In Pete’s Words: This is what Iowa has taught me

by Pete Buttigieg – Jan. 2, 2020 (

Ending Donald Trump’s presidency is important, but the task also includes launching the era that must come next, tackling urgent crises in our nation.

A decade ago, I came to Iowa knocking doors for a young presidential candidate with a funny name. The stakes were high in that election. They are enormous now.

Traveling throughout Iowa this year, I’ve met workers facing rising costs and stagnant wages. Farmers are paying the price of a reckless trade war. Our children are learning active shooter drills before they learn to read. 

Iowans cannot afford four more years of this president or the division that he exploits. On the morning after this president leaves office, the sun will come up on a country even more bitterly divided than we are now, exhausted from fighting — and still facing urgent crises. 

This election will decide whether the next president will mobilize Americans behind bold ideas or polarize them around the same Washington fights that have held us back for decades. We need to elect a president who can not only end the era of Donald Trump, but can launch the era that must come next. I’m running for president to lead a nation done with division and hungry for action. 

I’ve seen that hunger on display throughout Iowa.  

I’ve seen it in the Des Moines mother who wrote me that her medical bills had become so expensive that she and her parents sold their homes to pay for her 24-hour care. That’s why I’ve proposed Medicare for All Who Want It, which guarantees every American affordable coverage while letting you choose which plan is best for you, and introduced Long-Term Care America to ensure all Americans are supported. I measure the power of an idea not by how much controversy it generates, but by how many people it can help. 

In a sweltering barn in Shenandoah, I met a young man who wanted to know how agriculture in the Midwest could help lead the fight against climate change. “People tend to forget about us,” he said. I told him how we’d put rural communities like his at the center of a national project and achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

During a Fourth of July parade in Storm Lake, I marched alongside 24 floats proudly displaying the two dozen countries that made up the area’s immigrant population. Places like Storm Lake inspired my plan for community renewal visas to attract immigrants to areas experiencing population decline, and strengthen my faith that we can manage our border in accordance with our values and our laws.

And I’ve seen that spirit in a teenager from Muscatine who found the courage to be open about her autism after watching our campaign lead with values of inclusion and belonging. 

It may seem out of place, to emphasize unity and belonging at a time like this. But my sense of hope is based not in my age but in my experience. 

In the dust of a war zone, I saw fellow Americans who had nothing in common besides the flag on our shoulders learn to trust each other with our lives. Amid the ruins of old factories, I saw my hometown answer those who called us a “dying city” by rising up and forging a new future. One afternoon in South Bend, I walked into my church, having once believed that something inside would make me forever an outsider — and walked out a married man. And in some of the most conservative counties in Iowa, and in more than 20 counties I’ve visited that voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump, I’ve witnessed the makings of an American majority made up of progressives, moderates, and even what I like to call “future former Republicans” sickened by the actions of this president, ready for something better.  

What I’ve seen in Iowa has made me a better candidate, and it will make me a better president. There’s still plenty of work to be done before the caucus on Feb. 3. But I am forever grateful to have been welcomed into your communities. Propelled by your stories and your support, we can change the trajectory of our nation and usher in that era that must come next.

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