The unexpected candidacy of the relatively unknown former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, for the US presidency last April sparked all sorts of debate. It tended not to focus on his positions on the issues concerning America and the world, but rather on his sexual orientation. The fact that he is a homosexual raises the question of whether “conservative” America is ready for its first gay president.
Of course how conservative America is is debatable for a country that elected its first black president in 2008 and again in 2012, and also gave 3 million more votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016 than Donald Trump, effectively voting for a woman president – notwithstanding the American electoral system.
The issue is that the real discussion about Buttigieg should be whether an inexperienced 38-year-old former small-town mayor is equipped to run the world’s biggest economy and strongest military force. This discussion is now certain to go national – and international – following Buttigieg’s apparent victory in the Iowa caucuses on Monday (though the final results are not yet in).
With 71 percent of the ballots counted, initial results in the first vote for the Democratic candidate that will take on Trump show Buttigieg garnering 26.8 percent against the 25.2 percent that went to Bernie Sanders, who, together with Elizabeth Warren, represents the Democrats’ left wing. Warren came third with 18 percent, followed by former vice president Joe Biden on 15 percent.
There’s a long way to go before the Democratic National Convention in July and a lot is bound to change. If Warren steps down, most of her voters will probably turn to Sanders. The same may happen for Buttigieg if Biden steps down, as they represent the party’s centrist faction. If Buttigieg does well in New Hampshire in a few days’ time as well, then people will start talking seriously about his positions on the economy, healthcare, social security, a green New Deal, election reform etc.
They will seek to learn more about a religious, center-left openly gay man who is married to another man, volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and served his country even though he is opposed to American military involvement in third countries. Greeks will also be taking an interest, but given the people he has as foreign policy advisers, there is some skepticism with regard to the issues that concern Greece the most. It is, however, still very early.
There’s also the Michael Bloomberg factor to account for. The former New York mayor and business tycoon with the progressive agenda on a number of issues could turn the situation around completely, defeating Trump in next November’s elections.
Answers will start appearing at the start of spring as the process progresses, but until then, certain hostages to stereotypes will wonder what the election of an openly gay president could mean for America. If looking for firsts, though, how about focusing on his age? At 38, the former mayor who speaks eight languages would also be the youngest president in American history.