Pete Buttigieg Should Not Be President
By: Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind
In April, I was thrilled to hear that a young gay man had entered the Democratic primary. His name was Pete Buttigieg, and his position as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had earned him the affectionate moniker “Mayor Pete.”
For a while, I followed Buttigieg’s candidacy with interest. In the first debate, I was impressed by his articulate responses and his level-headedness. More broadly, I was excited that a openly gay guy was running for office for the first time.
But as time went on, I began to encounter some fundamental problems with Buttigieg’s candidacy. Of course, Buttigieg has come under fire for his expensive fundraisers and his handling of the South Bend Police Department. My biggest concern, however, is that Buttigieg is rushing to the top of the national political scene with insufficient policy experience.
There’s something strange about Buttigieg’s resume. At first you don’t realize what it is, but then it hits you. Harvard grad. Rhodes scholar. Veteran. Consultant for McKinsey and Company. Mayor. Presidential candidate. That’s a lot of steps and not a lot of time spent on any single one. Buttigieg spent three years as a consultant and eight years as a mayor before running for office. That’s right: he’s only been in public service for eight years.
So what has Buttigieg accomplished as mayor of South Bend, Indiana? Some apparent highlights from his Wikipedia page include creating “a nightly laser-light display along downtown South Bend’s St. Joseph River trail,” achieving “streetside beautification (including the planting of trees and installation of decorative brickwork,” and pledging “a $3.7 million bond issue to assist the Potawatomi Zoo in funding its renovations.”
After he issued a controversial decision about the rezoning of crisis pregnancy centers, Buttigieg stated that "issues on the morality or the legality of abortion are dramatically beyond my pay grade as mayor. For us this is a neighborhood issue, and it’s a zoning issue."
Perhaps Buttigieg’s greatest achievement as mayor has been his attempt to eliminate urban blight and improve public housing conditions. These accomplishments, though impressive, qualify him at most for a position as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Buttigieg has no federal policy experience and no experience working with or in Congress. The scale on which he has worked is wholly different from that on which he would work as president: in the most recent mayoral election, Buttigieg won with 8,515 votes. (Not by, with.)
My fear as a gay kid is that Buttigieg’s prominence in the race is, in fact, detrimental to LGBT Americans. I’ve spoken to many peers who have suggested or outright admitted that they support Buttigieg purely because of his sexuality. While I am excited to witness a growing nationwide acceptance of LGBT people, I am concerned that liberal support for Buttigieg represents little more than tokenism. Buttigieg’s sexuality allows people who support a profoundly boring moderate candidate to falsely justify their choice as edgy or progressive.
Representation is important. But Buttigieg has ensured that the first gay politician to receive significant national coverage is underqualified for the office he so eagerly seeks. His very candidacy is a dangerous stain on public perception of LGBT people in this country. I had hoped that the first openly gay candidate for president would, at the very least, be as well-qualified as the leading straight candidates. I had hoped for a gay Elizabeth Warren, a gay Bernie Sanders. Instead, I’m faced with a mayor who presumes himself to be a better candidate than multiple long-serving senators, a former vice president, and the founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among others. Instead, I’m stuck with the guy who installed some pretty waterfront lasers in a city smaller than Hartford. And that’s unfortunate.
Buttigieg himself admitted that he is neither qualified nor willing as mayor to comment on such hot-button issues as abortion. His arguments for the importance of youth in contemporary politics are weak attempts to justify a profound lack of experience, and his centrist policy positions are unconvincing and unoriginal. So why is he running for president? The answer: he’s a political climber.