OPINION: To avoid a repeat, we need Pete

This September, a TSL poll found Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as the favorite among 5C students for the Democratic nomination. But I’m here to make the case for one of her competitors: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Once the golden boy and now the dark horse, Buttigieg slipped past competitors in the ongoing clamor for the Democratic nomination for president, according to a recent Iowa poll. He now joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden in a new top trio of candidates. Buttigieg also more than doubled his percentage lead compared to a June poll, rising from 6 to 13 percent. 

That surge of support shows that people are catching on to Pete, which is why I’m continuing that momentum and making this case. The Democratic party needs Buttigieg as its candidate, and the country needs him as its president.

To simmer nerves that mild-mannered Mayor Pete is a moderate in disguise, let me reassure you that he’s the liberal you want. Despite accusations that he joins the small faction of cloaked Republicans on stage, Buttigieg touts a progressive platform.  

He envisions a strengthened Medicare program to cover any American who wants or needs it.  He aims to cancel student debt and make college affordable for all. He calls for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks for gun purchases and enforced red flag laws. 

He believes in eliminating the electoral college. He upholds a Green New Deal and re-entrance into the Paris Climate Agreement. He advocates for decriminalized border crossings. He supports abortion rights. His Douglass Plan endorses studying the best plan for reparations.

These are not the platforms of a Republican candidate. In fact, they are the antithesis of the current Republican party. But while Buttigieg’s goals aren’t moderate, his steps to reaching those goals — the same as his party and running mates — are.

That’s what makes them attainable and Buttigieg the pragmatist we need. 

For example, his “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan aims to create a “glide-path” for the American healthcare system into socialized medicine. But instead of a complete overhaul in four years, Buttigieg’s plan involves boosting the capacity and coverage of a public option so that all Americans — the uninsured and insured alike — have an accessible option. 

Strengthening the public option, in the meantime, forces private insurers to lower costs. Additionally, such a plan doesn’t scare off people hesitant to immediately swap to a socialist system — a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 69 percent of Americans prefer a public plan that competes with a private, compared to 53 percent who favor an immediate “Medicare-for-all.”

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Likewise, Buttigieg’s plan for higher education involves asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their share while making costs free for the rest. This system means both “middle-income” and lower-income families at public colleges pay “zero tuition.” 

The plan also involves dramatically increasing Pell Grants and committing resources to historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions. The end goal is to make college “truly debt-free” and for all.

It’s not weak to state that we can’t make end goals like these happen fast. It’s bold to state that we need clear steps to make them happen at all.

And to do so, we also need a Democrat who can win the general election. Fortunately, Buttigieg is the kind of fresh public servant which history says voters prefer. He’s not an established politician — a trait that hasn’t worked for Democrats for the last five election cycles. 

Al Gore, a former vice president, may have unfairly lost the electoral college ruling in 2000, but he garnered an uncomfortably close popular vote against President George W. Bush. John Kerry, longtime senator from Massachusetts, likewise ran an unsuccessful popular and electoral race against Bush in 2004. Former President Barack Obama won the Democratic candidacy — and the presidency — as an inspiring, relative newcomer in 2008. 

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s extensive political experience wasn’t enough to swing voters in 2016, particularly the 13 percent of Trump voters who voted for her Democratic colleague four years prior.

That’s what makes this Buttigieg’s election. Some have argued that his newcomer status makes him too inexperienced to govern. But a detailed look at his resume says otherwise. 

His Oxford education in philosophy, politics and economics says he has relevant knowledge. His eight years serving as mayor — one who revitalized his city and won re-election with more than 80 percent of the vote — says he has the governing experience and likability. 

And his newness, applicable only in this first run for president, is precisely what makes him appealing, and what makes his time irrevocably now. 

We have one chance to cut short the legacy of the 2016 election and prove we’ve learned our lesson — running heavily on experience and riling up the base is not enough to win. We have one opportunity to instead choose a progressive candidate with clear plans for big goals who can win a general election. 

In the office, in the debate, in the lead: We need Buttigieg.

Brynn Parkinson PO ’19 is a politics major and transfer student from Indiana. She’s only been to four concerts in her life, and all of them were for Lana Del Rey.

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