The case for Pete Buttigieg is simple: The Democratic Party wins when it nominates young, charismatic leaders who are able to convince people outside the party’s base that Democratic values are their own.
[Pete Buttigieg] would be able to pair a form of liberalism that’s more ambitious than Obama’s with a sophistication about political institutions and structures that Obama sometimes lacked. The combination could prove incredibly powerful, and redefine the party for a generation. The results out of Iowa suggest that Democratic voters are beginning to see it too.
Here is a brief rundown of economic and social policies he’s endorsed and promoted:
- A $15-an-hour minimum wage
- A universal child allowance of at least $2,000 per child, and quadrupling of the earned income tax credit for single adults
- “Affordable, universal full-day child care and pre-K for all children from infancy to age 5”
- A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
- A Medicare buy-in open to all meant to “create a natural glide-path to Medicare for All”
- A cap on all student loan payments as a share of income, forgiven in full after 20 years
But that’s not all. Buttigieg has devoted attention to big structural problems that afflict our democracy, and has proposed solutions that are genuinely radical.
- DC/Puerto Rico statehood, banning gerrymandering, ending the Electoral College, and ending the filibuster
- Expanding and reforming the Supreme Court to curb partisan rulings
- Sectoral union bargaining where agreements apply to whole industries, not just individual companies
- A carbon tax rebated to taxpayers in cash, plus a quadrupling of research and development funding for clean energy
Taken as a whole, his agenda isn’t as ambitious as that of Sanders or Warren. But make no mistake: This is a bold wish list, full of items that either the Obama administration struggled to pass even with 59 senators (like immigration reform and a price on carbon emissions) or that would’ve been too radical for Obama to begin with (like a $15 minimum wage, universal child care, a Medicare buy-in not limited to the elderly, and sectoral bargaining — the last of which has barely received any coverage, but which would at a stroke vastly increase the power of the American labor movement).
The fact that his agenda isn’t as progressive as those on the left flank of the party is a plus for Buttigieg, not a minus. Sanders and Warren have performed a valuable service by making the objectively quite ambitious agenda of Buttigieg appear, by comparison, incredibly mild, a centrist approach to expanding the safety net.
A perception of relative moderation will most likely help, not hurt, the eventual nominee. The most rigorous studies on this question from political scientists tend to find that moderate nominees have a distinct advantage over ones perceived as more extreme, largely because they don’t activate their opponent’s base the same way a more extreme nominee would.
Put another way: Sanders would terrify and turn out Trump’s base, whereas Buttigieg likely would not.