of” by The Washington Post. He also won his first mayoral election with a whopping 74 percent of the vote in 2011, only to run up the score with a successful re-election campaign that ended with him winning 80 percent of the vote.
In this, the second part of our interview with the mayor, we began by asking about America’s international standing. (Part One can be found here.)
METROSOURCE: You’ve been abroad and served overseas. What do you think are the key elements to restoring the country’s reputation with our allies, competitors and adversaries?
Buttigieg: It’s particularly important for us to establish, both through moral consistency and through concrete measures like U.S. aid, that we are prepared to carry a leadership role in the future. Especially at a time when — whether you’re looking at a place like Saudi Arabia that’s considered an American ally — or a place like Russia, or a competitor like China, or you see what’s going on in some parts of Europe. It seems like commitments to freedom and democracy are in the retreat.
Donald Fights Dirty
METROSOURCE: Donald Trump has no trouble or shame when it comes to objectifying people and reducing them to perceived flaws. How do you plan to cope with the insults that are bound to come your way in a presidential contest?
Buttigieg: Well, I’ve had a fair amount of batting practice over the course of my life when it comes to dealing with bullies. And I’m not that worried about it. I think the more the conversation is about him, the less it’s about us; the less it’s about people going through everyday life in places like South Bend and across America. One of the unfortunate attributes of this presidency is that it’s a bit like a computer virus. It ties up all of our processing power and makes it hard for us to think or do anything else. But at the end of the day, it’s not about him. I think he’s a symptom more than a cause of a political and economic system that’s let a lot of Americans down, and really does need to be changed in a number of deep ways in order to serve us well for the years ahead.More Hot Stories
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I think we live in a moment when the disruption that people are experiencing in the economy goes beyond income. It’s income, but it’s a lot more than that. If you lose your position in the industrial economy that’s been steady for most of your life, and you’re told by some well-meaning policy maker like me that you just need to get some retraining and we’ll make you a whole new person, that may or may not be consistent with how you view yourself.
A job is more than a paycheck. It’s how we understand how we fit into the world. In an era where our relationship to the economy is changing — especially because of automation and technology, let alone things like globalization — that’s going to continue and it’s going to accelerate. And so if you lose that sense of community and identity and purpose that used to come from a lifelong relationship with a single employer, which is something that’s happening to a lot of people in my part of the industrial Midwest, something has to take that place. And there can be some very healthy responses to that, by allowing things like community and family and faith to play a greater role in how you define yourself relative to a lifelong career at a single employer.
If we don’t build up those things, then you’re going to get the alternative. And there have been some very ugly alternatives that have been offered and one of them has been, frankly, white identity politics, and it brings us to a pretty problematic place as a country.
Look at the Resumé
METROSOURCE: So, if this were a closing statement at a presidential debate, what would you say in conclusion about why you should be elected the next President of the United States?
Buttigieg: Well, look: there’s something very audacious, almost obscene, about any human being thinking they could handle the responsibilities of that office. And yet everybody who’s had that office has been a mortal human being with whatever abilities and experience they brought to the table. I think the experience of a mayor is extremely relevant; I would argue perhaps more relevant than being a member of the legislative body in Washington right now. Because a mayor is on the front lines of government. You’re an executive with day to day responsibility and could be handling anything at any given moment, from an economic development deal in an industrial park to a decision on activating the Emergency Operations Center to deal with a weather emergency. Every minute of the job, you are on the line in some way. It reflects both the day to day aspects of executive leadership and the more symbolic ones, which have to do with holding a community or group of people together and summoning their highest values. I think a mayor of a city of any size has had to do that many times, and I think that’s an experience that’s especially relevant today to the demands of the presidency.
METROSOURCE: So let’s ask the question that could pass through the minds of many straight Americans as your campaign reaches out: How is Pete Buttigieg being gay going to impact his being president?
Buttigieg: Well, my marriage happens to be same-sex. That’s also probably the most normal thing about my life. It holds me down to Earth and it widens my perspective and it’s something I have in common with people who are married who are not gay. I’ll also say that as someone whose marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the Supreme Court, I have a deep understanding of how political choices affect everyday life. And that’s an understanding I carry with me not only when thinking about LGBTQ issues, but just more generally when thinking about what’s at stake in American politics and policy.
I tell this story at length in my book, which is out today called Shortest Way Home, so if anybody wants to get a deeper sense of what that was like, that would be the place to look. But to make a long story short, we met on a dating app called Hinge. And I’m really glad that I clicked the right button because as soon as I met him I knew that I’d met somebody special. Our first date was a pint at an Irish pub followed by a baseball game in South Bend. It didn’t take long to realize that something really special had happened.
This is Not a Drill
METROSOURCE: Doubtless there are some who will say that your run, should you decide to make it, will be really a symbolic quest to shatter a glass ceiling for LGBTQ people. But the way you’re talking, you have some expectation you could win.
Buttigieg: Yeah… I just don’t see how you can do something like this — something that dominates your life in the way that running for an office like this does — that puts you out there and requires so much from you and a whole team of people and countless supporters. I don’t think you can do that unless you can see a path and you’re prepared to win and hold the office you’re running for.
I understand that this is an underdog project, but I think it’s a good season for underdog projects and for newcomers. And based on the early response we’ve gotten just on the exploratory committee, we think there’s a lot of other people who view it the same way we do. I’d say all the signs are pointing in the same direction, and we’re really All Systems Go now.
PeteforAmerica.com is our website and we’re very eager for people to add their names so that we can ask people to volunteer when we need it. And also in fundraising. We don’t have the sort of gilded fundraising base that a senator from one of America’s biggest cities might have. So we’re really counting on grassroots support from people who, for whatever number of reasons, believe it makes sense for us to be part of this conversation. And it wouldn’t hurt if somebody wants to be supportive got a copy of the book too.
You’re going to hear us talking a lot about freedom, and demonstrating that freedom to live a life of your choosing — there’s a lot more to that than freedom from — freedom from regulation, freedom from taxes, freedom from government. It also has to do with building up people’s freedom to live a good life. And that means freedom to start a business even if it means changing jobs because you’re not afraid of losing your health care.
It means freedom to marry the person you love. It means freedom to be who you are. It means freedom to organize for better working conditions. And I think it’s high time that people on my side of the aisle got comfortable once again talking about freedom.
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Last modified: February 22, 2019