Pete Buttigieg (whose surname is pronounced BOOT-edge-edge, FYI) is making his ascendance into the political limelight, and it has nothing to do with star power. Buttigieg has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2011; his 2015 reelection was a landslide victory in which he earned more than 80 percent of the vote. Oh, by the way: he’s been openly gay since 2015 (an announcement he made before the election) and has been married to his partner since last summer.
Hardly a household name like Bernie or Kamala, Buttigieg had initially been glossed over as an underdog by the media, who have been praising and pulling apart the more expected candidates in the Democratic race. But Buttigieg has steadily transcended the early odds, impressing the public with his political chops and even his ability to speak Norwegian (which is just one of eight languages that he speaks). “We’ve always contended that the more people see Mayor Pete, the more they like him,” said his campaign spokesperson. A fair if not unbiased assessment, considering that a recent poll has him in third place behind Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, who are leading among Democrats in the Iowa caucus.
At the age of 37, Buttigieg has more and broader experience than some of his more senior Democratic candidates. Without coming off as boastful — in sharp contrast, perhaps, with Born-to-Be-In-It-Beto — Buttigieg comfortably can recount the reasons why he would be a capable leader. “Look, you could be a senior senator and have never managed more than a hundred people in your life,” he told the Washington Post last month. “I not only have more years of government experience than the president of the United States, but I have more years of executive experience than the vice president of the United States, and more wartime experience than anybody who arrived in the office since George H.W. Bush.”
As a lieutenant with the U.S. Navy Reserve who was deployed to Afghanistan for six months during his first term as mayor of South Bend, he found that his military experience bolstered his goals as an elected leader. “[It] reaffirmed my belief in the core purpose of any city administration: to make the basics of life easier for residents, so they may be free to spend their energy on what matters most,” he wrote in the South Bend Tribune after returning from Afghanistan. “To deliver on essentials like smooth roads, clean water, trash service, and public safety, because only then can people focus on what they truly care about: family and friends, discovery and learning, business and enterprise, culture and recreation, life and love.”
Meet Pete Buttigieg: a name to remember (and learn how to pronounce). pic.twitter.com/xj6InPYMRy
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) March 28, 2019
At the national level, he hopes to focus on ways to protect American democracy in order to bring these necessities to the American people. Last week, he shared with Al Sharpton on MSNBC that he supported abolishing the electoral college and means to curb voter suppression. “If we don’t get a handle on these core structural issues, then every other issue we care about… none of our ability to deal with any of those issues is going to get any better until we fix our democracy, which for political — and let’s face it racial — reasons is increasingly being made less democratic by a party that has decided that’s it’s better off if fewer people vote.”
Discussing reparations, entrepreneurship, and intersectionality with Ebony Magazine in an interview published this week, Buttigieg emphasized that allyship and pragmatic policies are not mutually exclusive ideals. “I think if we can use our identity as a source of solidarity, especially at a time when the White House is trying to use identity and race, in particular, to divide us within our economic interest groups, I think we can put forward a better kind of politics that will lead to better outcomes whether it’s for people of color, or whether it’s for the country as a whole.”