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Pete Buttigieg’s Unexpected Drop Out: Why Diversity Still Matters

Pete Buttigieg was definitely the dark horse of the Democratic field. When he first announced his campaign, no one knew who he was. That was expected since the candidate from South Bend, Indiana had only served as Mayor and held a position as a Navy Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan, a small resume compared to the politicians he was running against. 

Buttigieg ran on a unique platform during his campaign. If elected, the former Mayor would have been the youngest candidate. He acted as a stabilizer, asking people to come to him if they were overwhelmed by all the noise around modern politics. Buttigieg was able to attract a decent following of moderates, independents and even appealed to a number of Republican voters. He also was the first openly gay man to be running for president. 

Throughout his campaign, Buttigieg slowly began to make a name for himself. During debates, he often gave responses that audiences would go wild over. He repeatedly told long time senator Amy Klobuchar that experience didn’t just have to come from within the white house. His military experience also came in handy since he was the only top contender with any. For the most part, Buttigieg’s stances were all pretty moderate. He wanted to keep the private sector in healthcare, supported a buyback gun control program and advocated to bring troops home from Afghanistan. With his strong debate performances and extremely strong ground movement, Buttigieg pulled off a win in Iowa and finished strong in New Hampshire, the first two primary states to vote. For a brief period of time, he was the strongest moderate challenger to Sanders. 

But on Sunday, March 1st, Pete Buttigieg decided to end his campaign. The unexpected decision came just days before Super Tuesday, where fourteen states and one territory will cast their ballots all in one night. Strangely enough, Buttigieg has more than enough funds to continue his candidacy bid through Super Tuesday. That, coupled with his early strong showing, is why many are shocked by his decision to exit the race so early. 

So what happened to Buttigieg? 

After his victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire (where he didn’t win but still had a great showing), Buttigieg hit the two more diverse states in the initial primary stage: Nevada and South Carolina. This is where the Mayor started to struggle heavily. 

In late August, the New York Times released an article discussing the secret that Buttigieg had been trying to hide: police brutality during his second term as Mayor in South Bend. Although Buttigieg had talked about his Mayor terms with pride, he always seemed to quickly brush over the fact that South Bend’s crime rate had “substantially risen” over the last year. 

Buttigieg has never really been able to handle race problems within the South Bend community. Just a few months into his first term as Mayor, he demoted the first black police chief, Daryl Boykins, much to the dismay of minority police officers, many of which resigned. His record worsened on June 16th, 2019, when Eric Logan, a black man, was shot by a South Bend police officer. The officer said that Logan had been armed with a knife, but his body cam was not turned on, meaning there’s no evidence to prove whether or not this accusation is true. Currently, the case is waiting to hear a final verdict on March 6th.

The Eric Logan case uncovered lots of controversy surrounding police violence in Buttigieg’s city. To add on to that, Buttigieg never provided an apology as he tried to bury the issue. When questioning African American voters in South Carolina, many weren’t pleased with the way Buttigieg chose to handle race during his time as Mayor. Specifically, African American voters weren’t too happy with the fact that Buttigieg repeatedly proposed plans to listen to African American concerns and then never placed any real policy into action. 

To make matters worse for Buttigieg, this wasn’t the only minority group he struggled to gain support from. 

Because of his questionable record with African American voters, Buttigieg’s focus on gaining more African American votes led to another major issue: ignoring Latinos. When asked about Buttigieg’s level of outreach in November of 2019, over a dozen Latino leaders in important states like Nevada, California and Washington all said the outreach was nonexistent. During the crucial week leading up to Nevada, Buttigieg tried to appeal to the Hispanic voters through broken Spanish both on and off the debate stage. He also tried to bash Amy Klobuchar over her inability to remember the name of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and was met with applause in Nevada. 

But small attempts like these weren’t enough. Both Nevada and South Carolina saw disappointing showings for Buttigieg, where he finished third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina (Nevada is 29% Hispanic and South Carolina’s African American base can swing the state easily.) These two diverse early primary states showed that while Buttigieg could do well with white voters in the North, he was a long-shot candidate amongst diverse voters in the West and South. 

To worsen his diversity status, one group of voters surprisingly turned on Buttigieg. A group called “Queers against Buttigieg” was created to knock Buttigieg’s campaign to the ground. Although Buttigieg is now openly gay, he admitted to waiting until he had built a name for himself before coming out with the news. Buttigieg stated that he would likely not have gotten to the point he is at had he come out earlier and a lot of the queer community wasn’t happy with that information. While many people in the queer community have fought for equal rights for years, Buttigieg hid his identity. While the community featured people decked out from head to toe in pride gear, Buttigieg dressed in a conventional suit, lived in a conventional home and led a near straight life. Even members of his own community seemed to turn away from him. 

So even after winning Iowa and placing high in New Hampshire, Buttigieg confirmed the long-standing theory that he wouldn’t be able to appeal to minorities. Although the candidate pool started with 24 diverse candidates, Buttigieg’s absence (and Tom Steyer’s exit as well) narrows the remaining field to experienced, straight white politicians (apart from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has not been polling well.) Although he had all the momentum rolling into Nevada, Buttigieg’s absence proves that the minority vote still does matter. Because he wasn’t able to attract minority voters, Buttigieg had to exit the race. As of 2019, 13.4% of America was comprised of African Americans and 18.3% was Hispanic. Added together, these two groups certainly aren’t a small voting pool. Buttigieg’s inability to appeal to these voters meant that he wasn’t going to be able to survive in the general election, where Trump is currently looking to capture minority votes. Even the strongest showing in Iowa was no match for weak showings in the South.

Buttigieg is out of the 2020 race, but that also doesn’t mean he’s out for good. He’s planning to throw his support behind whoever ultimately clenches the nomination. While some have suggested that one of the remaining candidates select Buttigieg as a Vice Presidential pick, others have also said he could clinch a position on a cabinet. There’s also no denying that Pete 2024 could be a reality. He’s young after all. 

Featured Image via CNN @ 4:06

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