Don’t ‘fly-over’ Mayor Pete

Tufts students in awe of South Bend leader

IF YOU THOUGHT you could get through the 2020 election cycle without needing to learn the proper pronunciation of “Buttigieg,” guess again.

On Friday, March 8, the three of us drove to New Hampshire with open minds to hear Pete Buttigieg make his case for the presidency. We left at 5:30 a.m. to get to the Politics and Eggs series at St. Anselm Institute of Politics, a press and sponsors event that one of our group talked our way into.

Buttigieg is often referred to as Mayor Pete, as both he and his husband, Chasten, can’t agree on the phonetics of their last name (Boot-edge-edge and Buddha-judge, respectively). Everything else about him was far easier to understand because he’s thoughtful and articulate.

At 37 years old, Buttigieg is an accomplished politician, former intelligence and naval reserve officer, and change-maker. Known for his two-term stewardship of South Bend, Indiana, which was listed by Newsweek in 2011 as one of America’s dying cities, Buttigieg came to the scene in 2012 leading South Bend to prosperity. In 2014, Buttigieg defied election odds by winning reelection in South Bend with 80 percent of the vote six months after he came out of the closet, an increase from the 74 percent of the vote he received in 2011.

If elected, Buttigieg would be the youngest president in history, and it’s apparent how he’s using his youth and energy to redefine American values and look toward the future — his as much as ours.

His focus: freedom, democracy, and security. Buttigieg notes that our current conception of freedom focuses on freedom from government. He proposes another definition of freedom: the freedom to – the freedom to exercise legal rights, the freedom to marry, and the freedom to choose. Embracing his vision of freedom and reminding the audience that it was International Women’s Day, he stood in support of adding an equal rights amendment to the Constitution to guarantee equal rights for all citizens, regardless of sex.

Buttigieg has bold ideas, clear motivation, and can relate to the problems affecting our generation. He has a vested interest in the fulfillment of his promises and the success of his policies, as he too will live with the implications of his administration. Buttigieg does not practice politics through battling ideologies and exchanging favors for electoral support; instead, he seeks to shape and protect our shared future.

What we need now is a change in the way we see our government, the political landscape, and American values as a whole. This will not come from abandoning the systems and norms that have allowed this country to thrive in the past, nor will it come from trying to recreate the past. It will come from a generation that can learn from the greatness of our achievements. Not by trying to replicate them, but by understanding that our best moments in history were driven by leaders focused on the future.

Buttigieg knows this and is aware that we must deconstruct our political system from the ground up while keeping the building blocks that have made us stronger, and throwing out our failed supports. Buttigieg supports abolishing the Electoral College because he has seen the electoral vote overpower the voice of the people twice. He supports Supreme Court reform because it was a single Supreme Court vote that allowed him to marry his husband. He supports gun control because he was a high school senior when the Columbine shooting occurred, and knows the fear and confusion that people our age feel walking into school.

None of us deserve to feel this way, and it’s not just young people who are experiencing this sense of disenchantment. For so many, as Buttigieg points out, the system we live in no longer works.

Buttigieg believes we are at a pivotal moment in this country, a hinge point between political eras in American democracy. He explained that the current Democratic Party thinks one election cycle at a time. His solution to this problem is building an intergenerational alliance; a coalition of Americans who want to see a brighter future for the country.

The changes we make now must match our acceleration as a country in diversity, energy, and nuance. We need a leader who understands the root of the problems and is ready and willing to make resolute changes that impact people’s daily lives, so let’s make sure we are not overlooking this mayor from “fly-over” country because our biases have entrenched a belief that mayors don’t have enough experience.

Buttigieg is not well known, but in order to spread his message, we must start having conversations to change the narrative that young people need to wait to be given control of their power, instead of aligning in our joint beliefs and looking to the future. We can begin this movement by having what Buttigieg calls call “dorm room talks,” neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, and maybe meet someone new and engage them in the process.

At the end of the day, the three of us were equal parts profane, emotional, and energized, and we all agreed that Buttigieg over-delivered and left us with a lingering set of chills and amazement. Loading into the car after spending the morning listening to and asking questions of Buttigieg, we were all overcome by profound emotions. It’s not every day you come across a politician that is able to incite such passion in people and to make them so hopeful for the future ahead.

Meet the Author

Mallory Warner

Student, Tufts University
Meet the Author

Simone Lewis

Student, Tufts University
Meet the Author

Noah Shamus

Student, Tufts University
Hopefully, a future navigated by Pete Buttigieg.

Mallory Warner of Mamaroneck, New York; Simone Lewis of Berkeley, California; and Noah Shamus of New York City are students at Tufts University, class of 2022.