Category Archives: From the Press

Buttigieg has a realistic view of today’s politics

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.

by Dylan Matthews – Feb 4, 2020 (, excerpt)

[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:

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.

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.

Pete Buttigieg And The Longing For Good Leaders

by Erika Andersen – Jan 10, 2020 (, abridged)

As I’ve been following the Democratic presidential primary over the past year, amidst all the usual punditry and posturing, I’ve noticed one truly unusual thing: the ascendency of Pete Buttigieg.

Here’s a young man in his late 30s who – although unusually accomplished and experienced in a variety of interesting and relevant ways – has never held a national political office and was virtually unknown nationally when he formed his presidential exploratory committee in January of 2019. He had a handful of staffers, a small mailing list, and a few thousand dollars in funding. He is not personally wealthy (in fact, he and his husband have six-figure student debt), and his most significant work experience is the eight years he just completed as mayor of his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

From those modest beginnings, over the past year he has vaulted past a historically huge field of governors, congresspeople, mayors of much larger cities, and billionaires to take his place as one of four top contenders for the nomination. The other three – Warren, Sanders and Biden – have all spent decades on the national political stage and have very high national name recognition.  Two of them have run for President before, and one of them has been Vice President. They started their campaigns with millions of dollars personally and in their campaign coffers, multiple endorsements from key national figures, and mailing lists in the hundreds of thousands.Today In: Leadership

What’s going on here?

I have, as you might suspect, a theory. I wrote a book eight years ago called Leading So People Will Follow, and on the first page, I note that human beings crave, and have always craved, good leaders – that we long for good, worthy, followable leaders in every aspect of our lives. I state my belief that this longing is ancient, primal – a survival mechanism. I believe it is part of what helped us survive in ages past, when choosing the wrong leader could lead to starvation, being overrun by invaders, the erosion of law and civility. I further note that this instinct moves us to look for leaders who we feel will guide us well and safely; who will care more about the success of the enterprise than about their own comfort; who will call out our best and take full advantage of who we are. Finally I reflected that, although the stakes in choosing leaders aren’t as high today is in previous centuries, our wiring hasn’t really changed.

I believe what I said then about our longing for leaders is even more true now. But I was wrong about the stakes – at least in this presidential election: the stakes may actually be higher than they’ve ever been, given the fragile state of geopolitics, our polarization socially and in terms of income and opportunity, and the existential threat of climate change. And our longing for good, true, honorable leaders has become correspondingly stronger; more of an ache, a thirst.

And it seems to me that millions of people are going right to that primal longing, looking past the amount of time spent in Congress or on the planet, and seeing Pete Buttigieg as this kind of leader.

In the Leading book, I further clarified what we look for in the leaders we want to follow, focusing on six timeless attributes that show up in stories told all over the world as being the necessary characteristics of the person who can slay the dragons, defeat the villains and allow us to live happily ever after. We look, and have always looked, for leaders who are Farsighted, Passionate, Courageous, Wise, Generous and Trustworthy.  And it seems to me that those characteristics show up again and again in Pete’s life and leadership.

He’s farsighted: he understands the big issues facing us – climate crisis, healthcare, racial and social inequity, immigration, gun violence – and sees the connections among all those things. He has proposed feasible plans to address them in a systemic and inclusive way. His reaction to the killing of Soleimani is a perfect example of Buttigieg calling us to look past a simplistic, short-term response and take into consideration the bigger picture and how that will impact us: “We need a strategy. Not just to deal with individual threats, rivalries and opportunities, but to manage global trends that will define the balance of this half-century in which my generation will live the majority of our lives.”

He’s passionate: He is deeply committed to the things about which he feels strongly – and keeps focusing on them no matter what’s happening around him. I see him reclaiming the core ideas of freedom, democracy, and security from the right, and expressing them – and fighting for them – as the progressive ideas they truly are. He talks about the importance of, for instance, reproductive freedom, and the freedom to start a small business or change jobs that would come from not being worried about losing your healthcare. He talks about improving our democracy by getting rid of the electoral college, moving corporate money out of politics and ending partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression.  And he focuses on addressing the critical security concerns of climate and cybersecurity. And not only does Buttigieg speak – clearly and compellingly – about his deep support for these things, he has worked to advance these issues throughout his time as mayor, and even earlier, as a college student and young professional working to get out the vote for progressive candidates who supported these values.

