Recognizing that Portland, Oregon is not the center of the universe (but don’t tell the people in this coffee house or I’ll have to move to one of the other three coffee houses on the block), I do have a few political observations based on interactions I’ve had with folks in my newly adopted hometown I’d like to share.
I spend Saturday mornings outside the Farmer’s Market next to Portland State University, alongside my fellow Pete supporters and a cardboard life-size Mayor Pete Buttigieg. I have some great strategies for striking up conversations with passers-by, most involve asking what they plan on cooking with their newly purchased Brussels sprout stalks, red peppers, or locally-made baking chocolate. It quickly becomes a mini culinary conference, and once they recognize I’m not a sociopath, or at the very least a sociopath who knows how to blanche cipollini onions, I pivot to, “So who do you like for the Democratic candidate?”
If I go by the sampling I receive, Portland is primarily supporting three presidential candidates: Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, in that order.
But there’s more. Though I hear, “I’m supporting Bernie Sanders” or “Elizabeth Warren has the best chance of winning,” I never hear anyone say, very simply, “I like Elizabeth Warren” or “I like Bernie Sanders.” I’m not saying they don’t like their candidate, but I am suggesting that’s not what’s motivating their choice.
On the flip side, people can’t get a sentence out about Pete Buttigieg without including the word “love.” “I love Pete.” “I love watching Pete debate.” “I love that Pete has military experience.” “I love how Pete is conducting himself so respectfully.” “I would love to see Pete Buttigieg in the White House.”
I believe this is happening in cities outside of Portland as well, and it serves to point out that Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is the only one that has blossomed into a true political movement. Bernie had it in 2016. Elizabeth almost captured it over the summer. Tulsi Gabbard had it through most of the fall (Just making sure you’re still paying attention. And if you’re reading this, hi Tulsi!). But the support for Warren and Sanders to me, stems less from an appreciation of what they can bring to the nation and more from a fear of the current occupant of the White House. Bernie and Liz sound good on paper, demonstrate the requisite toughness on stage, and look like the kind of people we traditionally put on our currency and postage stamps, so… let’s vote for them.
Meanwhile, there is a fourth candidate in the top tier of Democrats who continues to struggle mightily in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Nationally, his numbers are higher than anyone else’s, but I can’t find one person to speak up on his behalf in my city, and those that do mention him by name do so only to point out why they think he’s the wrong candidate for 2020.
The skepticism is high, as high as his polling numbers. How can that be?
The most eagerly employed arguments for this candidate, as I see them, are that he represents a move back to the Obama era, and that he will be the best shot at roping the independent voters and moderate Republicans. There is also the argument that he is a “straight shooter.”
I won’t go so far as to say no one was a bigger Obama supporter than I was, but I was definitely locked in for both election cycles. I would have considered Senator John McCain until he opened the door to the Dawn of the Yukon Hockey Mom. And Mitt Romney? Binders of women? Dogs on the car roof? Yikes! Not even if all the good-looking sons came over to my house and gave me lap dances would I have cast my vote for Mitt Romney. So Obama love came easy and fast.
Even had there been a strong Republican ticket (and the potential was there both times, but Republicans never see reality when they can see 1950 instead), Obama was simply the first perfect candidate for 21stcentury: educated but charming, youthful but intense, eternally prepared, never visibly rattled. So while I understand the desire in 2019 to return to the Obama years, that argument has a giant fault line running right through the middle of it: Barack Obama is not going to be on the ticket. Barack Obama was the politician I liked, and I don’t expect to find traces of his easy charisma and political savvy living on inside someone else just because they claim it to be true.
As for the Independent and moderate Republican argument, let me just say that any independent or moderate Republican willing to vote for Trump in 2020 is simply a forver-Trumper with a guilt complex, hunting for an excuse to fall in line with the GOP and its school of elected, gelatinous remora. Far-left universal healthcare, even in its wobbliest form would be better than four more years of DACA bait-and-switching, demonizing African-Americans, ripping off hurricane victims, extorting foreign governments, playing footsie with autocrats, bat-signaling bigots, and suggesting a dead Congressman with over five decades of service to our nation is burning in hell. I don’t believe in independents and moderates anymore. I believe in “Trump” and “noTrump”
And that leaves the “straight shooter” argument. Is this really the right time for one of those? A straight shooter can hit a stationary target. Does this feel like a country where any target worth nailing stands still any longer than the time it takes to type a tweet, betray loyalties or surrender your ethics?
We can see by the talent that’s already been attracted by the Pete Buttigieg campaign that there would no doubt be a great deal of talent inevitably attracted to a Pete Buttigieg administration. An effective White House (if you can still recall what one was like) consists of an open-minded president who discusses events and global movements of consequence with a seasoned cabinet and team of advisors permitted to advocate openly based on knowledge and accumulated experience. The president makes it a point to hear people out, then makes a balanced, informed decision using his/her own good judgment, sense of morality, duty to the job, and obligation to the people of the United States. After that and only that, you successfully take out Osama bin Laden.
Pete Buttigieg has demonstrated not only his allegiance to this process of intense, scrutinized thought, but he seems to actually derive great satisfaction performing it. And that will attract the strongest most assured political minds – including hopefully a straight shooter or two – to his administration.
There are long-standing American principles withering in the balance, and our best weapon is confidence. We need a leader who can speak reassuringly to the millions of Americans who are flat-out terrified of the current mob-like ruling of the country, where dissent isn’t tolerated and the well-founded reputations of men and women are trashed to hell when they speak inconvenient truths against the state. We need vigorous, self-possessed strength and mental acuity to beat down Trump tyranny. Peter Montgomery Buttigieg is the best hope for the future.