IS THAT POSSIBLE IN TODAY’S WORLD?
“Mayor Pete” is an amazing person. He has a lot of the charm, warmth and brilliance of President Obama. By all accounts, he would restore integrity, honesty and true patriotism in the White House. The attached write-up highlights the possibilities of a “President Pete.” I find myself drawn to his candidacy based entirely on his potentially outstanding competence.
But what? Some will immediately focus on his issues with the African American community, borne in part of racial tensions in the city he governs. Others will wonder, as I do, whether America is ready to elect a gay man with a ‘husband’—does that imply he will be the first ‘wife’ who is also the President?
Central to both concerns, of course, is simply winning in 2020. The paramount issue for Democratic primary voters is “electability,” so evaluating the many candidates is less about comparing policy points than gauging their appeal to the much broader swath of voters who will cast ballots next November.
Elizabeth Warren provides a useful example here. She rose to the top of the primary heap, then fell quickly back to earth after outlining a $30 trillion health care plan. That doesn’t mean primary voters don’t want Medicare for All – many, many of them do, even at the cost of private insurance. What it does reflect is voters’ real-time assessments of electability. Whatever I might think of the plan, I don’t for a minute think it’s a smart pitch to general election voters.
Mayor Pete has three big “buts” sowing doubts about his electability:
- Lack of support from Black and African American voters. Turnout in swing states will be key in 2020, and it is simply unknown whether voters of color will show up in numbers sufficient to drive the outcome. So far, Buttigeig has failed to spark any passion from this community. Will their disdain for Trump be enough to drive them to the polls, if he’s the nominee?
- Doubts that America is ready for a gay President. Roughly half of voters say they’re OK with a gay president. That’s a thin margin to start with. But, again, primary voters are thinking more about the country writ large than their own personal comfort with the idea of a gay president. And only 40 percent of them believe the country is ready.
- The idea that many black people won’t support a gay candidate. Recent press reports around this subject have largely debunked the canard that older black voters are “anti-gay.” But to the extent this stereotype persists in primary voters’ minds, it adds to the perception of un-electability.
I, too, am in the camp that is unsure that America is ready for a gay President. But I’m also troubled by the emphasis on winning at all costs. One suspects, after all, that a lot of Republicans in 2016 came around to Trump through much the same process.
The idealist in me, moreover, wants to believe that it’s always right to support the candidate you would choose if you were able to choose the winner. And I’m troubled deeply by the idea that ignoring my own values and focusing solely on the electability of a candidate simply perpetuates the hate. Shouldn’t we be better than that? Yes!
BUT, what is clearer still is that we’re not better than that – at least not yet.
Mayor Pete is, therefore, a VERY BIG gamble in 2020.
I will appreciate all your feedback!!