The Daily Illini

The case for Mayor Pete

By Agastya Bhatia, Columnist

As the number of Democrats entering the 2020 presidential race continues to grow, one candidate is receiving an unexpected barrage of attention. With a strong legislative history, a wildly different identity than most of his Democratic counterparts in the race, and an unusual name no one can seem to pronounce, it seems that Pete Buttigieg bears a striking resemblance to a young Barack Obama.

When President Obama ran for office in 2008, he was in many ways the antithesis of George W. Bush. After a presidential tenure with one of the worst approval ratings in American history yet, President Bush left office with two extremely expensive wars very much unfinished, a domestic and international image that fluctuated between being ridiculed and all-out hated, and a dangerously high inflation rate. When a young, obscure senator from Illinois stepped onto the stage to challenge Hillary Clinton, an established political figure, for the Democratic nomination, few people could have predicted his meteoric rise to popularity. His working class background, progressive voting record and undeniable charm and eloquence appealed to hundreds of thousands of Americans of all political affiliations who were tired of an administration that wasn’t working for them.

As the openly gay millennial mayor of South Bend, Indiana, kicks off his presidential campaign, it’s hard not to see parallels between the so-called Mayor Pete and the 44th President. An Harvard-educated military veteran and Rhodes Scholar, Buttigieg’s platform focuses on universal healthcare, gun reform and environmental policy –– issues a majority of Americans actually agree on. Even his Fox News interview was friendly, almost supportive in nature — surprising given the network’s increasingly divisive approach to reporting. His dramatic economic turnaround of the once-failing city of South Bend hints at the potential for a legislatively successful president –– one who can bring a community out of a rut. Pete Buttigieg is everything Donald Trump isn’t: politically experienced, in touch with the working class, intelligent and ambitious to sustainably benefit a majority of Americans, not just a select few.

Whether Pete Buttigieg is merely experiencing a Beto O’Rourke-like media-fuelled moment in the spotlight, or legitimately has the ability to make a serious bid for the presidency to challenge the likes of Sanders and Warren is yet to be seen. But campaigns like Buttigieg’s are more important than ever. As divisive identity politics continue to sow discord among americans, a bid for the presidency based on policy and merit might just be the need of the hour. While many voters are not as disillusioned with President Trump as they were after President Bush’s second term, there remains a strong argument that Mayor Pete could very well be the foil to the current commander-in-chief that many Americans, and people across the world, hope for.

Agastya is a sophomore in Engineering.

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