I didn’t think I would have to write about Pete Buttigieg in 2019, mainly because I didn’t think Pete Buttigieg was ever going to be relevant in 2019. In a Democratic Primary field filled with the former Vice President under Barack Obama, five current U.S. Senators, and three billionaires, who would have predicted that the mayor of a small town in Indiana would be able to compete?
A better question might be what justifies his candidacy? Or what makes him more qualified than anybody else? Or what makes him different than any of the other fourteen thousand candidates in the field?
These are just questions. The answer has less to do with on the job experience or a grand vision for the future, and everything to do with how much money he has raised from big donors. According to Open Secrets Buttigieg has raised just over $50 million thus far in the campaign, which is third in the race behind only Bernie Sanders ($73 million) and Elizabeth Warren ($60 million).
But whereas Sanders and Warren have relied on small, individual contributions — donations from regular people — Buttigieg has made it clear he is willing to take money from whomever, whenever. Below is a list of just some of the corporations who have donated to Mayor Pete’s 2020 campaign:
- AT&T ($87,000)
- Microsoft ($86,000)
- Disney ($84,000)
- Comcast ($77,000)
- Amazon ($66,000)
- Wells Fargo ($65,000)
- Apple ($61,000)
- Facebook ($51,000)
There are many others, but this group will suffice. The reason Bernie and Warren are immensely more popular than Buttigieg are because with average contributions of $18 and $30, respectively, people are going to be more inclined to believe those candidates have the voters best interests in mind. When Buttigieg takes money from all manner of massive corporations — who have the opposite of the voters best interests in mind — people are going to believe he’s on the side of big business.
And they would be right. Pete Buttigieg is a disingenuous human being. Hard to believe from a politician, I know, but consider the type of candidate Buttigieg is campaigning as. He isn’t doing the Joe Biden or Amy Klobachar centrist thing, going around telling everyone they can’t have Medicare For All and free college because “how are we going to pay for it?” Compared to Buttigieg that is (almost) respectable, since they aren’t trying to lead anybody on.
Because while Biden and Klobachar are centrists, and don’t even like being identified as being far-left, Buttigieg actually fancies himself as a Progressive. Instead of Medicare For All he proposes Medicare For All Who Want It, for he wants Americans to have “choice.” And he doesn’t believe in free college for all, because “why should working families subsidize college for kids of millionaires and billionaires?”
There is nothing progressive about Pete Buttigieg. He’s a gay man. Cool. He’s a veteran. Awesome. But what good are either of those distinctions if he has no plan for ending the wars, is against the most popular policy proposals in the country, and accepts money from some of the worst anti-labor corporations — that stand to lose the most if such progressive policies are implemented — in the country?
Pete Buttigieg owes his entire life’s success to benefitting from a system he has no intention of changing. That’s the tl;dr version of this article. He graduated from a private school in South Bend, went to Harvard, and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship before attending Oxford. Indeed it is an impressive trifecta, at least insofar as education is concerned. It’s also something of a predictable prerequisite for Democratic presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton was also a Rhodes Scholar, as is New Jersey Senator and current nominee Cory Booker.
But even within the narrow lens of education we can see just how phony of a person Buttigieg is. In 2000 when he graduated from his fancy, private high school, he got first prize in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Profiles in Courage essay contest. The topic of his paper? None other than Bernie Sanders. Buttigieg wrote:
Fortunately for the political process, there remain a number of committed individuals who are steadfast enough in their beliefs to run for office to benefit their fellow Americans. Such people are willing to eschew political and personal comfort and convenience because they believe they can make a difference. One outstanding and inspiring example of such integrity is the country’s only Independent Congressman, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.
If today you asked Pete Buttigieg about Sanders, he would surely tell you he still admires the man. He would say that they both want to accomplish the same goals, and both hold nearly identical beliefs. They both want what’s best for the working American; they both want more equality between the races and sexes; they both want to rein in corporate power.
That all sounds great, but the difference between the two is that Pete Buttigieg lacks the political courage to do anything about, well, anything. While Bernie wants Medicare For All, Buttigieg uses right-wing talking points to say he doesn’t want to kick 150 million Americans off their healthcare. While Bernie wants free public college, Buttigieg says he doesn’t think poor people should have to pay for rich people to go to college. He wants so desperately to be thought of as a progressive, and benefit from the country’s populist momentum, only he’s banking on the American people to be too dumb to realize just how corporate he is behind closed doors.
