I can’t speak for other Republican gays but Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg being gay has as much influence on my political voting agenda as Bernie Sanders being Jewish did in 2016.
Still, I am not a die-hard Republican either. While I was never quite a Never Trumper, I wasn’t particularly pro-Trump either. I assumed Hillary would win, and there would be another opportunity in four years.
In fact, I don’t view the election as directly important to my everyday life. Over time I have moved back and forth in my support for Trump and his administration, celebrating his tax plan and judicial nominees while disapproving of his immigration stances and fixation on personal matters. I haven’t made up my mind about the 2020 election yet.
All this considered, out of all of the potential nominees on the Democratic side, Buttigieg is the one I am most interested in seeing more of. As an individual, he is remarkably accomplished and his engagement with political issues seems to indicate a strong desire for open discussion rather than pure tribal politics.
Ben Shapiro tweeted, “Buttigieg is legitimately interesting, has a military record and sterling intellectual credentials,” while also commenting that Buttigieg seemed to have a willingness to engage in opposing political debate. In an interview regarding his lighthearted comment on Chick-fil-A, Buttigieg said, “To me, there are two things that can happen when you are conscious of your identity. One is it turns into all these ways we separate ourselves from each other, and it just turns into one big ‘You don’t know me.’ But the other way we can do it is to say, ‘Okay, I’ve got this experience, you’ve got that experience, what can we talk about that brings us together?'”
Buttigieg has a solid resume. As his Wikipedia page describes: “Buttigieg is a graduate of Harvard University and Oxford University, having attended Pembroke College, Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. From 2007 to 2010 he worked at McKinsey and Company, a management strategy consulting firm. From 2009 to 2017 Buttigieg served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve, attaining the rank of lieutenant and deploying for the War in Afghanistan in 2014.”
Buttigieg was a late bloomer in LGBT terms as well, coming out officially in 2015. We both married a few months apart in the same year, which suggests he understands the curious mix of contentment and anxiety a first-year marriage provides, especially doing so in the full view of the public. He is a best-selling author. He became the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2011 and ran a campaign for Democratic National Committee chair in 2017.
Ironically, his work history, personal history, humble ambition, and military service, offer conservatives some areas of common interest. He understands the value of education, determination, self-reliance, personal responsibility, civic duty, and polite discourse. Unfortunately, he remains what could be described as a moderate leftist in politics, and seems to be moving more to the left as his spotlight gets brighter.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell defended Vice President Mike Pence against recent political attacks by Buttigieg saying, “One of the things that really bothers me about this attack is that Mike Pence is a friend of mine. Mike and Karen are great people. They are godly people. They’re followers of Christ. They don’t have hate in their heart for anyone. They know my partner, they have accepted us.”
Using very strong language, he referred to Buttigieg spreading a “hate hoax” against Pence for casting aspersions on Pence’s faith due to presumed disagreement with gay relationships. This seemed to only surface once Buttigieg’s campaign began to gain widespread media attention. Shapiro also noted that Buttigieg seems to be acting more in “bad faith” than previously in his comments towards Pence. Shapiro and Grenell are correct.
Buttigieg’s positions align with his competitors’ in meaning and purpose, though presented in a gentler way. He supports Medicare for All, with the caveat that it should be an option people choose, which he believes the majority will. He is pro-choice and has stated regarding late-term abortions, “When a woman is in that situation … extremely difficult, painful, often medically serious situations where life or health of the mother is at stake, involvement of a male government official like me is not helpful.”
In 2017, on the issue of gun control, he said, “I did not carry an assault weapon around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen,” and later clarified, “If this came out wrong, forgive me. Just expressing one war vet’s hurt at seeing weapons of war used on peaceful Americans here at home.” He takes a similar position to Sen. Elizabeth Warren on taxes and income inequality, supporting an open discussion on universal income and increasing both taxes on the wealthy and the minimum wage.
Finally, he supports expanding the Supreme Court and ending the Electoral College. Buttigieg stands out as someone worth listening to, when he isn’t targeting Pence for unfair criticism of course, but his positions are clearly to the left.
One thing that separates a gay person on the right from a gay person on the left is freedom of political interest. We are free to pursue our own political ideals and seek out candidates who align with our goals and principles.
Although I recognize the significance to our society that President Obama represented, a gay president is just not on the same historic level. Many gays on the right are enthusiastic Trump supporters, and I encourage them to use their voices for their cause. Others, like me, fall into the position of watching and waiting for the best of our ideals to present itself, rather than choosing to vote out of loyalty or obligation.
Generally, on the right, we aren’t accused of betraying our “people” as members of the LGBT community for choosing one path or another. Gays on the left are afforded far less freedom of choice by their own political kin.
It’s also uncommon for those on the right to be inspired purely by identity politics. Conservative women do not seem especially moved to elect a woman president, nor do Jewish conservatives tend to long for a Jew to run for higher office if they don’t particularly care for the individual’s policies. As a gay person, I feel the same way.
I will always vote for the person who best represents my political interests and proves he or she will uphold the Constitution above all else, regardless of what he looks like, where he comes from, or which identities we have in common. I wish Mayor Pete the best of luck, but I am holding out my vote for someone I can stand with on his or her positions and not just his or her identity.