Mayor Pete is out. After a disappointing fourth-place finish in the South Carolina primary, where Pete Buttigieg received only a little over 8 percent of the vote, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, announced he is suspending his 2020 presidential campaign. At long last, the pandering is over. The religious rhetoric is done. The robot has powered down.
But don’t get used to it. He’ll be back soon.
Buttigieg’s reasons for dropping out are noble, or so the fawning media say. For a candidate who has staked his entire campaign platform on unity, his gracious exit so voters can unify around one candidate is only fitting.
“We have a responsibility to consider the effect of remaining in this race any further,” Buttigieg said to his supporters in South Bend. “We must recognize then at this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with [our] goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our party and our country together.”
Of course, if you’re reading between the lines, you know unity is a buzzword not a strategy, and ducking out of the race is, in part, the next step in blocking Sen. Bernie Sanders from the Democratic nomination. Buttigieg is all for bringing the country together — just as long as it’s not coming together around Sanders. Taking notes from the 2016 Republican presidential panic, Buttigieg’s exit is his contribution to a #NeverBernie crusade, an effort Amy Klobuchar joined today by also dropping out of the race.
Buttigieg Isn’t Really Leaving
But despite the media being smitten by the genius boy wonder and praising Buttigieg for his ultimate sacrifice for the party, his 2020 departure isn’t that noble because he’s not really leaving — at least not for long. Falling on the sword might have been brave and laudable if Joe Biden had done it: Here’s his final crack at the White House, but he forfeits it for the good of the country. But that’s not what happened here because unfortunately Pete Buttigieg isn’t going anywhere.
Buttigieg is 38 years old. In one year, he rose from being the no-name mayoral failure of a Midwest city to a leading presidential contender. But despite his lack of Washington experience, his resume glows with the sort of accolades elitists eat up: Rhodes scholar, LGBT card-holder, multi-lingual. He’s woke. He’s educated. He’s progressive. He’s in his political prime.
Pundits have postulated since Buttigieg’s initial bid that his sexuality would affect his outcome, asking whether America is “ready for a gay president.” But that question is made irrelevant by the bigger question: Is America ready for a white Barack Obama reboot in 2020? The answer, now confirmed, is no.
But could the party return to an Obama-esque coalition? Its wildly progressive swing suggests not, but its fracturing and undecided factions indicate anything is possible. Ignoring the possibility Buttigieg could be picked as the nominee’s VP in 2020, Buttigieg’s brand of progressivism may be a taste Democrats reacquire down the road.
Perhaps if the Democratic Party were truly forced to reckon with socialism, a real possibility if Sanders becomes the nominee, Pete could embody the party equilibrium in 2024 — or 2028 or 2032 or 2036. As a self-described unifying figure who appeals to religion, checks off a few woke boxes, and reminds Americans of a simpler time while also demonstrating progressive goals could be just what the Democratic Party later seeks.
Another possibility is that Buttigieg adapts to the pulse of the party. That seemed to be his strategy in 2020, wherein he juxtaposed his calming pseudo-bipartisanship against Trump’s divisive persona, although it ultimately fell flat. But another four or eight years would give the former mayor plenty of time to reestablish himself. His ambition won’t just dissipate.
Pete’s Toxic Ideas Don’t Die with His Campaign
For Republicans, Buttigieg’s drop isn’t the time to go on auto-pilot. Prudence would dictate maintaining a keen awareness and remembrance of his dangerous ideas because they don’t die with his campaign.
Buttigieg is all-in on abortion, an endless supply of “women’s right to choose” talking points. He has even gone so far as to support abortion until the moment of birth, trying to defend his radical position with Scripture by claiming the Bible says life begins with breath.
He supports court-packing, refers to guns as idols, wants to abolish the Electoral College, clings to the hotly contested Obamacare individual mandate, essentially calls non-agreement with his climate change priorities “a kind of sin,” and weaponizes traditional biblical teaching on human sexuality as bigotry. Buttigieg truly was the most dangerous candidate for Christianity, a reality which will not disappear as long as his ideas keep taking hold and Pete himself remains in the public eye.
And that’s precisely where he’ll stay, I predict. Only time will tell whether Buttigieg is actually electable, but unelectability isn’t always a deterrent for power-seekers. Hillary Clinton was in her early 30s when she entered the political scene as the first lady of Arkansas — and then she held on like a bad cold. Forty-plus years later, we still can’t get rid of her. If Buttigieg continues to seek the nomination until he is Sanders’ age, we’ll still be listening to his “future former Republican” stump speeches and cutting through his rhetoric in 2060.
Don’t fall asleep at the wheel, voters. Buttigieg is gone for now, but he’s very much still here. Just you wait.