Although it is only 2019, and the first primary elections aren’t until January, there is already an overwhelming number of Democrats that have announced their presidential candidacy. There are somewhere around 18 individuals, not counting those like Joe Biden who have not officially made an announcement. Because there are so many candidates, it is very difficult to keep track of everybody. Many are relying on name recognition at this stage due to the lack of primary debates; therefore, popular candidates at this stage are Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden. Although these politicians have had undeniably impactful careers and deserve the attention they receive, there is a smaller candidate that is quickly growing and deserves a national platform to spread his message.
Pete Buttigieg is the two-term Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. At 37, he would be both the youngest and the first gay President of the United States. Buttigieg has already raised upwards of seven million dollars in campaign money, while Elizabeth Warren has raised six million. His rise in popularity is undeniable, and he is the candidate with the largest social media following growth.
In his years as Mayor, Buttigieg transformed South Bend, revived the city from decay to prosperity, and his intelligence is undeniable. He studied philosophy, history, and economics at Harvard. From there, he was a Rhodes Scholar. Additionally, Buttigieg knows a total of eight languages, and has always been open about how he is willing to learn from individuals on both sides of the political spectrum.
He came out as gay during his re-election campaign in a socially conservative city, and he won with eighty percent of the vote because his constituents were impressed with the progress he had made. It is incredibly monumental that he was able to win after his announcement because at the time, Mike Pence- a man who has not hidden his homophobic agenda- was the elected governor of the state. Buttigieg was able to implement progressive policies into a traditionally conservative area because of his practicality and ability to reason with his voters. Often times, individuals in small towns are hesitant to elect a democrat because they find them unrelatable. However, Pete defies that stereotype and has an appeal to conservatives, despite his liberal policies.
While South Bend, Indiana, is a relatively small town, it is a microcosm of the United States. It is diverse in race, class, and political ideology, and at the start of his candidacy, it was in despair. Similarly, the United States is incredibly divided and will collapse economically if we do not adjust to climate change regulations and technological advances in energy production. Within his city, Buttigieg invested in environmentally friendly infrastructure and technologies. This created jobs, lowered the unemployment rate, and decreased the city’s carbon footprint. At the same time, Buttigieg raised the minimum wage and cracked down on police brutality. He has insisted on training to erase racial biases, openly supported Black Lives Matter, and fired police chiefs with racist records. In his last months as mayor, Buttigieg is working on a paid family leave plan.
As president, Buttigieg’s first order of business is to address climate change. He believes that politicians in Washington have been too stagnant on this issue, and he is willing to take pressing steps that others will not. He is in support of the Green New Deal and seeks to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as possible. Specifically, Buttigieg plans to reduce America’s carbon emissions to net zero by the year 2030. He understands that this may be controversial and inconvenient, but we will have to make certain sacrifices for the wellbeing of the planet and for future generations.
Additionally, Buttigieg seeks to re-evaluate the electoral college. He believes that there should be a popular vote system, and he disagrees with those who claim it will cause voter apathy. If anything, the current system encourages such apathy because individuals in one-sided states are reluctant to vote because they don’t think it holds power. If America has a popular vote system, citizens will be held accountable and will be more likely to vote.
In terms of healthcare, Buttigieg is in favor of a single-payer system, but his plans for implementation are more than economically friendly. He wants to introduce a single-payer option onto the market while keeping private insurance as an option. Therefore, Americans will not feel forced toward a plan they do not want, but public opinion will eventually shift to favor this system because it is the smartest economic decision.
Other policies Buttigieg plans on supporting during his administration include a wealth tax, withdrawal from Afghanistan, increased emphasis on soft power negotiations on foreign affairs that do not directly threaten American lives, and the introduction of gun legislations to impose background checks. Buttigieg has the ability to negotiate these deals because of his experience crossing party lines to benefit his city. He was able to negotiate with Mike Pence, a clear oppositionary force to him, when it benefitted his city, and his constituents were mostly conservative as well. If Buttigieg was blindly partisan, he would not have been able to run his city as well as he has accomplished.
Many voters are skeptical because of his age and position as a mayor. The traditional stepping stone to the presidency is a Senate seat, and the current youngest president elect was 42 years old. These traditions have worked for America in the past, but it is clear that the inhabitants of this country are ready for a change, and Pete breaks numerous norms in a positive manner. Pete Buttigieg lives in a “strong mayor state” meaning that all issues are directly brought to him, and he has more executive level experience than our current president. His residency in the Midwest is a large asset because Democrats rarely win votes in those states, but Buttigieg has the ability to resonate with them. Lastly, his age is an asset and not a restriction. He is motivated to enact quick change because the policies he supports, especially concerning the climate, will directly impact him in his lifetime.
While most politicians at the moment are seemingly out of touch with small towns, Buttigieg understands the day-to-day workings of a city. Therefore, he is used to navigating personal complexities, and he has not succumbed to the will of large corporations.
Buttigieg has something to offer to each American, and he is growing in popularity due to his undeniable work ethic. It’s only a matter of time until we see him on the debate stage.