As the Democratic primary for president enters its final stages, the field has narrowed significantly. At the same time, there are more viable contenders now than there have been for most of the year. The key players are: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg. Former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has also made a late entrance and already has a polling average of 4% nationally.
For the Democrats on Gordon’s campus, following the primary in its early stages is probably not a top priority. Most students with liberal leanings likely haven’t even given much thought to voting this coming spring. But with a broken and antiquated electoral system, the primary may be the only chance voters have to play a role in deciding who the next president is. (For the many Gordon students from New Hampshire, known as the first-in-the-nation state, your say in the election is even greater.)
I am supporting Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic primary. Although I am ideologically more closely aligned with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I’m a pragmatist at heart. I want a candidate who has a viable shot at unseating President Trump. For those who may not be aware, Buttigieg has a rather atypical resume for a presidential candidate. If elected, Buttigieg would be the youngest president ever at the age of 39. While attending Harvard during the attacks on the towers in 2001, he was later inspired to join the military, serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2014. At least minimally proficient in seven different languages, this former Rhodes Scholar has served two terms as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. A city of just over 100,000 people in the socially conservative Midwest, Buttigieg’s successful reelection after coming out as gay is impressive.
As a young voter, I look to other moderate candidates like Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg and see elderly men who are too far past their prime to serve well in this role. Buttigieg’s personal stake in the future of our country bodes well for his decision-making as president. Unlike Sanders, Warren or Biden, Buttigieg is not likely to pass away at any point in the next twenty years. He hopes to raise children with his husband Chasten; it’s important to me to elect a president who personally cares about the country he or she will live in after their time in office.
Perhaps most striking of all is his plan for healthcare. Rather than taking the more radical stance of the progressive left, Buttigieg suggests a Medicare-for-All-Who-Want-it plan. While still rejecting Joe Biden’s somewhat vague promise to “Strengthen Obamacare for future generations,” his healthcare proposal suggests phasing in a public option. His reasoning is sound: “I trust Americans to make our own decisions regarding the type of healthcare that makes the most sense for each of us and our families.” He believes that providing a public option will actually most quickly advance American progress towards adopting a nationalized, single-payer health service.
Buttigieg certainly isn’t perfect. At times, he seems a bit too polished, almost as if his ambition is contrived. His history with the police force of South Bend is questionable and raises questions of racial injustice. Not surprisingly, just like every other candidate, he has apparent flaws. I don’t agree with him on everything either. I think Trump’s strategy on foreign policy is, by and large, more effective than the policies for which Buttigieg advocates. Nevertheless, Buttigieg presents a vision of hope that inspires, and next to the four septuagenarians running for President, the idea of youthful vigor in a Buttigieg presidency is exciting.
One major flaw stands between Buttigieg and the Presidency, and rightfully so: his ability to connect with minority voters is virtually nonexistent. After firing South Bend’s first ever black police chief over ethical concerns, Buttigieg faced valid criticism for racial discrimination in his hiring practices. The Mayor has little history of connecting with or fighting for non-Caucasian voters on issues specific to them. In the face of the criticism, he has acknowledged this missing link in his political understanding. Even now, there are reports of him sitting down for listening sessions with black leadership in South Carolina, an important early voting state where 2/3rds of the primary electorate is black. Whether he can convert those conversations into electoral success and genuine trust is another question entirely.
Despite his flaws, I believe that a Buttigieg presidency would be exceedingly valuable for the unity it could bring to our country. In the face of Biden’s passivity and Warren and Sanders’ talk of revolution and fighting for progressive ideals, his language about bringing people together is pivotal. Our country faces a crossroads; in fact, it’s almost fashionable to bemoan the sorry state of politics these days. But unless we elect a president who is willing to prioritize a national conversation where listening is more common than shouting, the sorry state of Washington will only become more repulsive. That’s why I hope that you’ll consider joining me this coming spring and help to nominate Mayor Buttigieg as the Democratic candidate for President.