Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is in many ways the most impressive member of the Democratic presidential field — a low bar, to be sure. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and took an unpaid seven months leave from his job as mayor to serve in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his counterterrorism work there.
Buttigieg is also very smart. He’s a Harvard grad and a Rhodes Scholar who reportedly speaks or is proficient in seven languages.
On policy, Buttigieg is quite liberal, but seems more thoughtful and less wacky than his rivals. Again, that’s a low bar.
But Buttigieg’s claim to (very modest, so far) fame in this campaign is not his military service, academic accomplishments, or policy views. Rather, it’s the fact that he is gay.
In my view, this fact counts neither for nor against him. But then, I’m not a left-liberal. For the identity politics crowd, Buttigieg’s sexual preference is a big deal. What they can’t decide, though, is how big of a deal it should be.
Their struggle to work this out makes for hilarious reading in this piece by Celine Ryan in the Daily Caller. The title — “Is Butigieg gay enough to make up for his white male privilege? The left can’t decide” — provides a nice preview of the insanity that follows.
The left can’t agree on whether rising Democratic star Pete Buttigieg has enough intersectionality points to be a viable presidential candidate. After all, he is a 37-year-old white male. But then again, he is gay. . . .
A recent Atlantic op-ed frames Buttigieg’s sexuality as equally as important as Cory Booker’s blackness and Kamala Harris’ Indian and Jamaican heritage in that all of these traits reflect the respective candidates’ ability to “understand the powerless, as victims of power” and to “understand the alienated,” because they themselves have been “marginalized.”
But this view is too simplistic if you truly understand identity politics. The hierarchy of “powerlessness” and “marginalization” must be considered:
Some maintain that while the mayor does gain victim points for his homosexuality, his “white male privilege” must not be ignored. Buttigeig himself conceded that he benefits from such a privilege during a discussion at this year’s South by Southwest, in which he recalled an incident in college where he was not arrested after being caught with marijuana. . . .
As evidence of his so-called privilege, critics have slammed Buttigieg for a tweet in which he agreed to engage in debate with Ben Shapiro. Such a debate never took place, after supporters begged the candidate to reconsider engaging with the bad man.
I’m not sure where the white privilege is in debating Ben Shapiro, but then I’m not a left liberal.
There’s also a hierarchy of victimization among gays, apparently. Buttigieg, by being “a palatable gay,” falls on the low end of that hierarchy:
Where [Buttigieg and his husband] met online is of particular relevance to some who claim that the candidate is just not the right type of gay for the job. One viral op-ed titled “Why Pete Buttigieg is Bad for Gays” laments that Pete and [his husband] say they met on Hinge, a relationship-focused dating app for all sexualities, rather than Grindr, an app specifically for gay men notorious for being hookup-oriented.
Supposedly, Buttigieg’s habit of jokingly pointing out this fact makes the couple, well, not quite gay enough for his nomination to count as a progressive milestone. “The joke is a good one for a largely gay crowd. It says that Mayor Pete knows about Grindr, just like you. He’s no prude!” the piece explains.
“But it also lets him implicitly disapprove of the more explicitly sexual nature of Grindr. And there’s a constituency there. Among that certain kind of gay, saying ‘I’m not on Grindr’ is the cultural equivalent of the equally snooty, ‘I don’t watch TV,’” the piece continues, referring to Buttigieg as a “palatable gay,” which is apparently a bad thing.
Virtue signaling can be a tricky proposition these days.
Fortunately for Buttigieg, I don’t think he’s competing for the vote of the kind of idiot who worries about which gay dating service he used or, for that matter, where he ranks on the identity politics chain of being. I believe he’s competing for the votes of those in the less radical half of his party. For example, he presents himself as a devout Episcopalian who is working to bridge what he sees as a growing gap between religious Americans and the Democratic Party. He’s also supportive of Israel.
Just because a goodly portion of Buttigieg’s party is crazy doesn’t mean he has to be.