Pete Buttigieg soared from obscurity to third place (at one time) in the Democratic race for the presidency. His candidacy struck me as interesting for about a week. Then, I realized that he’s just another left-wing Democrat, distinguished from the rest of the field primarily because he happens to be gay. And he has fallen back in the polls.
Even at its peak, the Buttigieg campaign faced a huge problem — lack of support from African-Americans. One poll I saw had him at zero percent among this cohort. You can’t make a credible run at the Democratic nomination for president with zero percent black support.
Things got even worse when an African-American in South Bend, Indiana, of which Buttigieg is mayor, was shot and killed by a white police officer. As far as I can tell, the officer acted prudently and lawfully. Reportedly, the deceased was armed and engaging in criminal behavior. But such details seldom matter either to the black community or to Democratic politicians.
What mattered in this case was that South Bend’s black community wasn’t impressed by Buttigieg’s handling of the affair. This was “strike three” (or maybe four) against his campaign.
Buttigieg has responded to his woes by shamelessly pandering to African-Americans. On the theory that desperate times call for desperate measures, he has proposed a “Marshall Plan” for black Americans. He calls it the “Douglass Plan.”
The desperate times that hatched this desperate measure are Buttigieg’s electoral woes, not the status of black Americans which, by the way, is improving under President Trump. If the Douglass Plan were other than a response to Buttigieg’s lack of popularity among blacks, he would have offered it at the outset of his campaign, not only after the campaign hit the skids.
You can read Buttigieg’s plan here. It’s a Christmas tree — no, several Christmas trees — of benefits and breaks for African-Americans. Naturally, leniency for criminals figures quite prominently.
The premise of Buttigieg’s plan is that it’s white America’s fault that blacks aren’t faring as well as other Americans — e.g., that blacks make up a wildly disproportionate number of the prison population. The notion that black behavior has anything to do with the various disparities is rejected sub silentio.
Buttigieg apparently believes that it’s racist even to moot this possibility. He hurls the words “racism” and “racist” around the way Barack Obama did with “hope and change.”
In this way, with an epithet substituting for an argument, Buttigieg abandons the concept of personal responsibility. He lowers standards of personal behavior for no reason other than that blacks aren’t meeting them as successfully as other Americans. He wants radically to restructure American life for the same reason.
Unfortunately for Buttigieg, the Douglass Plan isn’t going to help him gain any meaningful measure of African-American support. Buttigieg has learned the words of black grievance, but still can’t sing the melody. That’s one reason why his response to the South Bend police shooting fell so flat with his African-American constituents.
Speaking of them, African-Americans in the rest of America might fairly wonder why, given all the talk in the Douglass Plan about improving living conditions for blacks, South Bends’ African-American community hasn’t flourished, and why its activists expressed discontent with Buttigieg even before the police shooting.