On Sunday, April 14, Pete Buttigieg officially announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Buttigieg is the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg, the son of a Maltese immigrant father and an American mother, was raised in the same neighborhood where he now lives. He is a Rhodes Scholar, alumnus of Harvard University and polyglot. He is also an Afghanistan war veteran, an Episcopalian and, if he is elected, would be the youngest President in history.
The ability of our government to advance policy the American people want depends on building a government that truly represents the people. To accomplish this, Buttigieg advocates for dismantling the Electoral College so that every person’s vote counts equally and the overruling of the American people’s choice (which has happened twice the last two decades) is no longer possible. He proposes increasing the number of Supreme Court justices to 15: five who would be appointed by a conservative president, five who would be appointed by a liberal president and five who would be rotated up from appellate courts. The selection of those five would have to be unanimous among the other 10, which would even out the bench by providing a moderate voice.
Climate change is a serious security issue for our generation but we will not make policy advancement without electoral reform first, which is why it must be the second priority of the Buttigieg campaign. Without a government that is responsive to its constituents, any comprehensive efforts to combat the effects of climate change will be strangled in the courts (like parts of the original New Deal were) and we’ll be nowhere. Within a period of 18 months, South Bend had first a 1000-year flood and then a 500-year flood, and the city immediately began researching ways to mitigate the effects of another such flood — especially in hard-hit areas from these last two.
Another security issue for our generation and generations to come is cybersecurity. We owe it to ourselves to have a government that respects net neutrality and protects user data, which is a necessity in the modern economy. We owe it to ourselves to have policies that match the level of technological development we have attained and we owe it to ourselves to elect representatives who understand this technology at the bare minimum level to effectively legislate it.
Conservative rhetoric generally follows that government is the only entity that can take away freedoms, which is not only wrong, but also doesn’t acknowledge the rest of the picture. Yes, government can take away freedoms, but, Buttigieg said in his campaign announcement, “Your neighbor can make you unfree. Your cable company can make you unfree. There’s a lot more to your freedom than the size of your government.” And he’s right, but government can also give you rights to things. Good government can give us the freedom to have a good education and accessible, affordable healthcare.
Buttigieg’s healthcare plan is called “Medicare for All Who Want It,” and it is a transition from our current system to something that looks more like single-payer. Another freedom government can give us is a good education system. Buttigieg and his husband (a teacher at a school in Mishawaka, IN, which is near South Bend) are both still paying off student loans, so they know both the value and the struggle that is our current higher education system. His current plans for higher education include reducing the overall cost of tuition, allowing for refinancing of student loans and providing further opportunities for loan forgiveness, such as non-mandatory national service — which would be reminiscent of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps program — to provide a cross-cultural pollination to reduce the gaping divide we have in our society between civilian and military life.
The most common criticism of Buttigieg is his lack of experience, but he doesn’t really see this as a drawback. As an Afghanistan veteran, he has military experience, and as mayor of South Bend, he has executive experience. He knows how to manage large numbers of people. He argues that managing a city is a microcosm of managing a country — that you get an idea of the sorts of problems that hit the American people on a regular basis.
He has to respond to disasters in a way that is both comforting and promises to make meaningful change to the system to prevent future disasters. He has to respond to racially sensitive violence. He also has to be a source of moral leadership for the people whose city he runs. He has been criticized for his perceived stance on Israel, but has condemned Netanyahu for his human rights violations. Buttigieg believes that we should use our influence as a global power to seek a peaceful solution. He acknowledges that the situation in the Middle East is fraught, but believes that if we make decisions in line with our collective cultural values, we can come to the best possible solution, and when we have compromised our values in the past, there have been serious consequences.
Pete Buttigieg is a promising candidate in the Democratic Primary who has skyrocketed from less than one percent support up to being one of the top contenders in both national and some state polls. His strong stance on American values, redefining what freedom and security should mean and his ideas for restructuring the way our democracy works mean he is ideally suited to fight the rhetorical battle with Republicans that Democrats so often lose, because we are caught up in the minutiae of policy. For more detail on his policy proposals, visit meetpete.org.
Grace Gasperson is a freshman studying Global War and Peace at Ohio University.