At the time of writing this, at least 18 people are vying for the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Donald Trump during the Presidential election in 2020. This includes some heavyweights, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker. There are also fringe candidates, like Andrew Yang. Then there are the formerly fringe candidates. One person fits that bill: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Pete Buttigieg has erupted as a potential candidate for the Presidency. He recently took 9% of a recent poll in Iowa, the state that begins the general election season. The question is this: why has he gained so much traction? There are several potential reasons.
First, Mayor Pete has, at least compared to Trump, significant governmental experience as the mayor of South Bend. He has been mayor since 2011. He began his time in office at the age of 29 and has since been re-elected with 80% of the vote in 2015. His success in the city has shown: the city experienced significant growth following a population decline between 2000-2010.
The Mayor has also spearheaded some rebirth projects in the city, including converting the old Studebaker plant in town into a tech hub, conversion of the city streets downtown, and millions of dollars of private investment into the city. As a result, Mayor Pete can tout his success here as examples of why he could be president.
Other supporters claim that he is immensely talented and intelligent (though I do not like this reasoning). Mayor Pete was a Rhodes Scholar after attending Harvard. He knows myriad languages, including Norwegian. He is well-acquainted with various philosophies, including that of well-known intellectual Antonio Gramsci, whom his father has written on.
Though this line of thinking is flawed (I mean, Julian Castro attended Stanford, Cory Booker was also a Rhodes Scholar and Elizabeth Warren lectured at Harvard Law School), it is easy to see WHY he resonates: when compared to the President, Pete is levels above him.
Finally, a lot of what he says resonates with people. He speaks about his faith with fervor and honesty, something I appreciate greatly. He talks about the virtues of progressive politics and supporting policies like universal healthcare, labor unionism, combating climate change among other policies. His youth ideals combined are valued by many.
However, Pete still has his critics. Concerns about the gentrification of the city, wiretapping, and targeting of vacant properties that led to accusations of targeting of minorities in the city are what concerns many people. There were also previous issues with the police chief in the town, who recorded conversations, and who he demoted, which raised concerns for racial bias.
Whether or not this affects the primary at all is anyone's guess. However, he has momentum. Maybe Mayor Pete will become President Pete someday.