Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is opening the door to a full-throated conversation on the treatment of minorities in this country the likes of which it has not seen in these last three years of flamingly divisive rhetoric designed to make Americans suspicious of each other. It’s a challenging and necessary return to open dialogue and examination of our country’s ugly history with race up to the present moment. And it’s exactly what will propel Pete Buttigieg to a landslide victory over Donald Trump in November 2020.
We hear the stories that Pete has a “black problem.” And if we were to exclusively gawk over poll numbers which reduce every African-American voter to a voiceless data point in a statistical sampling, that argument becomes just marketable enough to go with. We know this because it’s the argument being made on every cable news channel by every political prognosticator in front of every graphical “big board” currently plugged into a wall socket in the city of New York.
What the plasma swipers are missing is that Pete Buttigieg doesn’t actually have a problem with black voters. His problem is that black voters are currently supporting someone else: Joe Biden, whose name recognition and service during the Obama years gives him an aggressive head start with minorities who will – justifiably – size him up as a potential candidate first, before looking around at others eager to step up and make a case for themselves as a better option to address their long-term economic hopes, and protect their rights to dignity and respect in America.
I not only don’t see a “black problem” for Pete, I also view the news stories of Pete’s current absence of suitable support from African-Americans to be a huge boon to his campaign.
Why? Because it gives all voters a chance to see what Pete Buttigieg is made of, and how he addresses possible blind spots in his ideology to make himself a better leader for all of the country. That, no doubt, comes as a welcome change to every American who isn’t impressed with our current leader, President Puffnstuff, and his penchant for unleashing a mob of supplicants charged with silencing anyone who isn’t in love with jailing dark-skinned immigrants, labeling African nations “s**tholes,” and putting far-right hobgoblins like Bannon, Miller and Gorka on the national payroll.
In his three-day swing through South Carolina, Mayor Pete has eschewed larger town hall style events for smaller gatherings, including in Allendale County, the least populated county in the state (with an over 70% African-American population). By trading in the stage and podium for more intimate surroundings, Pete offers both himself and the voters of the Palmetto State a chance to educate each another on their views on issues like the minimum wage, health care, affordable housing, and promoting black entrepreneurship.
“I know in particular a lot of African-American voters have felt not only kicked around by the Republican Party but sometimes taken for granted by the Democratic Party,” Buttigieg said. “As somebody who is new on the scene, I have to earn that trust.”
Can anyone imagine this type of effort and humility being put forth by the corpulent white dough ball currently rolling around in the Oval Office?
Trump is the man who condemned the Central Park Five to the death penalty even after they were exonerated for beating and raping a white woman in Central Park.
Trump is the president who didn’t think Judge Gonzalo Curiel could be impartial presiding over a fraud case because he’s “Mexican.”
Trump is the weak-necked bobble head who built his entire political base insisting the nation’s first African-American president was actually born in Kenya (because where else do black people come from?).
And let’s not forget how Trump went out of his way to praise the alt-right Nazis who marched in Charlottesville as one half of the “good people on both sides” equivalency in a rant so unhinged it practically caused John Kelly to regurgitate that morning’s breakfast burrito.
We all want to live in a country where we don’t feel suspicious of one another. But Trump’s success hinges on Americans being suspicious of just about everything: the Democrats, the intelligence community, Colin Kaepernick, American diplomats, Gold Star families, the Clintons, the Bidens, reporters, dogs, the phrase “happy holidays,” Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, and the chain-rattling ghost of Jacob Marley – uh, I mean John McCain. According to the Gospel of Trump, we should be wary of everyone except, that is, for Vladimir Putin and any other authoritarian who maintains power by having minority voices muzzled, and in many cases, murdered.
Pete Buttigieg is an openly gay mayor and veteran from South Bend, Indiana, whose “problem” connecting to the African-American voter is nothing more than a mainstream media meal ticket. But Pete Buttigieg isn’t wasting time crying foul or whining about “fake news.” He’s simply doing the work needed to change the channel. Do I have a problem with certain voters? Maybe. Let me talk to them and see what I can do differently. Hey Michael Harriot, you want to call me names for my take on inner city education? How about I call you up and we actually have a discussion on the topic so you know where I fully stand?
For all the moments in this country people cry out, “We need to talk about race!” we should be relieved to have a leader who is willing to charge into the racial headwinds as bravely as Pete Buttigieg.
Unlike Trump, Buttigieg is not a man composed entirely of self-adoration and squeezed-out McNugget sauce packets. Pete Buttigieg is a leader made of resolve, courage and curiosity. It’s that rare combination of heroic traits that lets him face people who sometimes may not want to hear from him, may have impolite things to say to him, or may dismiss him entirely.
Yet he still reaches out and asks to listen. Once he listens, only then does he ask to also be heard.
Pete is the perfect exemplification of how all politicians should approach the topic of racial inequity in America. It is my belief that many people will take on this example as their own approach to discussing race – with their family, neighbors, and people on the other side of the political fence. In the end, that’s a step people want to take, under the security of feeling that not only is it okay, but needed to improve our relations with one another in this country, and truly make America proud again.
Pete Buttigieg has got work to do. But who among us doesn’t?