Pete Buttigieg: ‘God does not belong to any political party’

Little Village is posting videos of all 19 speeches made by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, so readers can hear each candidate in his or her own words.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg takes the stage at the Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame Celebration in Cedar Rapids, June 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

During his first campaign appearance in Iowa City at The Airliner in March, Pete Buttigieg felt the need to address “the question of why a 37-year-old mayor thinks he has any business being in a discussion about the highest office in the land,” as he phrased it. But the time the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, spoke at the Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame celebration on June 9, no one was asking if Buttigieg had any business being there.

Largely unknown outside Indiana before launching his presidential campaign, Buttigieg has attracted a great deal of national media attention and has made impressive gains in early polls in Iowa. He’s not the first mayor to run for president, or even the only mayor running in 2020 Democratic primaries, but the other mayors have represented larger cities. His fellow candidates, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City and Mayor Wayne Messum of Miramar, Florida, govern cities with populations of 8.6 million and 122,000, respectively. South Bend has a population of just over 102,000.

(In 1972, NYC Mayor John Lindsay became the first mayor to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in the modern era. Unlike this year’s mayors, Lindsay had also been elected to federal office. He served in the House of Representatives for three terms before being elected mayor in 1965.)

Buttigieg is both the youngest candidate (nine months younger than Rep. Tulsi Gabbard), as well as the first openly gay candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and only the second openly gay major party candidate for president. (In 2012, Republican Fred Karger became the first openly gay major party presidential candidate. The Los Angeles political consultant was also the first Jewish candidate for the Republican nomination. He received little attention during his run, in large part because the party excluded him from all its candidate forums.)

Buttigieg has so far focused more on general themes, such as defining the values of the Democratic Party, than specific policy proposals.

“This season in the life of America’s political development is one to end the idea that American values are property of conservatives and Republicans,” Buttigieg said during his Hall of Fame speech.

He told the party activists and elected official gathered in Cedar Rapids, “Freedom’s not a conservative value, patriotism’s not a conservative-only value and God does not belong to any political party, least of all the one that produced this current president. We’ve got a lot of work to do to vindicate our values, to establish a true democracy — where money can’t outvote people, and politicians can’t choose their voters by drawing districts the way they like. A democracy where all U.S. citizens, including those of D.C. and Puerto Rico, enjoy proper political representation in our capitol.”

“We are where we are because normal broke. And we Democrats can no more promise a return to the ’90s than Republicans can deliver on a promise to return us to the ’50s. The only thing we can do is look at that show that the president’s created — whatever you want to call it: reality show, horror show, game show — and we’re going to change the channel to something completely different. Help me change the channel.”

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