Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has created somewhat of a media frenzy. His supporters believe that his bland views, his fruitful age and his experience as a small-town mayor make him the perfect candidate for the Democratic nomination.
The thing is, Buttigieg doesn’t really have plans or views. He sells himself to Democrats with his image: a white, gay, millennial, veteran, who speaks a lot of different languages and is a Rhodes scholar. Unfortunately, beyond his image, Buttigieg does not have much. He does not have plans, policies, or ideas beyond vague, mainstream, leftist beliefs.
When Anderson Cooper asked him about this at CNN’s Buttigieg Town Hall, he answered by saying he has an idea to restructure the Supreme Court (it’s not a good idea) and then told Cooper “As Democrats, this is a habit that we have, we go right to the policy proposals, and we expect people to figure out what our values must be from them.”
That is not a bad habit. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both have very detailed, explicit plans for what they would like to do in office. It’s probably a good habit to elect presidents based on what they are actually going to do in office, if those plans will work, and if they will be able to get those plans through.
But not having plans is the ultimate nature of Buttigieg, and the milquetoast white men who come with him, like Beto O’Rourke. They run on their “coolness” and their centrist message of uniting the country, but have very few concrete ideas.
The reason Buttigieg and O’Rourke are still able to be taken seriously? Cool white dudes have the privilege of not needing to take a real position. Cool white dudes have the privilege of making the leap from mayor of South Bend, IN to running for president.
Buttigieg’s proponents cite his experience as mayor as proof that he is an experienced leader who “turned around” South Bend. The fact is, he did this by implementing excessive code restrictions that largely affected low income communities and communities of color. He doesn’t talk about his policy ideas because his policies are not going to be popular with the left, because he is a gentrifier.
Buttigieg “turned around South Bend” by coddling with private developers to knock down blighted homes, forcing the towns eviction rate to 6.7%. The town’s eviction rate has doubled since Buttigieg took office in 2012, and is now three times the national average. “Turning around” means that Buttgieg displaced the poor, sent them out of South Bend.
I don’t see a lot of reason to support Mayor Pete, beyond his “look at me, I speak so many languages!” cool white guy appeal. His policy experience is rooted in gentrifying and displacing working families, and he covers this up by talking “values before policy.”