Drew Magary

The Hater’s Guide to Mayor Pete

Pete Buttigieg has campaigned on a pledge to build unity. That’s just a pledge to do nothing.

Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

YYou know, at least Sarah Palin had the common courtesy to run an entire state before pretending she was a figure of national importance. That hasn’t been the case with fellow small-town mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has become the ascendant moderate in the Democratic primary race after butting into third place in Iowa caucus polling and giving a speech at the Liberty and Justice dinner in Iowa that, inevitably, stirred the souls of every Never Socialist currently operating in mainstream political punditry. Here’s a money quote from Buttigieg’s speech that surely got Chris Cillizza’s glasses steaming with ecstasy:

“I will not waver from my commitment to our values or back down from the boldness of our ideas…”

BUT…?

“…but I also will not tire from the effort to include everyone in this future we are trying to build — progressives, moderates, and Republicans of conscience who are ready for change. The time has come.”

That’s a telling quote because you believe it only if you’re a fucking sap. You believe that you can enact bold ideas but still get everyone to go along with them. You believe that there are “Republicans of conscience,” and that there are a lot of them. Just an army of Mitt Romneys out there waiting for permission to turn brave. You believe that all it takes for every American to coexist in harmony is for a swell guy like Mayor Pete to come along and tell them all to be nice. This is all bullshit pandering.

But it’s very attractive bullshit pandering, and it has perhaps no more attractive a courier than Pete Buttigieg, who can attribute his fabled momentum in Iowa to a number of superficial factors. He’s a genial white guy. He’s a former troop. He’s from the Midwest, which has long fashioned itself as the official headquarters of REAL AMERICA. He can break out into spontaneous fits of Finnish and Arabic. He’s not as old and confused as Joe Biden and he’s not as SCARY nor as RADICAL as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The latter quality is crucial, and something Buttigieg has taken to pushing with all the Midwestern passive aggression he can summon:

When asked about Warren’s message of “big structural change” or Sanders’ call for a “political revolution,” Buttigieg dismissed those pitches as “definitely not unifying.”

Buttigieg is not trafficking in reality here, given that Berlizabeth proposals such as Medicare for All are comically popular and unifying. But Buttigieg has neither the patience nor the work ethic to work toward that kind of unity. What interests Buttigieg — and more important, the robust donor network that put him into this race to begin with — is unity more as an abstract concept. Pete wants to be a uniter, not a divider.

“These divisive lines of thinking have even entered into the consciousness of my own party.”

He doesn’t like all that naughty partisanship.

“To meet these challenges and to defeat this president, we need real solutions, not more polarization.”

And you can count on him to bring everyone together because — GASP! — he’s not a product of the nefarious Washington machine. In fact, he’s the most not a product of that machine.

“It doesn’t work with just any outsider — it matters what you care about and whether you’re committed to uniting, rather than dividing, the American people as president.”

The irony is that, if you go by his backers, Mayor Pete is more a product of our political apparatus than perhaps any other contender in the field. He’s a baggie full of uncut special interest talking points. It’s telling that his rise has come more from empty words than from substantive proposals. Buttigieg has some of the latter, but it’s the bullshit that has garnered him more attention, so that’s the horse he’ll be riding into the winter. And even if he doesn’t win the nomination, he will have done a great deal of subtle damage to a general electorate that largely wants Trump gone but is also highly prone to the suggestion that replacing him with a true progressive might be a cure worse than the disease.

Mayor Pete is more a product of our political apparatus than perhaps any other contender in the field.

This man is not going to bring us together as Americans. He represents backroom interests that have a vested interest in making sure that NEVER happens. Mayor Pete is a fucking fraud. A sleeper agent. The fact that he’s the fresh face in this race is terrifying because it means that some young Democrats (and Pete is younger than me!) are gonna be just as willing to sell themselves out as some of the older ones already are. He belongs to a cadre of establishment Democrats who are not unifying the country but are, in fact, standing in the goddamn way.

If you wanna unify people, you better have a plan. You better have policies that work for everyone and you better focus on how those plans will, in fact, make America whole. But why bother doing that when you’re Mayor Pete and you’re getting free press out of lecturing Julian Castro about being too mean?

There’s no need for me to make a case against Pete Buttigieg because that craven asshole can’t be bothered to make one for himself. All he wants to do is pretend he can will everyone into getting along through his sheer force of bland personality. He wants to be Obama, only without the Obama part. It’s not uplifting. It’s fucking pathetic.

Do you wanna know something about partisanship? Partisanship is good. Partisanship is the whole reason we have a democracy. I have no interest in finding common ground with fucking Trump voters or with other assorted white supremacists. I have no interest in making sure those groups don’t feel demonized. I have no interest in making them feel COMFORTABLE when they have made so many Americans, and the world beyond, feel the precise opposite. I’m allowed to be angry at the state of things and I’m sure as hell allowed to loudly call out those responsible for it. I want to vehemently oppose those people, and guess what? I live in a country where I’m free to do that. I don’t like being told I’m out of line for doing so. So you’ll excuse me if I’m not exactly inspired by some South Bend pud who has no stomach for that fight, and doesn’t want me to have it either.

Pledging to sow unity is just a pledge to people that you will do nothing, that you are a bland centrist determined to paint widely approved progressive ideas like M4A as divisive in a brazen attempt to cultivate irrational hostility toward them. THAT is being divisive. That is what Big Pharma is paying Buttigieg to do.

Judging by last night, they’re gonna get a lousy return on their investment. The lady who flipped off Trump (so divisive!) just got elected in Virginia. So did a shitload of other Democrats who turned that entire state blue. Matt Bevin is about to get the gate in Kentucky to a pro-choice Democrat who actually wants teachers to have a pension. Fighters can win. Fighters HAVE won. You know why? Because they have the fucking courage to disagree with the bad guys. Joe Biden doesn’t have that. And Pete Buttigieg sure as hell doesn’t either. Pete Buttigieg, and the media that fetes him, mistakenly believes that the path to defeating Donald Trump lies in a form of corrupt passivity. Fuck that idea. And fuck him.

So don’t be taken in by Buttigieg’s focus-grouped collegiality or his shameless attempts to fasten himself to the moneyed wing of the Democratic establishment. That’s the establishment that a lot of people, myself included, thought would easily outfox Donald Trump three years ago. To borrow from Palin: How’s that workin’ out for ya?

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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