It’s in looking at who Mayor Pete takes money from — particularly contrasted by who Bernie takes money from — that everything makes sense. You don’t just take massive sums of money from places like Amazon and Disney (whose legs Bernie Sanders had to break to get them to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour) if you have any plans of making life more difficult on them and their shareholders. Highly profitable corporations don’t simply dole out money to politicians as charity; it’s implied, if and when that politician takes office, that he (or she) will scratch their backs in return.
Buttigieg has ascended in society by being part of the elite in-crowd. Everything is a class issue, of course, and Pete comes from the class that believes in meritocracy. He believes the cream will rise to the top, and that society’s winners should be in control of the government. He shares that worldview with the Clinton’s and Obama’s, and virtually every professional that is in the top 10% of wage earners.
The overwhelming majority of progressives obviously see Mayor Pete for what he is — a bullshit liar — but standard Identity Politics liberals actually dig a lot of what he’s saying. Truthfully, I can’t blame them that much. A lot of people aren’t in the weeds about policy, and don’t see much of a difference between Medicare For All and what Buttigieg wants. They just see a well-mannered, well-spoken small-town mayor who seems like a nice guy.
Yet he is exactly the type of empty vessel that, even if he won, would do absolutely nothing to change the lives of working people. Again, he comes from the class that does everything in its power to squash the will of the working class. He went to the best schools in the country, and so he has a common interest with the types of people who also graduated from those schools. They just happen to run the country’s big banks, they happen to work for the insurance companies and pharmaceutical industry, and they happen to work on The Hill as lobbyists. Basically everyone out to screw poor and working people.
He’s a dangerous candidate, but not only because he is effectively a Republican in pseudo-progressive clothing. He is dangerous for the simple fact that, even if he won (which is a mighty big if), he would almost certainly pave the way for a worse version of Donald Trump in 2024. Again, it all comes back to courage. Pete Buttigieg does not have the courage to implement policy that favorably impacts the lives of ordinary Americans.
Instead, he is a perfect Clinton-Democrat. He has the fancy degrees and the impressive resumé. He looks vaguely progressive if you squint hard enough and don’t look much further beyond him being a gay man. He has all the tools for public speaking and political correctness.
But that’s a game plan for winning in 1996. Not 2020. Life has become so miserable for so many working people that they don’t give a damn if someone is Republican or Democrat; they just want to see meaningful changes in their lives. Americans gambled on Donald Trump in 2016 because he was anti-establishment; they voted that they don’t care about all the trophies and degrees on the walls of their politicians. They thought, hell, it couldn’t be any worse than it was under Barack Obama.
I know that sounds farfetched, since Obama was a stable guy and nothing went terribly awry in his eight years as President. But how many things did Obama do to actually help people’s lives? He never did anything about the bankers who ruined the economy, he crushed unions and organized labor, and he continued outsourcing jobs from the pivotal rustbelt (that Trump dominated on his path to victory in 2016). In other words: Obama protected the interests of his own class.
Buttigieg is, at best, another Obama, but he comes around at a time where the American people have already rejected the Obama/Clinton marriage. They just aren’t that into you. So Mayor Pete is trying to toe the line between seeming like a change candidate, while also leaving a trail of bread crumbs that shows he is exactly like every other corporate Democrat. It’s a difficult dance and I have to give him credit for it, but it surely spells doom for the Democrats if he were to prevail.
I could write an entirely separate blog about how how bad Buttigieg is polling among black people, or the scandal he had in South Bend involving his black Chief of Police. But I trust that if you are still reading this that you would just Google that shit and not take my word for it.
The main point of this blog is similar to my criticisms of Elizabeth Warren, and multiple others who are running to be at the top of the Democratic ticket. That is, nobody cares about a candidate’s story or personal accomplishments. They don’t care about how much education you’ve received, or how black you are, or how gay you are, or that you are a woman instead of a man. It’s not about you, the candidate running for President. It’s about us, the working people, who see politicians from both parties come and go without ever doing anything to help out.
That’s how Obama won in 2008, by being a great populist who promised changed. And that’s how Trump won in 2016, by saying Obama was a phony and that actually he was the guy who had their back.
Pete Buttigieg has had all the advantages that most regular people will never know. He’s running a campaign that wants to deny regular people any of those advantages. For that, he deserves no admiration. Instead, he can go and continue taking money from corporations that rake in billions of dollars every year, pay workers starvation wages, and pay nothing in federal taxes. He can waltz around about being a gay man and veteran. He can tout all of his accomplishments and admire all of his trophies.
And he will be alone, because the American people just won’t care.