On April 13, 2019, I donated my first $6.23 to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. Inspired by the birthday of his husband, Chasten (6/23), this one-time donation eventually became a monthly affair.
A total of $24.92 and four months later, I decided to stop donating to him — and thank goodness I did. I feel as if his campaign is a husk of what it was when I had supported him, and I was outright deceived by his swift pivot to the right well into his campaign.
Pete had me hooked in the beginning. As a politically active member of the LGBTQ+ community from Indiana myself, I instantly felt a strong connection to the man. I even tweeted out in March that I believed “deep in my heart that Pete is going to do big things.” Being touted as a progressive certainly helped too, as the one-term moderate Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) wasn’t the most exciting politician for me to look up to.
His initial statements and headlines certainly reflected a progressive outlook. He was one of the first candidates to go all-in in his support to abolish the electoral college all the way back in January, claimed to be unabashed in his support for medicare-for-all, and went as far to say that the GOP will call Democrats “crazy socialists” no matter what policies they support, so they should adopt more left-leaning ones.
Seeing him in person, too, I was captivated by his story and eloquence when he spoke. I was marching to the beat of Pete’s drum as he rose in the polls nationally.
Unfortunately, the drum soon lost its timbre.
Whether it was learning in greater detail about Pete's fundamental mishandling with minority rights and problems within his own town of South Bend or telling a Black Lives Matter protester that he’s “not asking for [their] vote” I was falling off the bandwagon quick and fast around June.
The breaking point, oddly enough, came when Pete announced his national service plan. Through the plan, I learned that he had proposed earlier that it should be mandatory. Making this mandatory stood against the right to personal autonomy which I hold near and dear to my heart.
I just couldn’t defend him anymore. I was so tired of it. I think back to the anti-war, anti-conscription protests of the 1960s and see the subversion of progress a service plan like his would bring. Nationalism would run amok. This along with his problematic history with minority groups as mayor of South Bend all reek of the incapability to lead and for me to question who he’s actually fighting for.
Funny enough, the worst was yet to come in the self-redefining of Pete.
He completely pulled a 180 on his healthcare plan. He adopted an opt-in program instead of Medicare-for-all plan like he espoused earlier, and he didn’t stop there. He even attacked primary opponent Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) for her progressive Medicare-for-all plan. He even uses the overdone GOP talking point of asking, “How are you going to pay for it?”
It’s sad to see how comfortably Pete has fit in with the other establishment candidates. It’s the same opportunism as always. I even wonder if his progressive credentials at the beginning of his campaign were all a complete fabrication.
Did he truly shift some of his policies while on the campaign trail, or did he masquerade as a progressive at first simply to rise in the polls and then pivot to calculated milquetoast moderatism?
Either way, I don’t see myself in him anymore. I see a flashing warning sign instead. I don’t want to be like Pete, compromising my integrity for a few percentage points in the polls. I want to be authentically me if I ever run for office, whether the voters like me or not.
I look back at Pete like an ex-boyfriend. Everything seemed so perfect at the time. Sure, he had his flaws,but we were in this fight together. Yet, as time went on, I realized that we wanted two different things and began to see him for who he really is. After splitting, I can’t help but feel deceived and upset by all the time and money I wasted on him. The spark is gone and in its place is a dull, shell of a man.
I should have seen it coming. All the warning signs were there, and even my friends were warning me. But I wouldn’t listen; my head was stuck in the clouds. It was around July when I officially stopped supporting Pete, and my opinion of him has only lowered as he’s reinvented his campaign into a centrist Biden-alternative. Better late than never, I guess.
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