He’s courageous: he gives straightforward answers to difficult questions; he takes responsibility for his mistakes; he has led – and improved – his city calmly through fires, floods, and racial unrest. He is far better than any other politician I’ve observed at admitting when he’s made a mistake and has done something badly – and then working to improve, both himself and the outcome. He has made tough decisions: enlisting in the Navy reserve, and serving in Afghanistan; deciding to come out when he was running for his second term as mayor; leaving the campaign trail and returning home to respond to his community’s anger and grief in the wake of the fatal shooting of Eric Logan, a black man, by a South Bend police officer – doing these things because they seemed to him to be the right thing to do, even though they weren’t easy, personally beneficial, or politically expedient. We want this in our leaders, especially now: we want to know that they will be both brave and honorable in difficult and complicated times.

He’s wise: Pete is an astonishingly good listener (when he speaks, he almost always spends more than half his time on stage inviting and responding to questions) and he sees and shares the patterns in what he hears. For example, his Douglass Plan to address systemic racism, named for 19th century black abolitionist and politician Frederick Douglass, was developed in conversation with experts of color working in many areas of social justice, including the Douglass Foundation itself. Wisdom is the thoughtful application of knowledge, and Buttigieg’s plan builds on the facts of our current reality in the U.S. to outline a coordinated and feasible approach to dismantling the unjust and unequal policies and laws that have made it more difficult for people of color to thrive in housing, education, business, healthcare and criminal justice. When a leader is wise, we know that she or he will think deeply, alone and with others, about critical issues and will work to find solutions that are coherent, achievable and effective. Supporters of Pete’s see this quality in his plans and actions, and it makes them feel their deepest concerns will be dealt with fairly and well.

He’s generous: he is hopeful about our potential to move forward from this divisive time and find our way into a successful future together; he’s compassionate and loving toward even his enemies; he brings out the best in people. Talking to those who have worked most closely with him, both in his campaign and during his time as Mayor, you hear again and again that he is generous with his time and praise, that he freely shares information, power, responsibility and credit. One story I found particularly affecting: A doctor, working the emergency room of a hospital in South Bend when a Somalian mother and her gravely ill son arrived, was frantically trying to find someone to translate Arabic so he could help his patients, when “this young guy in a suit” showed up and began to translate. The mysterious young man spent about an hour helping the doctor and his colleagues understand what was happening and decide with the mother how to proceed, then took the mother and child to their room and spent another hour reassuring and talking with them. He finally returned to shake the doctor’s hand and say goodbye, and the doctor thanked him and asked how long he had been working at the hospital. He casually replied, “I don’t work for the hospital, I’m Mayor Pete.” The doctor found out later that Buttigieg had heard about the situation over the police scanner and simply wanted to help. (Arabic is one of seven languages he speaks.)

And finally, he’s trustworthy. In listening to Buttigieg respond to questions, I’ve noticed that he most often begins his response to even difficult or politically fraught questions with a simple “yes” or “no” before offering more context or explanation. Unlike most politicians, he doesn’t divert to a stock bland answer, prevaricate or evade: he tells the truth as he sees it. Perhaps even more important, he does what he says he’s going to do. He became Mayor of South Bend largely on the strength of his promise of revitalization; South Bend had just been listed by Newsweek as one of America’s “dying cities.” Eight years later, his promise of revitalization is being fulfilled in a variety of ways: unemployment is down dramatically, and the population is rising for the first time in decades.  The city has garnered hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment – industrial, commercial, and residential. Over a thousand vacant, unlivable homes have been demolished or repaired, and a community development organization started to help continue the process of supporting low-income people to repair their homes.  Even the lone Republican member of the South Bend City Council says, “I think if you ask not just me, but a lot of Republicans in South Bend, they’d have to admit that Pete has done a good job in a lot of ways. He’s done a great job of attracting new and exciting economic development opportunities. He’s got an eye for attracting young, innovative talent to the city and really breathing new life into an administration that could have been described before as old and maybe not so forward-thinking.” Especially in times of change and challenge, we want leaders who will tell us the truth and deliver on their promises.

In November of this year, we’ll find out which candidate Americans will select to lead us at this critical time. Given what I’m seeing now, I believe it may be that the more voters get to know about Pete Buttigieg, the more they will see in him these qualities of farsightedness, passion, courage, wisdom, generosity and trustworthiness. And our longing for that kind of leadership could send him to the White House, to guide Americans into a new and more hopeful and equitable chapter in our nation’s history.

