2020 Candidates: Pete Buttigieg

Welcome to our recurring series “Who The Fuck Are All These Fucks?” in which we profile, in brief, each of the 2020 candidates for president. This series is not meant to be exhaustive, and you’re encouraged to look into each candidate on your own.

We’re making our way downtown with part eight in this Our Long National Nightmare series on the Democratic 2020 nominees. As a reader realized Monday we are still, impossibly, 21 months away from the next presidential election and around 10 months away from the first caucus of that election, so sorry that you have to see these a couple times a week but I have to live it every harrowing second of my life so I don’t have a ton of sympathy anyway here’s Pete.

NAME: Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg
AGE: 37
OCCUPATION: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
WHERE IS THAT: Michigan, basically

Pete Buttigieg – his name is pronounced “boot-i-jej” if that helps at all – was born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1982, the same year that tenants sued now-president Donald Trump alleging that he shut off their hot water and heat in an effort to get them to leave a rent-controlled building.

He was very interested in politics as a kid, and in his senior year at high school he wrote an essay on the courage of Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Essay Contest; he was honored by Caroline Kennedy in Boston after his essay was selected for a prize. He then attended Harvard and participated in the Rhodes Scholar Program, earning his graduate degree from Pembroke College, Oxford, in 2007. In 2009, he joined the Naval Reserve as a commissioned intelligence officer and served in Afghanistan in 2014, during his tenure as mayor.

Buttigeig became Mayor of South Bend in 2011. His tenure was marked by an effort to bring the city’s government in line with other major cities around the country (in the U.S., a major city has a population of at least 100,000; South Bend’s 2010 population was 101,166). Heavily effected by the economic conditions that have damaged other Rust Belt cities, South Bend embarked on a program to demolish abandoned properties around the city, tearing down more than 1,000 vacant and abandoned buildings in Buttigieg’s first term. Buttigieg also redesigned the downtown of South Bend to make it easier to drive, walk, and bike. Like many cities, South Bend had experimented with large one way thoroughfares designed to get traffic quickly through the city rather than to encourage people to come into the city center for shopping, dining, or office work.

Buttigeig’s sexuality was the topic of some speculation in his first mayor run and an unsuccessful 2010 campaign for state treasurer. In 2015, he wrote an essay for the South Bend Tribune.

“My high school in South Bend had nearly a thousand students. Statistically, that means that several dozen were gay or lesbian. Yet when I graduated in 2000, I had yet to encounter a single openly LGBT student there. That’s far less likely to be the case now, as more students come to feel that their families and community will support and care for them no matter what… I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.”

He was re-elected that year with a massive 80-20 victory over his Republican opponent.

It was clear after the 2016 election that Buttigeig had his eyes on national politics. The New York Times speculated that he would be the first openly gay candidate for president, referring to him as the “perfect Democratic candidate.” He ran unsuccessfully for DNC chair in 2017.

So who is Pete Buttigieg?

Well that’s… hard to pin down. He’s a naval reservist, a popular mayor, and a political consultant. He’s the son of an immigrant, if that name wasn’t a clue, and an Episcopalian (he was raised in a Catholic family but, like many LGBTQ+ individuals, appears to have shifted to the Catholic-lite, pro-LGBT Episcopalian Church).

He brought South Bend into the nationwide pact to follow the Paris climate accord in 2017, something more than 400 other cities participate in. He recently backed the Green New Deal. Like a lot of Rust Belt Democrats, he’s not a big fan of NAFTA and wants more protections for U.S. workers, including better labor unions and labor union protections.

He’s also not ready to support Medicare for All, although he says he’s interested by it. Instead, he backs a concept called All Payer, where Congress would mandate that all insurance companies paid the same rates for the same services. All Payer is seen as a precursor to a single payer system that still maintains the private insurance system – something that’s a big deal to voters in places where those companies are based.

Unsurprisingly, Buttigieg is a big supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, including the rights of transgender people to transition, serve in the military, and have access to public accommodations.

Buttigieg would be the youngest president in history. In 2020, he’ll be just a scant three years over the mandatory minimum age of 35. Few people think Buttigieg is running for president, though. Instead, he’s probably laying the groundwork for a future run or trying to gain support to be a vice presidential nominee. Being an Indiana mayor might make him popular for a Democratic candidate trying to secure support in the Midwest, where Hillary Clinton struggled in 2016. And his youth would make him an attractive VP pick for candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Joe “Will I/Won’t I” Biden.