Pete Buttigieg: A Remarkable Candidate – Adam Leese


Pete approaches politics from a viewpoint that differs from many other politicians on the national stage, Democrat or Republican; he positions values over policies. Pete’s philosophical framework of values shapes how he views the world and, in turn, crafts his policies and strategies.

Having watched President Trump’s victory over Secretary Hilary Clinton in 2016, Pete penned an op-ed, a letter from flyover country, in which called for a debate about values — a discussion of the values of “freedom, fairness, families, and the future”. That is to say that, rather than viewing Clinton’s defeat as a signal for a shift in policy platform, he recognised the need to return to the origins of policies — the values from which the stem — and ensure that policies always relate to the values held by the vast majority of the American people.

Pete believes that you should lead with values — you can disagree and squabble over the details of policies, but, by approaching issues through a lens of values, you demonstrate your principles. Voters respect values and principles. Indeed, as Pete himself argued, commonly shared values, when presented effectively, often naturally flow into progressive policies — the desire to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and protect the dignity of others all stem from commonly held values.

At his campaign launch on April 14, 2019, Pete made sure that values were front and centre of his stump speech and the policy platform that he went on to roll-out. While others used their campaign launches to propound their commitment to this or that policy, or simply to promise to remove President Trump from the Oval Office and banish Mitch McConnell to the history books, Pete spoke about three key values — freedom, security, and democracy.

Pete Buttigieg, left, with his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, at his campaign launch in South Bend, Indiana | Alyssa Shukar/The NewYorkTimes

Pete used his speech to highlight his belief in the existence of an American majority that can coalesce around these three deeply felt values, values that are inherent and integral to the fabric of American society and politics. Moreover, he framed his commitment to discussing values and their vitality as a reclaiming of values that he perceived the Republican party as having hijacked of-late, saying that freedom is “something that our conservative friends have come to think of as their own”.

Rather than setting the foundations of his campaign in detailed, wonky policy positions, he committed to growing it out of a set of values shared by a vast majority.

One by one, he progressed to illustrate the ways in which each value lends itself to progressive policy points.

A commitment to freedom translates as a freedom to marry whomever one desires, as a freedom to start a business, and as a freedom from malevolent credit card companies ripping you off.

A commitment to security necessitates a security from the disastrous impacts of climate change, a security from a rising tide of white nationalism, and a security that fosters a humanitarian approach to immigration.

A commitment to democracy in an era of democratic capitalism means prioritising democracy over capitalism, something that requires ending Citizens United, quashing the leverage of lobbyists in the corridors of the Capitol, and bolstering the power of labour movements nationwide.

So his equation is simple — form a connection with fellow citizens through shared values, speak sincerely and candidly to the role and importance of those values, listen to people’s problems and concerns, and only then turn to propose policies that are both attached to values and aim to address the issues facing the country.

Pete Buttigieg after returning from his deployment in Afghanistan on September 25, 2014 | Greg Swiercz/SouthBendTribune

A profound sense of duty drives Pete’s value-based philosophical approach to politics. Pete’s sense of duty stems largely from his deeply held religious faith, saying, “my faith teaches me that salvation has to do with how I make myself useful to those who have been excluded, marginalized, and cast aside and oppressed in society”. He perceives himself as having a “deep…obligation to help those who are on the line everyday, even if they are nothing like me in their experience”. This sense of an obligation to help where he can is exactly that which propelled him to enter the race, arguing that “there is simply too much at stake” to remain sitting comfortably on the sidelines as the fight to remove President Trump plays out. Suffice it so say, it would have been far easier for Pete to keep to the sidelines of national politics as the mayor of a small city, throwing jabs and punches online and in local media when and where he sees fit. Instead, he felt it was only right to put his neck on the line and engage head-on with the challenges, as he has so many times before.



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