Mayor Pete's Advantage

Pete Buttigieg may pose problems that GOP operatives are not prepared to handle. Out of a field of more than twenty Democratic presidential candidates, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana stands out as an openly, proudly married gay. He flaunts his lifestyle in a way that may leave his political opponents at a disadvantage. Buttigieg campaigns with his gay spouse Chasten Glezman, and in yesterday’s New York Post (April 22, 2019), columnist Cindy Adams can hardly contain her moderate Republican enthusiasm in describing how Pete “shines” next to his gay spouse out on the hustings.

Buttigieg has every reason to play up his gayness. As a white male, it gives him an advantage against other white males in a party that “celebrates diversity.” Unlike Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, he is living what until quite recently was a morally daring “lifestyle” and is doing so with a “look at me” attitude. Buttigieg also plays up his religious piety as an “Episcopalian” and conveniently finds no contradiction between, on the one side, his “faith” and, on the other, his gay marriage and his advocacy of very late-term abortion. In his world and in that of his potential voters these choices are entirely compatible and indicate that Buttigieg is a “good person.” Since he is in every other way indistinguishable from most of the rest of the Democratic field, his ostentatious gayness has become his strong suit.

Even before the time that Buttigieg announced his candidacy, the media fell wildly in love with him and attributed to him creative thinking, multilingual fluency, and the keyboard virtuosity of a concert pianist. One had the impression when reading description of him that one was listening to a Jewish mother praising “my son the doctor.” The only difference being that the Jewish mother may be describing the real article, while the extravagant praise lavished on Buttigieg seemed really over the top. He plays the piano like an accomplished cocktail lounge musician, has a “conversational” but not fluent knowledge of several languages (including Maltese because his father is from Malta), and sounds pretty much the same as Corey, Kamala, Kirsten, and the rest of their troupe, even down to such details as paying blacks reparations, introducing some kind of “green deal,” and thinking it’s fine to kill off late-term fetuses.

Where he is a powerful contender is precisely on the gay question. For better or worse (and please don’t ask my approval), most Americans (67% as recently as May, 2018) are delighted with the institution of gay marriage and are happy to see it favorably treated in the media. While it’s foolish to believe that the public just “evolved” toward this view here or in any other Western country, without being pushed in this direction by multiple political, cultural, and educational sources, it would be equally naïve to think this consensus will soon evaporate. Buttigieg is riding a crest of popular acceptance whenever he affirms his gayness and whenever he campaigns with Chasten, the spouse whom he quite fashionably met online. Even more significantly Mayor Pete feels free to beat up on social traditionalists and Bible-believing Christians, whom he assumes don’t approve of his lifestyle or his media-endorsed expression of Christian faith. He did this recently when he gratuitously laced into Vice President Mike Pence for presumably not accepting gay marriage as a good thing. The fact that Pence as governor of Indiana got along with Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, did not weigh at all in the decision to launch this diatribe.

Mayor Pete was scoring points with his own base, while putting the Republican opposition further in a bind.  What do Republican politicians and media personalities do with a presidential candidate who is making an issue out of his gayness and even attributing it to “my Creator,” as if being gay were an act of obedience to God? Pence, who supposedly wishes to “convert” gays into becoming straight, is seen as violating the divine will. Not he but Buttigieg, we are made to believe, is the true Christian.  

The Republican response to Buttigieg’s playing the gay card to the hilt has been to try to ignore it, beyond intermittently assuring us that Pence is a nice fellow who wouldn’t be inclined to hurt anyone’s feelings. Last week I heard Laura Ingraham trying to find something negative to say about Buttigieg but the closest she came to her goal was complaining about his tendency to imitate the speaking style of Obama, when Trump’s predecessor ran for president in 2008. Laura prefaced her mild rebuke by dwelling on Mayor Pete’s “elegant” rhetoric and then derided the Left for treating Buttigieg as a “new political Messiah.” Although Laura scolded Buttigieg for his “self-righteous” attack on Pence, she tried to stay clear of the gay issue. That after all is Buttigieg’s strength, and the Republicans may be justified in dealing with it cautiously.   And oh yes, Mayor Pete is “surging” in the polls.

