Buttigieg: He’s the Democrats’ gay of hope, but is it a false dawn?
He's becoming the front runner to take on Trump. It is unlikely, though, that the Rust Belt will be lured by his charms
A very hot tip for the Democratic presidential nomination is Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
He’s got it all: ex-military, Ivy League, Midwest, Christian. He’s gay but very middle class about it.
He’s married, they’re raising two dogs, and the husband’s name is Chasten. Chasten says Pete is “consistently staying up late and ... talking to himself and thinking about ‘how can I change the world, how can I make it a better place?’”
If he wants to knock the insomnia on the head he could always try drinking whisky in a hot bath, but this kind of wholesome conscience-testing is catnip to a Democratic Party that is increasingly well-educated, suburban and nostalgic for the time before Trump.
In fact, Mayor Pete, who wears a tie so often I suspect he sleeps in it, is old-fashioned enough that if you sent him back to 1960 (and hid the gay), he’d be running as a Republican – a reminder of how the parties have radically switched electorates, that the GOP was once the choice of his class and temperament, while the Democrats sounded more like Donald Trump – particularly in the South.
Therein lies a possible flaw in the Buttigieg strategy.
The logic goes that Trump won the 2016 election by winning rustbelt states in the Midwest: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio etc.
Put a Midwesterner on the ticket and, in theory, they’ll switch back.
But Trump took those states precisely because the Republicans have become more populist at the same time the Democrats have become more metropolitan – more like Mayor Pete, who commentators seem to assume will be wildly popular among gun show regulars and coal miners even though he’s never won an election outside of his home city.
One suspects that his early appeal in these primaries isn’t that he’s a Democrat acceptable to the Midwest, but that he’s a Midwesterner acceptable to national Democrats, and his sexuality must play some role, inoculating him from charges of “toxic masculinity” and gifting him an outsider status.
If he weren’t gay, most Democrats would take one look at a white, male veteran who goes hunting with his father-in-law and run a mile.
Many of my friends are excited by Buttigieg because he’s our age, our background and, yes, there is a role for virtue and intellect in politics; it feels good to hear a politician quote Graham Greene.
It’s often asked, how can conservative Christians who preach about morality end up supporting a thrice-married grabber-hands like Donald Trump? It’s the issues, of course.
Religious voters are just as sophisticated as anyone else and capable of distinguishing between public policy and personal ethics – even if the deal with Trump is so cynical it risks being Faustian.
Trump wasn’t elected to save souls but to fulfil a conservative agenda which, unusually, he is mostly doing.
His constancy is refreshing, but it’s also chipped away at what was once a strong belief in a self-giving America – and that is why Mayor Pete appeals to anyone with a taste for clean living.
The problem is that he is asking the very voters he is targeting in the Midwest almost to rise above the issues, which is an impossible ask because if, for example, you believe – as many Americans do – that life begins at conception and therefore that abortion is wrong, then it’s impossible to forget about it just because pro-abortion Pete and Chasten are such nice people.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)