Pete Buttigieg is “not afraid to ruffle feathers and get a job done”

The ‘Mayor Pete’ era is over in South Bend, Ind. What legacy does Pete Buttigieg leave?

by Matt Pearce – Jan 9, 2020 (, abridged)

On Jan. 1, Pete Buttigieg’s second term ended, and the “Mayor Pete” era in South Bend was over. In the Democratic presidential candidate’s telling, he presided over a Rust Belt comeback story in Indiana’s fourth-largest city, a metaphor for what is possible elsewhere in America.

Before Buttigieg took office in 2012, downtown had been moribund for decades. Aging, abandoned homes dragged down spirits in poorer neighborhoods. Unemployment was high, wages low, evictions common. White residents were fleeing by the thousands. A Newsweek article declared South Bend, population 101,860, one of America’s “dying cities.”For the record: 11:05 AM, Jan. 09, 2020 An earlier version of this story said Pete Buttigieg had called his demotion of South Bend’s black police chief his “first serious mistake as mayor.” Buttigieg wrote in his memoir that the mistake was his initial support of the chief.

Today, unemployment in the Greater South Bend area is less than 4%, down from nearly 10%; development has accelerated in the city’s downtown; and the population has stopped shrinking. Local business boosters recently raised street banners that said, “Thanks Mayor Pete.”

“South Bend’s trajectory has been transformed,” Buttigieg said in his farewell address to the city’s Common Council on Dec. 9.

That’s the resume that Buttigieg is promoting to make the jump from mayor to president. It’s a part of his appeal to Democrats who are anxious to win back Rust Belt voters who defected from the party in 2016.

Black leaders have rallied to Buttigieg’s side, including the area’s NAACP president, Michael Patton, who has said he’s “grateful to Mayor Pete” for his work.

Seymour Barker, 74, of Granger, Ind., who helps run a community development corporation, 466 Works, that receives grants from South Bend to help build new housing on the southeast side, said “the city has supported us every step of the way, and it’s all happened under the administration of Mayor Pete.”

“I can’t tell you the experience of other African Americans under him,” Barker said, “but that’s been our experience with him.”

After taking office, Buttigieg went to work on the city’s blight, launching an initiative to repair or demolish 1,000 abandoned or derelict homes in 1,000 days, a goal he reached ahead of schedule.

Common Council member Regina Williams-Preston, an occasional critic from the city’s black community, accused Buttigieg of moving too quickly against property owners who didn’t have the money to make repairs right away. Buttigieg acknowledged the program needed some adjustments.

But other residents happily welcomed Buttigieg’s demolition work. On a recent Thursday afternoon in December, two South Bend Bureau of Streets trucks rumbled by as James Underwood strung up Christmas lights outside a home on the 1100 block of Johnson Street, the block that saw the most houses targeted for repair or removal, according to city data.

As a result of that program, Underwood, a 60-year-old factory worker, bought a condemned home to fix up, between shifts, to give to one of his four children. He’s still trying to track down the absentee owner to finalize the sale, but he couldn’t be happier that two abandoned “eyesores” across the street had been razed.

“I would put a vote toward him because of what he did in this neighborhood and others,” Underwood said of Buttigieg. As he spoke, city workers in green vests piled out of their trucks to clear leaves from the sidewalks outside a home charred by a fire.

As Buttigieg progressed through his administration, he benefited from some fortunate timing. He arrived in office after the worst shocks of the Great Recession and then served through an uninterrupted run of national growth.

During Buttigieg’s first year, South Bend processed construction permits for commercial and residential projects valued at $69.8 million, city data showed. Within four years, in 2016, that figure had blossomed to $190 million.

Buttigieg harnessed that growth to lure new private investment. In the city’s downtown, Buttigieg invested public dollars to make the streets more walkable and to help finance some private development. Two new hotels opened, and young professionals started moving in, which boosted neighborhood merchants.

When South Bend native Peg Dalton opened her restaurant in 2001, since renamed Peggs, “there was literally not a car on the street,” she said. As she spoke to a reporter, the spaces outside her restaurant that day were all taken.

Buttigieg cultivated local business leaders to draw support for his political initiatives, according to Dalton, telling them on issues such as raising pay for city workers or changing the flow of city streets downtown: “I need your support on the ground.”

He’s not afraid to ruffle feathers and get a job done that he thinks needs to be done,” said Dalton, 55.

One of the biggest changes to South Bend under Buttigieg’s administration was the growth of the city’s Latino population, now estimated to make up more than 15% of the city’s residents. Buttigieg pushed foran identification-card program designed so residents without ID, including immigrants, could get access to social services.

