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"To back up this assertion requires a lot of speculation, but it’s 2019, and speculation is our right. Let’s exercise it," T.A. Frank writes in his Vanity Fair article, "A Bit of Crazy Wouldn't Hurt." The difference being he was asserting his opinion that Bernie Sanders could challenge Trump and win the White House back for the Democrats. This assertion is along the same trajectory, but for a different candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. As Mr. Frank said, let's start speculating.
The biggest strength that Buttigieg has at his disposal right now is his fresh face. Should he win the Democratic nomination for President, he is the one who can claim to have outsider status. This was an important talking point for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in 2016, both men weaponized outsider status more than any other candidate in their respective fields could. Yet for Sanders, this was a bold assertion, if not a downright lie. For Trump, the king of liars, it could be argued it was one of the truest things he said since he announced his candidacy. But Mayor Pete is really an outsider when it comes to Washington politics, and should he chose to use that weapon handed to him by his two opponents, it could help propel him to the Oval Office.
One of the perks of being a fresh face in national politics is people get to know stances as revealed by the candidate. AOC is a great example of this, she catapulted herself to political superstardom, by holding firm in her beliefs about a new Green Deal and living wages, driving the right crazy. Buttigieg, likewise, has been able to talk about his views with very little interference from past gaffes. The one he had to talk about was when he opined that All Lives Matter, the hashtag that grew from the racist belief that Black Lives Matter members were saying only their lives were important. He acknowledged his mistake and moved on, in a show of real leadership. Which is something Trump could take a lesson in. Even after being caught in lie after lie, Trump holds his assertion, and tries to make his alternative facts into the truth. Most people seem to be tiring of this, and Mayor Pete's willingness to admit to a mistake is a welcome reprieve from the usual politics of lying and cover-ups.
Another trademark of usual politics is dragging out religion. Trump has claimed to have a very strong faith. Nothing says "good Christian man" like banging a porn star hours after the wife gives birth, or walking in on beauty pageant contestants as they are getting ready for another segment, or bragging on camera about making a move on a married lady, and then saying women let stars grab them by the genitals. By contrast, Buttigieg lives his faith and in fact, says he believes he was led to public service by scripture. He told Kristen Powers:
“When I think about where most of Scripture points me, it is toward defending the poor, and the immigrant, and the stranger, and the prisoner, and the outcast, and those who are left behind by the way society works, And what we have now is this exaltation of wealth and power, almost for its own sake, that in my reading of Scripture couldn’t be more contrary to the message of Christianity. So I think it’s really important to carry a message (to the public), knitting together a lot of groups that have already been on this path for some time, but giving them more visibility in the public sphere.”
Yes, he used his religion as a way to win over voters, but he has also acknowledged he is a long-shot candidate. Or he was, when he entered the race. Most polls have seen him raise as high as to third place, in some of the key states that will be needed to secure the nomination to face off against Trump. In an interesting twist that is not normally seen, instead of playing on people's compassion, Buttigieg used religion to justify his more socialist stances. The hard right evangelicals will never swing their support for the adulterer-in-chief, because Mayor Pete is a happily married gay man, and there is nothing they hate more than that, except maybe a happily married black man.
Speaking of President Barack Obama, Mayor Pete has something in common with him; Charisma. No matter where one stands politically, it cannot be denied that both men are charming and have a compelling way of speaking, holding their audience attention captive. Both men are brilliant, which shows through when they speak. There is no need for them to repeat their point multiple times, like a chant or as a way of trying to brainwash supporters in a cult-like way. Buttigieg went to Harvard and is a Rhodes Scholar. To say he would wipe the floor with Trump intellectually would be like saying Oprah is a better show host than Megyn Kelly. Facts are facts, and the proof is in the ratings (or in the politicians' case in the grade point averages).
None of these things guarantee success. Even winning the popular vote isn't a sure thing of winning the White House. If it were, Hillary Clinton would be our first female President, and there would be another clown car of Republican candidates vying for the nomination, instead of the Democrats clown car full of candidates. The thing that Trump understood very well in 2016, is that the midwest is the key to winning the Electoral College. It could and has been argued that is why he chose Mike Pence as his Vice President, to help swing Indiana over to him. Then he targeted Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin like a diabolical mad man. He was not concerned with being popular, or trying to turn states purple, he was interested in solidifying his base, in a way to secure the only win that mattered. Mission accomplished.
While much could be written about how he failed to recognize that more than half of the country voted against him, Trump stuck to his strategy. Buttigieg, if given the nomination, will challenge that perception in a big way. Indiana will not be a given "Red State" in the 2020 election, so more resources will be poured into the state. Michigan will be a battleground state, with the tariffs hurting farmers and the rural population that propelled Trump to turn the state red, being hurt the most with the current trade policies. Likewise, Wisconsin is likely up for grabs again, and with a Republican power grab controversy rolling over that state, there is bound to be a lot of voters turned off by that party.
This is where Mayor Pete's midwestern upbringing and temperament will come in handy for him. Rather than resorting to calling name, which as a gay man and near genius level intelligence, he could come up with some doozies, Buttigieg will use manners and be polite. As if people have asserted multiple times they are sick of the name-calling and nastiness that has come to define politics, Mayor Pete will be able to shine and bring a semblance of civility. It could be a test of what people really want.
The other test will be his youth. Buttigieg is 37-years-old, to Trump's 72 years. The contrast is stark, and could be an asset or a debt. Most of the older people think it's time for a new generation to take the lead, and for the "old codgers to step gracefully." Trump being Trump, he wants to consolidate his power and will not bow out, but if the elderly all think like the sample polled, then there could be a new contingent for him to win over again. Mayor Pete has already won some of the older people over, with his straightforward answers and thoughts on social security, which will be a major issue for them going forward. This faction always turns out on Election Days, so winning them over should be a priority for every candidate. It's also how Trump propelled himself past "Crooked Hillary" in 2016, that nickname stuck with them as did the "Lock her up" chant.
The case for Pete Buttigieg winning the White House is strong, he just needs to win the nomination, and prepare himself to face Jabba The Trump.