Pete Buttigieg may pose problems that GOP operatives are not prepared to handle. Out of a field of more than twenty Democratic presidential candidates, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana stands out as an openly, proudly married gay. He flaunts his lifestyle in a way that may leave his political opponents at a disadvantage. Buttigieg campaigns with his gay spouse Chasten Glezman, and in yesterday’s New York Post (April 22, 2019), columnist Cindy Adams can hardly contain her moderate Republican enthusiasm in describing how Pete “shines” next to his gay spouse out on the hustings.

Buttigieg has every reason to play up his gayness. As a white male, it gives him an advantage against other white males in a party that “celebrates diversity.” Unlike Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, he is living what until quite recently was a morally daring “lifestyle” and is doing so with a “look at me” attitude. Buttigieg also plays up his religious piety as an “Episcopalian” and conveniently finds no contradiction between, on the one side, his “faith” and, on the other, his gay marriage and his advocacy of very late-term abortion. In his world and in that of his potential voters these choices are entirely compatible and indicate that Buttigieg is a “good person.” Since he is in every other way indistinguishable from most of the rest of the Democratic field, his ostentatious gayness has become his strong suit.

Even before the time that Buttigieg announced his candidacy, the media fell wildly in love with him and attributed to him creative thinking, multilingual fluency, and the keyboard virtuosity of a concert pianist. One had the impression when reading description of him that one was listening to a Jewish mother praising “my son the doctor.” The only difference being that the Jewish mother may be describing the real article, while the extravagant praise lavished on Buttigieg seemed really over the top. He plays the piano like an accomplished cocktail lounge musician, has a “conversational” but not fluent knowledge of several languages (including Maltese because his father is from Malta), and sounds pretty much the same as Corey, Kamala, Kirsten, and the rest of their troupe, even down to such details as paying blacks reparations, introducing some kind of “green deal,” and thinking it’s fine to kill off late-term fetuses.

Where he is a powerful contender is precisely on the gay question. For better or worse (and please don’t ask my approval), most Americans (67% as recently as May, 2018) are delighted with the institution of gay marriage and are happy to see it favorably treated in the media. While it’s foolish to believe that the public just “evolved” toward this view here or in any other Western country, without being pushed in this direction by multiple political, cultural, and educational sources, it would be equally naïve to think this consensus will soon evaporate. Buttigieg is riding a crest of popular acceptance whenever he affirms his gayness and whenever he campaigns with Chasten, the spouse whom he quite fashionably met online. Even more significantly Mayor Pete feels free to beat up on social traditionalists and Bible-believing Christians, whom he assumes don’t approve of his lifestyle or his media-endorsed expression of Christian faith. He did this recently when he gratuitously laced into Vice President Mike Pence for presumably not accepting gay marriage as a good thing. The fact that Pence as governor of Indiana got along with Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, did not weigh at all in the decision to launch this diatribe.

Mayor Pete was scoring points with his own base, while putting the Republican opposition further in a bind.  What do Republican politicians and media personalities do with a presidential candidate who is making an issue out of his gayness and even attributing it to “my Creator,” as if being gay were an act of obedience to God? Pence, who supposedly wishes to “convert” gays into becoming straight, is seen as violating the divine will. Not he but Buttigieg, we are made to believe, is the true Christian.  

The Republican response to Buttigieg’s playing the gay card to the hilt has been to try to ignore it, beyond intermittently assuring us that Pence is a nice fellow who wouldn’t be inclined to hurt anyone’s feelings. Last week I heard Laura Ingraham trying to find something negative to say about Buttigieg but the closest she came to her goal was complaining about his tendency to imitate the speaking style of Obama, when Trump’s predecessor ran for president in 2008. Laura prefaced her mild rebuke by dwelling on Mayor Pete’s “elegant” rhetoric and then derided the Left for treating Buttigieg as a “new political Messiah.” Although Laura scolded Buttigieg for his “self-righteous” attack on Pence, she tried to stay clear of the gay issue. That after all is Buttigieg’s strength, and the Republicans may be justified in dealing with it cautiously.   And oh yes, Mayor Pete is “surging” in the polls.