Paul Beltran, 33, a healthcare case manager who emigrated from Ecuador and a volunteer at his church, Vida Nueva Church of God, credited Buttigieg for being “accessible and present” and for the times he addressed residents in Spanish.

“It’s not 100% fluent,” Beltran said of Buttigieg’s Spanish, but “he could carry a conversation, to a point.”

Nanci Flores, a prominent local activist, said there was still work to be done to assist the city’s immigrant community. But “even when we don’t always get it right, I still see a city working to follow a compassionate and inclusive example,” Flores said.

“One guy can’t fix all the problems,” Underwood said. “You can’t blame one guy.”

“He’s not arrogant smart, he’s relatable smart”

by Jake Lahut – Jan 3, 2020 (, abridged)

Less than 48 hours into his new life as the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg kicked off his latest Granite State swing in Keene Thursday with a rare suit covering his normally rolled-up sleeves.

Before a crowd of more than 850 at The Colonial Theatre, he continued firing up supporters, several of whom said they’ve gone from favoring him to thinking he could actually win.

Outside The Colonial, after Buttigieg gave a 15-minute stump speech, answered audience questions and rolled out some of his biggest local endorsements on stage — featuring state Rep. David Morrill, D-Keene; Keene City Councilor Randy L. Filiault; and Cheshire County Sheriff Eliezer “Eli” Rivera — several Buttigieg supporters said they are beginning to feel like they could be part of a winning effort.

You can just feel the energy is exciting,” Fran Denis, a business analyst from Chesterfield said. “It’s so different to when I first saw him in Hancock [in August].

“You know, we were getting to know him,” Denis, 52, continued. “Then, he was Pete the candidate. Now, he’s Pete the presidential candidate — oh my God.”

Among her friends and after a hearty discussion on Buttigieg’s electability over Thanksgiving dinner, Denis said she’s observed that his biggest opponents are Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, both septuagenarians with longstanding relationships to their voters.

However, Denis said she thinks Buttigieg’s military background and his command of the issues will continue to win more people over as the primary approaches.

He’s not arrogant smart, he’s relatable smart,” she said.

Cindy Letendre, a patient data coordinator from Keene who hadn’t seen Buttigieg in person before, said she was surprised by how authentically his personality came across compared to when he’s on television.

“This gave me the opportunity to see that he can do it on the fly,” Letendre, 59, said, adding she was particularly impressed with how he handled questions from the audience.

Letendre said she convinced her husband, an independent Trump supporter, to pull the lever for Buttigieg on Feb. 11 in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary.

Some fellow Hoosiers even turned up at The Colonial, with Jane and Charles Olomis in town from Columbia City, Ind., visiting family.

They said they were happy to see how well Buttigieg was received, and were impressed with how well organized the event was.

Charles predicted a solid performance in New Hampshire could bode well for Buttigieg if his Midwestern appeal continues to gain traction in the Granite State.

He seems normal to us,” he said, “but I think his message travels well.

“I think [Pete] will heal the country, and we need healing now”

by Morey Stettner – Jan 3, 2020 (, abridged)

Addressing a packed South Church audience on Friday evening, Pete Buttigieg sought to emphasize inclusiveness both in his policies and his presidential campaign. In a 19-minute speech followed by 12 questions from the crowd, he repeatedly voiced a desire to enact plans that would benefit a wide swath of Americans while unifying the country at the same time.

“Taking out a bad guy is not necessarily a good idea,” he said. “What we know for sure is American citizens are in harm’s way tonight.”

Citing his experience serving in Afghanistan in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Buttigieg noted that the action could ensnare American troops in more fighting.

“They deserve a Commander in Chief who takes their lives seriously,” he declared.

He organized the rest of his prepared remarks into four themes: values, faith, democracy and freedom. In terms of values, he contrasted his brand of patriotism with President Donald Trump, adding that the next president needs to galvanize, not polarize.

“You can’t love a country if you hate half the people in it,” he said.

Nick Bell, a registered independent from Portsmouth, said Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were his two top picks. A junior at the University of Vermont, Bell described his paramount issue as “social and economic equal opportunity.”

“Buttigieg is 17 years older than me,” Bell said, musing about whether a 37-year-old possessed sufficient experience to be president.

Other voters seemed more swayed by Buttigieg. Donning a Buttigieg button, Gritt Benton said she supported him because of his communication skills and message of unity.

“He speaks beautifully,” she said. “I like his energy. I think he will heal the country, and we need healing now.”