The Democratic Party is facing one of its largest primaries in recent political history. It was only in 1976 in living memory that the party faced so many candidates with sixteen running for their party’s nomination, including the eventual nominee in Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who faced opponents such as Alabama Governor George Wallace, Arizona Congressman Mo Udall, North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Idaho Senator Frank Church, California Governor Jerry Brown, and countless other high-profile politicians from that time. In this crowded field there was a wide-array of candidates, from pro-life candidate Ellen McCormack, to the small government advocate and populist segregationist George Wallace, and finally the progressive Jerry Brown, and everyone in between. The eventual winner of both the primary and the general election was Jimmy Carter, a man who just a few months before the primaries was polling near the back of the pack an in single digits, with little name recognition to back him up, and yet in just a few months he became his party’s nominee, and in less than a year, the President of the United States of America. If the 1976 Democratic primaries can teach the people of the United States anything today, it’s that an outsider to Washington who just months before the primaries was only known by their constituents can rise to the highest office in the land. The 2016 Republican primaries had a similar lesson, sixteen candidates from different ideological sectors of their party lost out to an outsider in the form of businessman Donald Trump. In both instances, the lack of experience and political naivete doomed and will likely doom both would-be presidents.
However, the Democratic Party is facing an even more perilous and fascinating situation in the 2020 primaries. With a weak incumbent who despite a relatively healthy economy has record-low approval ratings, nearly every Democratic officeholder who might envision themselves defeating Donald Trump and sitting in the Oval Office has announced their intent to run. As of this writing, there are twenty-four major candidates running in the primary, from the front-runners in former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, to businessmen and women like Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson, small-town mayors like Wayne Messam, as well as a large spread of senators, governors, and representatives of all political stripes. Those who expected to do well like New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand or Colorado John Hickenlooper have fallen behind, while underdogs and dark horses most people never heard of are skyrocketing. Perhaps the most fascinating of these candidates and the one best for the Democratic Party and the United States of America is Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, who in addition to being young with fresh new ideas, served his country in uniform and his community for almost a decade.
Mayor Buttigieg, or Mayor Pete as many call him in an effort to avoid pronouncing his last name, has one of the most fascinating records of the other candidates running for President of the United States. He is only one of four veterans running for the office, serving as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy from 2009 to 2017, much of that in the Navy Reserve. He served in Afghanistan for seven months in 2014, much of that as a driver for his commander going into Kabul. Although he is humble about his service, he would potentially be the first Democratic Party nominee to serve in uniform since then-Senator John Kerry ran against President George W. Bush in 2004, during which time Kerry’s time in service came under question during the Swift Boat scandal, which has by now largely been debunked by the United States Navy as well as Republican lawmakers such as Senator John McCain. Buttigieg himself in this heated partisan climate will likely face similar allegations due to the nature of today’s politics, but having seen how he has stood up to people in the past, it is very likely he will brush off any such criticism. At a time where our commander-in-chief’s understanding of foreign affairs and military policy borders ignorance and frightening, Mayor Buttigieg’s military experience and intelligence could be the leadership we need in the next decade.
At the age of twenty-nine Pete Buttigieg became the new Mayor of South Bend, a city of roughly 100,000 people near the northern border of Indiana and Michigan. With 32% under the poverty line, South Bend, Indiana, is in the very heart of the Rust Belt. This area signifies what America once was, small cities dotting the Midwest where industry and agriculture made the livelihoods of millions of Americans. It was this region from where America’s economic engines hummed during the Second World War to produce war materiel, and in the post-war years where Detroit served as the backbone of the automotive industry. It was in this dilapidated Midwest that “Mayor Pete” came to the scene in 2011, handily winning the mayoral contest in South Bend with 73% of the vote. His stalwart leadership during is first term saw the unemployment rate cut in half, dilapidated homes from the Great Recession’s housing crisis demolished or refurbished, and new investments pouring into the city. Shortly before his ran for his second term in 2015, Buttigieg came out as a gay man, and the voters re-elected him handily with 80% of the vote. At a time where the Democratic Party was doing poorly, from losing the House of Representatives in November 2010 and the Senate in November 2014, and with the loss of thousands of state and local offices over the previous six years, Pete Buttigieg managed to increase his margin of victory through his youth, energy, and largely non-partisan leadership. As if to add to all of these accomplishments, Mayor Buttigieg can also speak seven languages outside of English. These are Norwegian, Spanish, French, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, and Dari. This skill, although certainly fascinating just from the time needed to learn all of these languages, is vital to foreign policy and can help to rebuild our relationship with European countries and other nations around the world that have been alienated by the blundering leadership of President Donald Trump.
Although his own time as Mayor of South Bend since January 2012 is defined by good and steady leadership, he has not had to deal with many of the great issues of our day. Instead, he has often had to deal with the symptoms of issues facing the country. That is why in running for President of the United States he has the opportunity to build up an appealing platform. His platform, which can in full be found on his website, is a fascinating mix of policies that can greatly better the lives of the American people. Among his primary policy points is repairing the nation’s infrastructure, not just the roadways but also the water systems, rural broadband, and other aspects of that issue. In investing in infrastructure, he hopes to create more jobs, especially in the Midwest. On education he supporters higher teacher pay and investing in our schools, and on the issue of student debt, he hopes to make colleges and universities tuition free for students from lower income families, and more affordable for everyone else through the expansion of Pell Grants. On issues such as climate change he has vowed to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement and to encourage Americans through various incentives to make their homes energy efficient. On immigration he supports creating a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, end the family separation policies that exist on the Southern border, while on issues such as minimum wage he supports an increase while matching it in the future to inflation and the cost of healthcare and education. He also supports paid family and medical leave for all workers in this country. In a surprising new issue that has returned from past political debates, Mayor Buttigieg also supports reparations for the centuries of slavery, segregation, and racism that existed up until the 1960s, and which still plagues this country today. Through investments in African-American communities, he hopes to expand and promote voting rights, invest in home ownership and end the racist policy of red-lining, and to support reforms in the criminal justice system. Although this does not even come close to describing all of his policies, it is clear that he wants to help repair much of the damage done by the Trump administration to our international standing and to help ensure the American Dream is available to all Americans, and to level the playing field to eliminate the racism, sexism, and economic inequality that has permeated through American society since our founding.
Throughout his life, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has served his nation in uniform, and served his own community as a leader. His record in South Bend, Indiana, is proven, and if the Democratic Party seeks to win back states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and maybe even Indiana, Mayor Pete’s experience in revitalizing a Rust Belt city is an indicator to what can work. In addition to that, he provides a stark contrast to his own party’s front-runner and the country’s commander-in-chief. Whereas President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will be 74 and 78, respectively, upon being sworn in on January 20, 2021, but Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be 39, the youngest person ever elected President of the United States. His years of service in uniform also prove his love of country and dedication to the values upon which it was founded, and to add to all of that, his platform reflects a paradigm shift occurring in the United States, with his platform oriented towards making the country better for the future, rather than clinging to an idealized past. Although he is not a perfect candidate, he is someone who can truly make this country great, and the person who I will be supporting in the 2020 Democratic primaries.