08 April 2019

Could Buttigieg make it?

The recent surge of interest and support for Pete Buttigieg appears to be real, if a bit overhyped.  Most mainstream pundits still consider him a fringe candidate, not in the same league with the "serious" names like Biden or Warren.  But I'm beginning to wonder if he might be just the man for the times.

This is not a period friendly to conventional candidates.  Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016 were both, in their own (very different) ways, outsider/insurgent candidates.  Neither was expected to win his party's nomination; both did so by beating mainstream, conventional candidates.  The smart money was on Hillary and Jeb in those races.  The smart money was wrong.

In general elections, too, there is a constituency for insurgency for its own sake.  These are the people who, to the bafflement of some pundits, voted for both Obama and Trump.  As Electoral-Vote puts it (question 6):

Obama-Trump voters appear to be Republicans (and some disaffected centrist Democrats) who felt the world had crapped on them, and so wanted to vote against "the establishment" and for "change."  To them, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton all represented "the establishment" and Barack Obama and Donald Trump seemed to be outsiders who might shake things up.  The Obama-Trump voters will have an interesting choice in 2020, because Donald Trump certainly did shake things up, but not in a way that helped them.  Some of them will stick with Trump due to the culture wars, which at least makes them feel less bad about the world crapping on them.  However, we doubt they all do.

It seems unlikely that Biden or even Warren would appeal to these voters.  Buttigieg, as the mayor of a small Indiana city, has a better chance of convincing rural red-state voters that he understands their problems (don't worry, he is one of us -- both his parents were Notre Dame professors).  His policy positions are pretty much those of the Democratic mainstream, but the outsider or insider status of the candidate putting forth such stances matters a lot to how these voters perceive them.  I don't expect him to win over the broad mass of Trumpanzees.  No Democrat will do that.  But being able to win 5% or 10% of them instead of 2% might make the difference in carrying a few critical states.

The obvious question raised by his candidacy is, of course, whether America is ready for an openly-gay President.  But in 2008 there were similar concerns about a black candidate -- and while the country has shown itself since then to have a lot more and worse racists than most of us suspected, I don't think Obama's race actually cost him many votes.  The kind of person who would refuse to vote for a black man probably wouldn't vote for any Democrat.  I think the same argument applies here.  There are plenty of fundies and bigots who would never vote for a gay candidate -- but they probably wouldn't vote for any other Democrat either.

But isn't he too inexperienced?  As with Obama, about whom the same issue was raised, Buttigieg's high intelligence can somewhat compensate for this.  And while his role as a mayor is on a lower level than the Senate, at least he's been a chief executive of something, which Obama had not.  His history as a Navy veteran and intelligence officer in Afghanistan adds some gravitas, as well as countering the feeling some voters may have that a gay candidate is less "manly". 

Isn't he too young?  Well, he'll turn 39 just before inauguration day in 2021.  That's pretty young, but it's hard to imagine anyone who otherwise favored him balking too much at that.  39 is by no means immature (Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister whose response to the Christchurch terrorist attack was widely praised, is 38).  And there's another issue here.

The Republican party is already taking steps to "lock in" Trump as their 2020 candidate, making a successful primary challenge almost impossible.  And Trump is showing increasing signs of dementia.  The election is 19 months away.  It's likely that during that time Trump's mental condition will continue to deteriorate visibly, and will even become a major issue as the election approaches.  This will (a) alarm voters who lean toward Trump but aren't part of his core support, making it easier for our side to win with a "risky" unconventional candidate; and (b) make age in general a more salient issue.  Biden and Sanders are both several years older than Trump, while Warren is not much younger.  All of them are clearly of sound mind now, but Trump's deterioration will make voters wonder whether they can be depended on to remain so through a four-year Presidential term.  An older nominee might prevent us from capitalizing on what will be seen, by then, as one of Trump's most alarming weaknesses.

Buttigieg isn't the only candidate recommended by that factor, of course.  We have several candidates under 60.  But I think age will be a bigger liability than youth.  Older politicians tend to have baggage from earlier times -- behavior or ideas which are no longer acceptable, as Biden's touchy-feely problem exemplifies.  And we're constantly fretting about how to boost turnout among younger voters.  A younger candidate might help.

If Trump dies in office, or is impeached and removed, our candidate will be running against Pence instead.  Buttigieg would, at least, present the most stark possible contrast with a Bible-thumper.

Finally -- well -- isn't his name too weird?  Remember that until Obama, every President had had a family name originating in either the British Isles or the Netherlands.  The thought of "President Obama" sounded bizarre -- until he won the nomination, and people had time before the election to get used to the idea.  Buttigieg's name reflects his Maltese heritage, which is unusual and interesting, but not (except to those die-hard bigots who would never vote for a Democrat anyway) off-putting.  I doubt it will lose him any voters who would otherwise have supported him.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Ohhh Mayor Pete.
He's articulate, good at his job, personable and smart. He's the anti-Cheeto, basically.
Do I think he'll gain the nomination? Nope. do I think he's got a future in politics? Definitely.
And his husband is super cool.
The nom will probably go to a bigger, flashier name probably Bernie (barf) or Joe. Or even Beto. Hopefully a woman. But then Pete would make the perfect vice president. Can yo imagine? A woman and a gay men in the Dem ticket? Heads would explode. And I'd sit and enjoy the explosion.


09 April, 2019 02:58  
Blogger Mary said...

I really like this man. I fear he is too decent and good to ever be elected president by the rabid bigoted racist trump worshipping cultists and the corporate giants who care only about profit, let alone the religious nuts we have living in this country.
Maybe IF, we ever return to decency ...

