Monday, April 15, 2019

Mayor Pete Makes It Official

It’s pronounced BOOT-edge-edge.

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of this northern Indiana city who in just weeks has vaulted from being a near-unknown to a breakout star in the Democratic Party, officially started his presidential bid here on Sunday, presenting himself as a transformational figure who is well positioned to beat President Trump, despite being young and facing off against many seasoned rivals.

“I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern, millennial mayor, but we live in a moment that compels us each to act,” Buttigieg said in front of thousands of supporters, jacket-free with his sleeves rolled up. “It calls for a new generation of leadership.”

Buttigieg added, “It’s time to walk away from the politics of the past and toward something totally different.”

The scene for Buttigieg’s rally was a hulking former Studebaker assembly plant, whose closure decades ago rocked this region’s economy. The site has since become a data and education hub pushed by his administration — and central to his technocratic, hopeful pitch that he is ready to help communities still struggling with the effects of globalization.

“Change is coming, ready or not,” Buttigieg told the crowd. “There is a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back,” and he touted his attempts in the city to assist the workforce with training and skills programs.

Some attendees drove from around the country after being inspired by Buttigieg’s message and the historic nature of his campaign as a gay presidential candidate.

For Buttigieg, Sunday’s upbeat gathering on a dreary, snowy mid-April afternoon was an important political juncture: a reintroduction to a party that has only begun to pay attention to this mayor with a hard-to-pronounce name, but is now certainly listening closely as it searches for a standard-bearer.

It’s worth noting that within my adult lifetime, the idea of an openly gay person running for president, much less being taken seriously for doing it, has gone from Are You Kidding Me to It Could Happen.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is coming up in June.  That we have come so far so fast says that human nature — and our attitudes about it — can be changed practically overnight, at least compared to how we have changed in attitudes about race and gender.

Whether or not Mayor Pete will still be in the race as a serious contender a year from now is another matter, but just the idea that he could be in the race at all is a major leap not just for the LGBTQ community but for all of us.

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