It isn’t Pete Buttigieg’s fault that Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota didn’t learn from the other candidates who thought it smart to go after him in a debate.
Many have tried to rattle America’s Mayor: Castro, Swalwell, O’Rourke, Gabbard. And they’ve all been swept off the stage like campaign confetti, shining in its first few moments of debut, then quickly losing its magic as it makes its hapless inevitable fall to the cracks in the floorboards.
Warren and Klobuchar can’t say Pete didn’t warn them.
Pete is proving to be made out of something stronger than steel. Not only has he remained unscathed by every grenade that’s been tossed into his camp, he continues to prove his mettle by verbally demolishing his attackers, sending them straggling back to their prep teams with bloodied brows and trailing white flags around their ankles.
Elizabeth Warren’s painfully hypocritical “wine cave” attack, an attempt to turn “Mayor Pete” into “Pete the Elite” has backfired on her spectacularly. Warren supporters who, up to this point, were celebrating their candidate as a shrewd political player with a savvy, strategic mind had to be scratching their heads at this catastrophic misstep.
In the same way Warren hasn’t escaped the attempts to root herself in Native American heritage (and if she does get the nomination, Trump will remind us all, day after day after day), so too has she not escaped her past romances with the wealthy of America. Shoveling millions of high-donor dollars from her previous Senate campaign into her current “grassroots” presidential run isn’t fooling anyone the way she hoped. One only needed to hear the audible gasps from the debate crowd when Pete threw the “purity test” argument back into her lap to know, as Warren and her entire staff probably did in that moment, that they had seriously miscalculated.
Add to that the argument Pete made that prying Trump, a fundraising behemoth, out of the White House was going to require every dollar, nickel and penny found under the couch cushions, and suddenly reaching out to those with deep pockets not only seemed reasonable, it became a critical joint in the machine the Buttigieg campaign is building to wrestle power away from the toxic lampreys of the GOP.
A maximum campaign donation is nothing more than a maximum campaign donation, whether it comes from a determined wealthy couple in Napa Valley, or me, a gay middle-aged moderately successful Portland professional who has credit card debt, makes his own shampoo at home, and still buys cheese on sale.
Unlike Warren, Amy Klobuchar is at least on an upswing. In the last debate, she successfully covered the nervous shaking by opting to simply never stand still. She was only one pair of thigh-high boots and a few finger snaps away from backing up Beyoncé on tour. And though her attacks on experience were mostly well deflected by Pete, who seems to assume Marvel-like levels of fortitude at the very moments his opponents are looking to sandbag him, one can’t argue that Amy Klobuchar doesn’t have an impressive election record, hasn’t won in deep red areas, and isn’t a serious, studied politician. No one can rob her of those impressive political feats.
But time is not on Klobuchar’s side, and neither is money. Plus there are undeniable likability issues. Pete Buttigieg is always good-natured, smiling, earnest and embracing. This is where Klobuchar’s argument over Pete’s inexperience gets ripped to tatters.
That Pete is a mayor, working and living amongst his own constituents, instead of a Senator in the D.C. swamp, is the very reason he has learned how to understand the average voter, while Klobuchar continues to get pinged for past unkind behavior to the very people who work on her behalf. When Amy makes the argument for a double-standard, she shows she’s unable to grasp the obvious: Pete Buttigieg has learned to connect with people at their hearts, while she is revered for hurling office supplies at her staff.
And this leads me to another question which has only crossed my mind in the last day or so: After Hillary Clinton’s inauspicious defeat in 2016, are Americans less open to voting for a woman this time around than they’re admitting? Did Clinton’s thumping by Trump, inexplicable as it was, lead Democrats to pull back on the notion of breaking the glass ceiling, instead of doubling down on it?
For months I sensed an undeniable attraction by my party to the poetic justice of a female candidate claiming the nomination, goring Trump in the debates, and chasing his dead-eyed brood, three chins and thirty-seven personalities out of Washington. I don’t feel that pull much anymore. Senator Kamala Harris has exited the race. Warren has locked herself into a ultra-left box Houdini couldn’t escape. And Klobuchar suddenly has wind at her back, but is still three laps behind. They all have their strengths, but none seem able to match the political prowess of Mayor Pete.
But don’t call it sexism. Women are equally capable of fighting, winning… and yes, miscalculating.