Opinion: Pete Buttigieg is a centrist in progressive’s clothing

The presidential hopeful promises to be someone innovative, but his policies are the same sort of centrism that have failed the previous century.


Megan Nagorzanski

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the first annual Finkenauer fish fry at Hawkeye Downs on Saturday, November 2, 2019. U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer hosted eight presidential candidates for a fish fry focused on jobs and infrastructure.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

Pete Buttigieg is an interesting character. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor is a gay veteran who served in Afghanistan, graduated from Harvard University, is a Rhodes scholar, and now finds himself running for the Democratic nomination for president. 

Buttigieg is someone who understands how to draw conclusions from data and has planted himself as a progressive candidate. He declared on Twitter, “Neoliberalism is the political-economic consensus that has governed the last forty years of policy in the U.S. and U.K. Its failure helped to produce the Trump moment. Now we have to replace it with something better.”

He is also a neoliberal masquerading as a progressive to compete with the other candidates, such as centrist former Vice President Joe Biden and leftist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Biden is running on the idea of returning everything back to normal before Donald Trump was elected president — the restoration of Obama-era liberalism. Sanders is running on the idea of finally making the billionaire class pay what is owed to the American people — a truly radical transformation of America.

Buttigieg is running on something — though it is hard to tell what when he vaguely jumbles around policy and tries to please everyone.

Health-care policy is a phenomenal example of this. Back in 2018, Buttigieg said he was for Medicare for All. Now, he’s running attack ads on progressives such as Sanders about the damage that the universal health-care plan would do to people who like their insurance and the American economy.

This isn’t surprising given the fact that Buttigieg is essentially tied with Biden for most campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry in the Democratic field.

Why bother eliminating for-profit insurance companies that donate to you when you can make a “public option” that doesn’t address core issues but still garners you support?

Buttigieg is running on something — though it is hard to tell what when he vaguely jumbles around policy and tries to please everyone.

Another area in which Buttigieg fails to achieve any mark of the term progressive is in his stances on education. His new plan would make public universities tuition free for anyone from a household income of $100,000, with some support provided between $100,001 to $150,000.

This is not changing the system. By arbitrarily setting it at $100,000, Buttigieg’s plan would leave out hundreds of thousands of Americans who may also be living paycheck to paycheck in larger cities.

Education is meant to be a public good available to everybody. His attacks on universal college plans as sending millionaires and billionaires to school is absurd. It’s the exact same as saying that we shouldn’t have universal health care because we could help a billionaire who twists their ankle and wants to go to a hospital on the taxpayers’ dime.

Scapegoating this issue by saying that we would be funding education for millionaires’ children is a gross misrepresentation of what universal college would mean.

Buttigieg also wants to send more kids off to war. He has hinted at one year’s mandatory service for every American citizen who turns 18 years old to bring about social cohesion. Bonnie Kristian from The Week puts it best: “We will not reinvigorate meaningful community by domesticating the draft.”

The idea that anyone who attempts to court the progressive vote would suggest mandatory military service is absurd. This notion of surrendering a year of our lives to whatever the government wills of us is mind-boggling coming from a Democratic nominee.

Buttigieg has neither the experience nor the conviction to present himself as a progressive candidate. He is not working to revolutionize the system or radically alter the structure of America. He is cashing in on the recent wave of voters demanding proper change to our government by dressing up meager and bare bones positions as radical propositions that will result in meaningful change.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.