In the 2016 Democratic primary, I was about as strong a supporter of Hillary Clinton as could be. I campaigned my heart out for her, and I believed that she would’ve been by far the best president out of all the candidates running.
I never, however, lost sight of what was most important: our national imperative to make sure that Donald Trump was not elected president. I told anyone who would listen – regardless of my strong feelings about Hillary being the best choice – that I would enthusiastically support and work for Bernie Sanders if he were the nominee, and I meant it.
Of course, many of Bernie’s supporters didn’t share the same perspective, which didn’t make any sense to me. Couldn’t we all agree, regardless of whatever issues you may have with Bernie or Hillary, that either of them would be leaps and bounds better than Donald Trump, or any GOP candidate for that matter? Not even close, right? I didn’t understand how anyone could think otherwise considering the stakes in front of us.
It absolutely blows my mind that, years after the 2016 election, there were and still are people, people who in every other way seemed to be smart, rational, well-informed people, that believe that there was any sort of equivalence between Hillary and Trump. People who voted independent, or didn’t vote at all, in the general election because they thought their choice was between “the lesser of two evils.” Now we know what the consequences of that type of thinking have been.
Well, here we are, on the cusp of an election that will almost certainly be much more consequential than the 2016 election. If Donald Trump is elected to a second term, America as we know it could literally cease to exist. And yet maddeningly, we as a Democratic Party find ourselves behaving in the same way that resulted in our country getting into this mess in the first place.
By any reasonable person’s standards, Pete Buttigieg is nothing less than a strong progressive who has advocated for policies that are more left-wing than many of the other Democratic candidates: eliminating the Electoral College, reforming the Supreme Court, and passing a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United can hardly be called “incremental,” “moderate” positions.
In addition to that, he has been an outspoken supporter dating back to before his campaign even began of “Medicare For All,” tied in with the totally sensible, practical and straight forward idea that implementing MFA doesn’t require eliminating private insurance altogether. As Pete would put it, if the public option is as good as we progressives hope it will be, why would we need to force people onto it?
I don’t see how the addition of this component makes his position any less progressive than what the other candidates are proposing. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as their supporters, don’t have a monopoly on deciding what constitutes “progressive.” I’ve been a progressive activist since I was a teenager and I wholeheartedly support Pete’s healthcare plan.
Also, I want to dispel a lie that has recently been spread about Pete’s proposal – some have said that he changed his position later in the campaign and added in the idea of a public option to be more “centrist,” but that is completely inaccurate. He talked about “Medicare For All Who Want It” back in January of 2019, at the beginning of his campaign, because it was the right position, made sense, and would be easier to pass, not because it would get him elected.
I’ve honestly been completely baffled, disappointed, and horrified by some of the negative press and negative attacks on Twitter that Mayor Pete has been getting lately. This is a candidate who represents what would be a historic, radical change in the White House. Not only is he young and gay, but he has proposed policies that would completely overhaul basically every major part of the federal government, including healthcare, the environment, criminal justice, and economic empowerment for minority communities.
He may be more low key than some of the other candidates in tone and temperament, but this doesn’t make his candidacy any less revolutionary. Just like Barack Obama was soft-spoken, Pete has a way of expressing himself that attracts people rather than alienating people, a tone that’s inclusive rather than negative and polarizing.
We as progressives are at serious risk of repeating the internal division that caused us to lose in 2016 and that also allowed Boris Johnson’s recent landslide win in the U.K.
Which is worse: having someone in office who you agree with 95% of the time or someone who is literally an existential risk to your way of life? The answer seems obvious to me.
President Obama himself recently said it perfectly. “We will not win just by increasing the turnout of the people who already agree with us completely on everything…. which is why I am always suspicious of purity tests during elections. Because, you know what, the country is complicated.”
Demanding purity tests and tearing down one of our major candidates, if it continues, will almost certainly result in the re-election of Trump and the destruction of everything we as progressives hold dear. It’s time to stop it now before it’s too late.
Note: The original title for this article did not include the word “If.” We regret the error.