09 April, 2019 06:27  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

I think we've learned in the past two-plus years that maturity and age are not necessarily in synch!

09 April, 2019 06:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: I think the fundies will go apeshit basically whatever happens. Obama's personal life was as traditionally respectable and conventional as could be -- and they still said he was a Muslim, born in Kenya, secretly gay, the Antichrist, etc. It would be pretty entertaining to see what they come up with if Buttigieg gets in.

Mary: No, those people will never elect him. But maybe we will. There's more of us than there are of them.

Lady A: President 70-year-old toddler certainly demonstrated that.....

09 April, 2019 06:47  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Buttigieg??? ... I had no bloody idea who this guy was, never even heard the name before, just Googled it, and a shitload of stuff came up (goddamn, am I lost!). As far as being gay ... well, you still have alot of folks that don't like it, and I doubt much can change their minds, but it's loosening up some, he can still get alot of support, if he's solid and straight up. I'm a bit different in my thinking when it comes to choices ... I want someone who takes action and shoots straight is all, simple ... race, sex, religion don't mean anything to me ... if the candidate was a drag queen that got caught in a catholic church taking it up the ass on an altar while smoking crack ... you're cool with me, as long as you have the "job performance" we need ... personal lifestyle means nothing to me. I don't see 39 or whatever as being too young, actually I think it's a good ripe age ... think you have to be at least 35 (?). I'm going to try to read up on him though, see what he's about. I'm not real hardcore, even though I side with progressives. The reason why I went to such an extreme as far as choices, is because we have an increasing right wing culture growing (and I don't mean "conservative), even both parties are being forced more right and right by the year it seems, it seems like we are really going off balance, and a strong "left voice" is needed to counter, and try to balance things a bit more. I consider myself even conservative when it comes to fiscal responsibility, defense, and somewhat of a Constitutionalist ... YES, giving out food stamps increases, and help to our own in our country, is a good economic move too, it helps "US" ... doesn't end up in some foreign offshore bank account wasted. Today, conservatives are way different it seems, sure as Hell don't look like the party of Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt to me ... and the religion is saturated, ever since they took over a strong portion of that party. Mike Pence, I don't like at all, and think he is just an undercover fundamoralist, just keeping a low profile.

09 April, 2019 07:46  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

There's a long way to go yet.

09 April, 2019 10:42  
Blogger Nan said...

Well, if he's directly "descended from a medieval English king," he might have a chance. Or so they say.

Seriously, I like him, but it's early and just last night I heard of someone else who threw his hat into the ring ... Eric Swalwell ... which I've found impressive.

It's definitely going to be a horse race -- and I'm putting my money on the up and coming and not the "old fogies" (even if I am one). I may lose bigly, but then again, maybe not.

09 April, 2019 15:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ranch: Glad to have made the introduction. It's pronounced "BOO-tij-ej", by the way. A lot of people seem to like the guy. I'm not well acquainted with most of the candidates -- there are so many, and it's too early to tell which ones have staying power.

Debra: True, but we've come a long way as well.

Nan: Yikes, another candidate? I can't keep up.

At this point I have no clue who the nominee is going to be.

10 April, 2019 18:19  
Anonymous Sam240 said...

" Buttigieg, as the mayor of a small Indiana city, has a better chance of convincing rural red-state voters that he understands their problems (don't worry, he is one of us -- both his parents were Notre Dame professors)."

1) South Bend is a blue dot in a red state. No Republican has won a mayoral election in South Bend since Lloyd M. Allen in 1968.

2) Buttigieg ran in a statewide election in 2010. In the State Treasurer's race, he won a whopping 37.5% of the vote. That's not very reassuring. I can see the GOP spin now - "Buttigieg wins only because liberal elite professors in a liberal college town vote for him. Real Indiana detests him."

"Older politicians tend to have baggage from earlier times"

Buttigieg has a major piece of baggage. As mayor, he demoted Darryl Boykins from police chief to captain. Boykins sued, and received a $75,000 settlement. So the GOP is going to paint Buttigieg as anti-police.

It gets worse. Boykins was South Bend's first Black police chief, and Buttigieg demoted him after Boykins revealed racism among South Bend police officers. This also enables the GOP to describe Buttigieg as "protecting racists."

If Buttigieg were to win the nomination, the Republicans will be hammering this home for months.

"If Trump dies in office, or is impeached and removed, our candidate will be running against Pence instead"

If Trump were to be removed, the GOP would have a great line. "We got rid of our racist - the Democrats love theirs!"

That Boykins incident is pure gold for Republicans.

10 April, 2019 19:30  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The Republicans will dig up something or other about whomever we nominate. If that's the worst they can find about Buttigieg, I wouldn't be too worried.

11 April, 2019 06:47  
Blogger Pinku-Sensei said...

"Remember that until Obama, every President had had a family name originating in either the British Isles or the Netherlands."

You forgot one, Dwight David Eisenhower, although I consider it to be the exception that proves the rule. Eisenhower was originally Eisenhauer, which is German. However, the Eisenhauers/Eisenhowers settled first in Pennsylvania before moving to Kansas and became "Pennsylvania Dutch." Despite the name, they're ethnic Germans. However, I could see how that could confuse people into thinking Eisenhower's family came from the Netherlands.

14 April, 2019 12:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Good point. I know German, so that should have occurred to me.

14 April, 2019 16:02  

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