How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

2020: Pete Buttigieg my new long-shot choice

On February 13th my column’s headline was “2020: Bloomberg my choice at this juncture.” Bloomberg decided not to run, so here is my new pick - the self-described 37-year-old “Midwestern millennial Mayor” of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg (pronounced "buddha-judge" or “boot-edge-edge). If elected, Buttigieg would be the youngest President in our nation’s history, the first candidate ever to jump from City Hall to the White House and our first openly gay President.

Buttigieg is almost as a bad name for politics as Stoolmacher, but the candidate has an easy work around. “Around South Bend they call me “Mayor Peter.”’ His elevator bio is impressive: valedictorian of his high school class, two-term mayor of a City of 102,245 (winning first with 74% of the vote and re-elected with 80%), a former Naval Intelligence Officer who served in Afghanistan, a graduate of Harvard University and Oxford University having attended on a Rhodes Scholarship, a former business consultant, married to a junior high school teacher, and a polyglot who speaks a half-dozen languages. It’s hard to imagine packing more into 37 years.

Buttigieg sounds different than the rest of the field. His delivery is measured, very plainspoken and devoid of rancor. His appeal is based on confidence and calmness, not on being combative or charismatic.

He doesn’t feel like a flash in the pan or the flavor of the month, but rather the complete opposite of President Trump – humbleness vs. arrogance. I believe this is the reason that conservatives are concerned about Mayor Pete and why The Wall Street Journal has attacked him as a Trojan horse for “packaging progressive politics and methods in a smooth, modest persona.”

Mayor Pete’s popularity seems to be propelled by his personality rather than either his record as Mayor or any specific policy pronouncement. He does appear, however, to have done a decent job as Mayor and during his term reversed the historic pattern of losing population.

One of his signature programs was the "1,000 Properties in 1,000 Days" Initiative, an effort to repair or demolish blighted properties across the city. The goal was reached by the scheduled end date. Jeff Rea, a Republican and President of the South Bend Chamber of Commerce, said that Mayor Pete “is a very data-driven guy and also a very good man. That has helped him win over voters who might not like his progressive politics.” I’m not sure I’d describe Mayor Pete’s performance as a “miracle,” to borrow a term from Mike Dukakis, but it does sound like he has begun to turn around South Bend.

The City of South Bend is 54% White, 27% Black and 14% Hispanic. Buttigieg record with the African-American community appears to be mixed. A recent cover story in The New York Times entitled “Buttigieg’s Firing of Black Chief Stings for Minorities” reviews his in artful firing of Darryl Broykins, the City’s first black police chief. A 2015 tape has also surfaced where he is quoted as saying “all lives matter,” a statement that is sometimes seen as diminishing the Black Lives Matter movement. Clearly race will matter in the upcoming Democratic primary, with more than 80 percent of African-American voters identifying as Democrats (more than a quarter of all Democratic primary voters in 2016).

Buttigieg’s platform is heavy on Democratic catechism - support for universal healthcare, abolition of the death penalty, environmentalism, reining in corporate influence, universal background checks for firearms, federal legislation that would ban job discrimination against LGBTQ people, the Deferred Action Program for children of immigrants and tackling wealth inequality. He has avoided specifics with the exception of his proposals for eliminating the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote and potentially expanding the Supreme Court to 15 members.

So far Buttigieg has avoided throwing barbs at his fellow candidates, but has not shrunk from attacking Trump and Mike Pence. It was no accident that he chose Palm Sunday to announce his presidential bid. In his announcement he was scathing in his criticism of Indiana’s devoutly Christian former Governor Mike Pence, who he had a cordial relationship with in the past. “How could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn-star presidency? Buttigieg jabbed: “Is it that we stopped believing in the Scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?”

Further, at an LGBTQ event, Buttigieg highlighted the Vice President’s opposition to gay marriages when he indicated that his marriage to his husband Chasten had moved him “closer to God” and that if the vice president “has a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me – your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

A devoted Episcopalian and real devotee of Scripture, Buttigieg is trying to grab the mantle of religion from the Republicans. He wants to point-out the hypocrisy of Evangelicals supporting a President with a plethora of serious moral transgressions and propensity to lie. Further, he wants to have a discussion on whether you are born gay. “Speaking only for myself, I can tell you if being gay was a choice, it was a choice made far, far above my pay grade.”

In the upcoming primary, on most issues, the candidates’ messages will overlap. I believe the winner will be the one who voters believe will have the best chance of standing toe-to-toe with Donald Trump and making the case they can improve the everyday life of working people. I have a suspicion that this decision will be made based on personality, not policy pronouncements or sexual orientation. I think there is a chance that Mayor Pete’s personality could trump the field.