Elisha: Don’t be fooled by Pete Buttigieg

Guy Elisha, Op-Ed Contributor

Netflix’s first season of “The Politician” opens with the scene of a high school student named Payton. In the midst of a college admissions interview at Harvard, he confidently claims that he is going to be the president of the United States.

Payton has studied past presidents’ paths to the presidency, and he has it all planned out. He attended a private high school, competed on the debate team and hopes to graduate from Harvard. He claims to be rich enough to have the wealth and education needed to run, yet has a heart-breaking adoption story to present some struggle. He knows the statistics, and every step is calculated. He runs for student body president, and hopes to eventually marry his high school sweetheart, in order to seem traditional and maybe appeal to more conservative voters.

What stood out the most was his lack of genuine passion, an agenda, a sincere urge to help others and make a difference. He was missing the most important aspects of being the president; having an ideology, believing in something, and through this view, identifying problems and finding solutions. His sayings had no content, as he was passionate about one thing and one thing only — having the most powerful position on earth.

Earlier this month, I sat impatiently at my desk, restlessly refreshing the New York Times’ live update page as the results of the Iowa Democratic Caucus flowed in. After days of technical difficulties, the results showed former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, the young Midwestern mayor, with the lead. Although U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) won the popular vote, Buttigieg came away with slightly more state delegate equivalents.

Although Iowa has only six out of the overall 538 electoral votes in the presidential elections, doing well in Iowa can give leading candidates momentum and can even fuel nationwide success.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, living in the conservative state of Oklahoma at the time, I found Mayor Pete’s rising momentum back in the spring of 2019 when he announced his bid for president a hopeful, pleasant surprise. Being an openly gay candidate in what some might call “Trump’s America” is a brave, dangerous and risky move. He also holds impressive records as a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes Scholar and a veteran, all of which make him a potential candidate to appeal to voters from both parties.

However, as I started digging into his record as mayor and presidential policy proposals it hit me: Buttigieg is “The Politician.” He did everything considered “right” in order to become the president. He, too, attended a private high school, won multiple awards growing up, went to Harvard, got involved in an informal debate team and tacked on military experience to his resume. Moreover, he ran for office multiple times, first for state treasurer and then as mayor before the 2020 race.

Lastly, although being the first openly gay candidate could disqualify him for the presidency in some eyes, he still leads a traditional Christian American life, albeit with a man.

What truly makes the parallel between the fictional character of Payton and Mayor Pete is the appearance of a lack of ideology, lack of unexplained passion to make this country a better place for its people.

What does he believe in? I am seriously asking. His campaign calls for generational change, but all I see is old school politics which aims to preserve the status quo. He considers himself a “democratic capitalist,” a vague term which can appeal to voters of both parties. His campaign website indicates that he recognizes racial, gender and class discriminations, but isolates them from poverty and lack of social mobility, which are a direct result of the capitalist economy — not to mention his original support for Medicare for All which quickly disappeared when donations started rolling in from insurance companies. It is not hard to change one’s opinion when they do not firmly believe in anything.

What hope do you give us, Mayor Pete? What is your passion? Because a passion to become the strongest person on earth is not good enough for us. Look at the White House.

Guy Elisha is a first-year graduate student. She can be contacted at guyelisha2024@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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