If you haven’t yet heard about “Mayor Pete” – that is, Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana – you will soon. Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg (pronounced buddha-judge or boot-edge-edge) is currently making a splash, not only on the national media circuit but also in fundraising as he considers a run for the Presidency on the Democratic ticket.
I am personally keeping my options open as the Democratic field expands, but I am not alone in being very impressed with this young, married gay man. Here are some of his bio facts (and you can find a great deal about him these days on the internet):
- Born and raised in South Bend, Ind.
- Harvard graduate: bachelor’s degree in History and Literature, 2004
- Rhodes Scholar at Oxford: received first class Honors degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, 2007
- Active musician: plays piano and guitar, and has performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra
- Officer in the US Navy Reserve, 2009-17
- Took a leave of absence to serve in Afghanistan for seven months in 2014; earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his counterterrorism work
- Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve
- Elected Mayor of South Bend, Ind., at age 20; sworn in on January 1, 2012. (This made him the youngest Mayor of a US city with at least 100,000 residents.)
- Named Mayor of the Year by GovFresh.com in 2013
- Reelected mayor with over 80% of the votes, November 2015
- First executive in Indiana to be openly gay
- Married June 16, 2018, at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James, South Bend, which he attends regularly
- Husband is Chasten Glezman, a junior high school teacher at a Montessori Academy in Mishawaka, Ind.
- Enjoys learning languages and speaks Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari, and French to some degree. Taught himself to speak Norwegian.
While these facts are incredibly impressive (not to mention his accomplishments as South Bend mayor), what is rocking the political world at the moment – and which is helping to raise $7 million in a short period of time – is his brilliance in answering the widest range of socio-political and economic questions. In many media interviews over the past few weeks, Buttigieg has proven himself to be clear, articulate, rational, and exceedingly knowledgeable.
- Buttigieg explained to Vox reporter Zack Beauchamp in late March why Buttigieg and others around his age have a rather negative view of capitalism. Mayor Pete explained, “You have one generation that grew up associating socialism with communism like they’re the same thing, and therefore also assuming that capitalism and democracy were inseparable. I’ve grown up in a time when you can pretty much tell that there’s tension between capitalism and democracy, and negotiating that tension is probably the biggest challenge for America right now.”
- Furthermore, Buttigieg continued in the Vox interview, “I think the word ‘socialism’ has largely lost its meaning in American politics because it has been used by the right to describe pretty much anything they disagree with. To the extent there’s a conversation around democratic socialism — even that seems to be a little squishy in terms of what it actually means. I think of myself as progressive. But I also believe in capitalism, but it has to be democratic capitalism.. . . So a healthy capitalist system, working within the rule of law, is the stuff of American growth and can be the stuff of equitable growth. But we don’t have that right now.”
- On ABC’s Good Morning America in early April, Buttigieg responded to President Trump’s criticism of him as supporting Medicare-for-all and the proposed “Green New Deal,” negatively attacked as socialist. Buttigieg stated, “The president is adopting a tactic that takes us back to the darkest days of the ’50s when you could use the word ‘socialist’ to kill somebody’s career, or to kill an idea, but that trick has been tried so many times that I think it’s losing all meaning.” Buttigeig noted that the “Affordable Care Act was a conservative idea that Democrats borrowed and they called that ‘socialist.’”
- On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mayor Pete tossed away old labels like left-right and centrist. He considers himself a progressive first and foremost and favors programs that work.
- At the National Action Network’s annual meeting in April, Buttigieg told the audience, “I believe an agenda for black Americans needs to include five things that all of us care about: homeownership, entrepreneurship, education, health and justice.” Mayor Pete also assured the Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the Network, “that as president, he would sign a bill that would start a study of reparations.”
- Buttigieg also demonstrates a level of humility and the ability to learn over time. In 2015, he used the term “all lives matter” in an official speech. Recently he admitted, “What I did not understand at that time was that that phrase just early into mid- especially 2015 was coming to be viewed as a sort of counterslogan to Black Lives Matter. Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I stopped using it in that context.”
So, in addition to all these points in his favor, this man with the hard-to-pronounce name comes across as calm, cool, collected, comfortable with himself, confident but not arrogant, stable, and courageous. If those traits are not sorely needed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at this time in our collective history, I’m not sure what are…