Column

The Hater’s Guide to Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg would be our first openly gay president. Amazing progress! But does it have to be THIS guy?

Some people are supporters of Pete Buttigieg. But many, many more people are NOT supporters of Pete Buttigieg. This 2020 GEN magazine hater’s guide, the fourth in an already famed and illustrious series, is for those in the latter group.

Your candidate

Pete!™

His résumé

I actually wrote this hater’s guide months ago, but that guide proved woefully incomplete because Buttigieg, like the Republican sleeper agent he so clearly is, has managed to do a new shitty thing virtually every day since then. It’s been both incredible and horrifying to witness in real time. I’m gonna go ahead and bullet point this section like you’re reading Axios, because Mayor Pete was surely formed in a lab jointly funded by Axios and the Brookings Institution. Let’s run it down…

  • He did the “please clap” thing.
  • He somehow fucked up paying tribute to Kobe Bryant the day Kobe died.

Even Trump didn’t fuck up his Kobe remembrance this egregiously. Very bad!

  • He failed to get one of the New York Times’ 18 co-endorsements.
  • Americans found out that he fired South Bend’s first black police chief eight years ago for the sin of… overhearing her fellow officers being racist on the phone.
  • His team canceled a fundraiser at a gay club because it had a dancing pole.
  • He introduced a health care plan that BILLS you thousands of dollars every year if you don’t happen to want his Medicare For Those Who Want It plan.
  • He ran an ad attacking Medicare for All as “polarizing.” Oh no! All my mom’s cancer treatments have been taken care of! What if her surviving makes people mad?!
  • His team deliberately attempted to lower his average donation stats so that it would become less clear that he’s an android sent by Peter Thiel to kill us all.
  • He apparently thinks everyone in the Middle East wants to grow up to be a suicide bomber.
  • He claimed the Founding Fathers didn’t know slavery was a bad thing. (They did!)
  • He got thrashed by Bernie on the debate stage for kissing billionaire donor ass.
  • The wine cave thing.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been in a wine cave before. But it wasn’t as nice or as tastefully appointed as that one. In other words, the bastard.

  • Some of his donors backed off him after he broke a weak pledge to not take money from billionaires.
  • “I trust you to figure out your own health care.” And write your own tax code, you fucking peasants!
  • He helped fix bread prices when he worked at McKinsey consulting, which is arguably the nicest business practice that McKinsey, a global conglomerate that helps other businesses, not to mention entire governments, rid themselves of pesky human overhead, has encouraged.

Every hour on the hour, this man displays a new and malignant facet of himself to a befuddled world. It really is something. And I’m supposed to think this is the RATIONAL candidate?

Why he sucks

You 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 Buttigieg, who became 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 was 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 could 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 but 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 gave him a seat in all those fancy wine caves — 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 and his resume, Mayor Pete is more a product of our political apparatus than perhaps any other contender in the field. He went to Harvard. His old man was a professor at Notre Dame. He’s gotten backing for a presidential gig at just 37 years old, with no national governing experience to his name. The man has had more built-in advantages than Chet Haze. And he’s used those advantages to become a baggie full of uncut special interest talking points. It’s telling that Buttigieg’s rise has come more from empty words than from substantive proposals. He 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 primary season. 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.

This man is not going to bring us together as Americans. He represents back-cave interests that have a vested interest in making sure that NEVER happens. He is a fucking fraud. A mole. 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. Any time Buttigieg is challenged on anything, he just reflexively screams UNITY like he’s pleading the Fifth:

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.

In Mayor Pete’s hands, unity is a white flag. 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 election returns from the fall of 2019, they’re gonna get a lousy return on their investment. The lady who flipped off Trump (so divisive!) got elected in Virginia. So did a shitload of other Democrats who turned that entire state blue. Matt Bevin got 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?

Why he’ll suck as president

Imagine present-day America, only Trump isn’t tweeting from the Oval Office toilet every five seconds like the needy little boy that he is. That’s what you’ll get with President Pete: the same hell world, only with a nicer face leading it.

One unhateable thing

If elected, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay president in U.S. history. That would be an incredible sign of both the progress we’ve made as society, and a portent of more progress yet to come. The bad news is that… does it HAVE to be this guy? I remember when Palin nearly became the first female vice president in the nation’s history. And it would have been a thing, had literally ANY other woman accomplished that feat. Mayor Pete has already come further than any openly gay presidential candidate ever has, but it reminds me of this Kate Knibbs review of the prestige Fox News docudrama Bombshell.

“I felt watching it how I imagine a clown might feel if they heard that there was finally going to be a movie that portrayed clowns as nice and not scary and then somehow the protagonist was John Wayne Gacy anyway.”

That’s how this candidacy makes me feel. Pete Buttigieg is smart enough and charming enough to make an effective hit man. But someone elsesomeone very badis choosing his targets for him.

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

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