Warren/Buttigieg: Progressive 2020 Fantasy League, Part II

A combination of legal, legislative, financial, military and executive experience that would be very attractive.

A delicate but promisingly progressive balance.

Among the potential match-ups for the 2020 Democratic nominees for president and vice-president, I recently looked at my personal favorites, Kamala Harris and Julian Castro. We do, however, have a wealth of riches in Democratic race. All have challenges, all have flaws, all have advantages. Which brings me to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Elizabeth Warren

An emeritus Harvard law professor specializing in bankruptcy and commercial law, Warren can lay claim to being one of the most cited individuals in the country when it comes to her specialization. Always an outspoken progressive, she beat incumbent Scott Brown in 2012 to become Massachusetts’ first female senator. Her work on four Senate committees has further sealed her progressive bona fides, with passionate liberal stances on everything from health care to student loan reform to regulating big banks. Policy driven, witty, tough and not a little dorky, Warren is a legislative wonk’s dream. She understands every facet of government and finance and has presented organized, sensible plans for almost every one of her policy initiatives as a presidential candidate. She wears her slightly tongue-in-cheek “I have a plan for that” as a badge of pride — and a call to organized, logical action.

She has experience, a quick and curious mind, a tough but not threatening (to most) feistiness that we in the cheap seats love about her. Perhaps most importantly, though, she is thoughtful, reasonable, accessible approaches to most of the problems facing America today. An unapologetic liberal, she wears that designation with pride and doesn’t water down her progressiveness for leery moderates.

I was talking with a friend the other day, and I said that when you’re picking a name for your child, you have to kind of channel your inner meanest 10-year-old and think about every conceivable way a bully can be mean to your kid based on your choice. I feel the same way with President Trump and the eventual Democratic nominee. Though I’m sure Trump will paint any Democratic candidate as nut-job left-wing socialist, it’s easier with some candidates than others, and Warren is surely one of his easiest targets from this perspective. I mean, he’s wrong when he says that she hasn’t spelled out many of the ways that she would pay for her initiatives, but it’s not like his base cares if anything he says is truthful. The irony, of course, is that the rural poor and white working-class voters that make up most of the president’s base would benefit far more from Warren’s policies than Trump’s sorry excuses for them. As for some people finding Warren “abrasive,” this is one more proliferation of what was done to Secretary Clinton in 2016; they can bite me. Warren actually an incredibly warm and engaging person in speeches and interviews. Still, Trump would surely trot out the old and still-racist “Pocahontas” trope when he runs out of the one or two Warren policies he can actually process and almost understand. Yes, she was probably foolish to have ever trotted out her “heritage” once she entered the political world, but what’s done is done.

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Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg is a native of South Bend, IN, where he currently serves as mayor. He is the second-youngest mayor in that city’s history, winning his first term at age 28 with 74% of the vote, and then his second term with over 80% of the vote. He is the only child of two professors, Joseph and Jennifer Buttigeig — the former a Maltese immigrant who was an emeritus professor at Notre Dame for decades before his death in January of this year. A high school valedictorian and winner of the JFK Profiles in Courage essay contest, Pete Buttigieg attended Harvard and later Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He began to volunteer on local campaigns before working for Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 run for president, and then for President Obama’s 2008 campaign. Buttiegieg, in 2009, became an ensign in the Navy Reserve and deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014. (Remember, this was after he became mayor of South Bend.) Buttigieg has faced racial tensions and inequities in his city, and gone out of his way to admit some failings in those areas. He came out as gay in June 2015. If elected, he’d become the nation’s first openly gay president. He’s a devout Christian and married to Chasten Buttigieg, his partner of four years.

In terms of progressive politics, the guy is — well, dreamy. He strongly supports a woman’s right to choose as well as a merciful approach to illegal immigration and major financial and educational reforms. He’s incredibly articulate (he taught himself Norwegian, his seventh language), and he comes off as compassionate, sincere and patriotic in an almost dorky way. Buttigieg is fervently dedicated to the idea that it is time for the next generation of American politicians to take the reins of government. He’s optimistic, not afraid to throw a little shade, and…well, he’s just kind of adorable. His husband’s Twitter feed alone is an incredibly sweet insight into his personality and passions, and he just exudes an honesty and trustworthiness that is rare in American politicians.

I appreciate the argument made by “Mayor Pete” that his youth, vigor and forward-thinking take on policy is one of the best reasons to support him. He also makes a compelling argument that he has more hands-on executive experience than either the current president or vice-president. But the guy is young. Though I’m just now hitting middle age, it’s the first time in my life that I’m seriously looking at a presidential candidate younger than myself. I mean, even President Obama, the youngest and most vital president of my adulthood, is still, well, significantly older than me, right? I mean, presidents are supposed to be, right? Or maybe I’m just getting old. Regardless, you can be sure that the GOP will use his youth as a battering ram. Still, Buttigieg rises to such bait very well, and he usually ends up mopping the floor with those who challenge his age as a deficit rather than an advantage. The other main concern is his handling of racial tensions in South Bend. It’s refreshing to see him admit needing re-education on racial challenges and owning up to mistakes and mishandling of decisions he’s made. The curve on which Buttigieg is being graded is pretty high. He continues to bring out policies and plans to address various concerns, and there are certainly critics who are watching to see if his actions back up his words.

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One thing I’m looking at is a combination of compelling reasons why any given candidates would be good leaders for our country (i.e., reasons we should actually vote for someone) as well as persuasive but realistic electoral math. I feel Warren offers a more approachable, less abrasive progressive agenda than Bernie Sanders, who probably aligns most closely with her political vision. Warren and Buttigieg on a ticket would bring a combination of legal, legislative, financial, military and executive experience that would be very attractive. And I think their personalities would compliment each other well: his odd, preternatural, Zen-like wisdom as a counter to her passionate progressivism. His relative moderation may also appeal to more centrist voters and thus may make more Warren’s message resonate more widely.

This ticket, then, would potentially usher in an era of progressive values and policies as well as hand off the torch to a new generation, especially as Buttigieg would look pretty good to take over in four or eight years. There may be an electoral disadvantage in not having a person of color on the ticket, but I think the female vote will soar no matter what if we nominate a female candidate; moreover, I think Buttigieg, as part of the LGBTQ+ community, would have an advantage similar to that of President Obama as a person of color. Like it or not, we do live in a world of identity politics at least some of the time, and optics will be important in an election in which the incumbent sees nothing but optics.

Next Time
What would a Biden/Booker ticket offer to the country?