‘That trick has been tried so many times that I think it is losing all meaning….’
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has become an unlikely contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
With the yet-to-announce front-runner Joe Biden already in the hot seat over long-simmering questions about his invasion of personal space, Democrats are now holding casting calls to fill the ceremonial “moderate, white male” spot on the primary stage.
Buttigieg, who is gay, may be just the right candidate for the audition.
His campaign seems to have caught fire recently, as evidenced by a surprisingly large $7 million first-quarter fundraising haul.
However, his public statements are showing that he’s far from the centrist some claim him to be.
In fact, Buttigieg is so far on the fringes of mainstream American thought that he said the Affordable Care Act—a constitutionally questionable government takeover of a major sector of the private health industry—was actually a right-wing plan.
“The Affordable Care Act was a conservative idea that Democrats borrowed,” he said during a Thursday interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
He dismissed the notion that the 2010 bill—dubbed Obamacare—which Obama himself touted as part of a nationwide “redistribution of wealth,” had anything to do with a broader socialist agenda.
“They called that ‘socialist,’ so it’s like ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf,’” Buttigieg said. “It’s lost all power especially for my generation of voters.”
The sweeping legislation, approved by a party-line vote, drove the Tea Party to deliver Obama one of the biggest midterm losses in modern political history and narrowly dodged a sustained Republican repeal effort in the GOP Congress.
Obamacare arguably became the linchpin for a developing trend of political polarization, through which the movements toward conservative Trumpism and left-wing socialism both gained traction.
But Buttigieg, who seems destined to get caught in crosscurrents of the powerful political forces—too radical for many and not radical enough for others—tried to downplay the branding and compartmentalizing of candidates through ‘labels.’
“Folks just want to know whether an idea is a good idea or not,” he said, “and slapping a label on it, especially in a careless way that doesn’t really make sense—I don’t think it moves the debate.”
The Obamacare remarks came after Stephanopolous asked Buttigieg about his praise for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a high school essay.
Sanders, of course, is also seeking the Democratic nomination, and most polls have him running a close second to Biden.
“What I was praising Sen. Sanders for was being honest about what he believed, and I think we need more of that,” said Buttigieg.
“Talk about going into the past, the president is adopting a tactic that [would] take us back to the darkest days of the 1950s when you could use the word ‘socialist’ to kill somebody’s career or to kill an idea,” Buttigieg said. “But that trick has been tried so many times that I think it is losing all meaning.”
Contrary to Buttigieg’s claims, Sanders has long encouraged the “socialist” tag and has helped to spawn a crop of emergent radicals like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez who not only use the label but have advocated a clearly socialist set of principles, some with direct links to the international communist party.
If nominated, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay presidential nominee in U.S. history, but his 2020 odds remain a long-shot as he faces an even more extremist and diversified set of primary opponents.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whom Buttigieg displaced as the liberal media darling, out-raised the South Bend mayor by an estimated $2.4 million in the first quarter of the fiscal year, even while facing criticism over some of his erratic behavior and accusations of “white, male privilege.”
At the same point in his winning 2008 campaign, Obama—then a first-term senator—had raised more than $25 million.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this article.