james debate
james debate

Friday 14 February 2020

That most magical period of the four year cycle is upon us, the start of President election season in earnest. The Democratic Primary is well underway, and as we move ever closer to deciding who will face off against Donald Trump in November the time has come for this blog to make a decision. The Ephemeric endorses Pete Buttigieg for President.

2020 election democratic primaries endorse mayor pete buttigieg trump democrat republican iowa nevada new hampshire election

If you had told me a year ago that I would be endorsing a little known 37 year old former mayor of small town Indiana for the Presidency I would not have believed you. But such has been the astonishing rise of Mayor Pete over the past 12 months that not only does he have a plausible path to the White House, he might even be one of the current frontrunners.

During this time I have flirted with the idea of throwing my support behind a few candidates, Senators, Congressmen, Vice Presidents, and I will admit to being highly sceptical when I first heard that this political unknown was throwing his hat into an already overcrowded ring. But I distinctly remember the first time I saw him speak, and was taken aback by his eloquence, his wit and poise. I remember thinking at the time that it was a shame this man would never gain any traction in the primary (or indeed in dark red Indiana for the foreseeable future), because it was clear that this guy had the makings of a future political superstar.

What stands out most about Pete is the way in which, when you ask him a question, he directly answers it rather than dancing around the topic with some carefully crafted political spin. This is an impression that has been voiced by some of the industry's most renowned interviewers and pundits. When Pete speaks to you, he really speaks to you and not at you. He comes off as a genuine, passionate, and above all ordinary guy, who just so happens to be pretty darn bright.

That he answers questions so frankly and directly is all the more notable considering how many ostensible liabilities Pete has as a candidate. His youth, his relatively low level of political experience, his homosexuality... these are all things that call into question his electability for President, and yet they are things that he is happy to address head on, and does so in a way that is surprisingly convincing and sensible.

As a mayor of a town, he actually does have more executive experience than most of the candidates running (many of whom hail from Congress). As a former army Lieutenant, he has more military experience than everyone else running for President combined. He is a Harvard educated Rhodes Scholar who speaks eight languages fluently. He may be young, but he would be the first to point out that the two most successful Presidents of his lifetime (Clinton and Obama) were also considered young for the office. As for his homosexuality: in a race full of multiple divorcees and fifty-somethings who struggle with commitment, Pete's stable and happy relationship with primary school teacher husband Chasten and two dogs Buddy and Truman by contrast paints an idyllic picture of a wholesome and well-adjusted American family. Anyone who has a problem with that in this day and age really needs to reconsider their priorities in life.

Yes, much has been made of Pete's intellect and charisma. He rarely seems perturbed even under pressure, and responds to difficult questions with a convincing and reassuring calm and directness. I have long been of the opinion that the single most important criteria for selecting a leader is intelligence, and this unflappable quality he possesses undoubtedly makes him a great fit for the demands of the office, not to mention a formidable challenger to take on Trump in a debate. But of course, these personal qualities are not the only reason to make someone President. Pete also has  strength in his policy platform.

A lot has (strangely) been made about how Pete is one of the "moderates" in the race, but the reality is that his platform would represent the most progressive of a Democratic Presidential nominee in decades. His proposals include a $15 minimum wage, quadrupling the earned income tax credit, universal childcare and Pre-K up to age 5, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are willing to work for their status.

Pete promises enfranchisement for the millions living in Washington DC and Puerto Rico who are American citizens and yet, astonishingly, do not have the right to vote in supposedly the world's greatest democracy. He has proposed bold political reforms to gerrymandering and the electoral college, which have been disgracefully abused in recent years to allow consistent minority rule over the majority. His proposal to curb the increasing partisanship of the Supreme Court (by making half the court non-political appointments) is easily the most workable proposal anyone has put forward.

The most important (and yet strangely under-addressed) issue in this election is always going to be the climate. To this end, Pete's proposal contrasts those of his primary competitors by focusing on pragmatism and efficacy, rather than simply throwing the largest dollar amount at the problem.

But the centrepiece of Pete's platform is Medicare for all who want it, a commonsense solution to American healthcare that builds on the near-universal coverage achieved by Obama's Affordable Care Act by offering what essentially amounts to the public option originally proposed for that reform package before being gutted by Republicans. It is hard to see any downsides to this approach; provide a minimum level of care for all Americans, while allowing those who want to pay extra for the quicker or more comfortable private plan to do so. It just makes good sense.

Simply put, Pete's platform is an array of sensible, well thought out policy proposals backed by evidence. It contrasts the proposals of just about any other candidate in that there is barely a whiff of an agenda or partisan red meat, just good ideas intended to solve real problems.

But above all the President is the face of this nation, and his message of positivity and inclusion is what this country needs right now more than anything. Pete's brand of oratory and optimistic tone have earned comparisons to Barack Obama, as has his preference to remain above some of the uglier infighting we have seen on the primary trail to-date from the likes of Bernie/Warren, Biden/Castro, etc.

We are going to need someone who can inspire the nation to come together and rebuild. Pete recognises that people won't turn out to the polls just because of Trump's issues, but because they see someone else running that they believe represents their interests and will make the country better. The next decade is going to require a gargantuan effort to restore America's reputation and place in the world, and in my view there is no one better suited to that task than Pete Buttigieg.

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