Friday, November 29, 2019

Pete Buttigieg And The Dead Weight Of The Status Quo

There's a been a lot of discussion about Pete Buttigieg, a surprise candidate whose qualifications for the highest office in the land are barely greater than mine. His highest office has been as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a town a quarter the size of Lincoln, Nebraska. Not only that, he has not exactly distinguished himself as a mayor, either.

What he does have is a way of appealing to older white Democrats. This demographic votes more frequently than their younger counterparts and has more money to contribute to campaigns. Buttigieg appeals to them by supporting elements of the status quo that benefit this demographic. His recent ad has thrown cold water on the idea of tuition-less public education with the entirely cynical pitch that "your tax dollars will pay for the children of millionaires to go to college." (In brief: 1. those kids go to private school 2. they use public schools, roads, and libraries already 3. their parents would be paying for others to go to college through their taxes! But I digress)

There is nothing more difficult in the whole wide world than convincing a middle class Boomer that younger than generations have had it harder than them. These Boomers got free child care in their youth via their stay at home moms, cheap mortgages via the FHA and suburbanization, practically free college, and are now enjoying Social Security and Medicare paid for by younger workers. They seem to assume that future generations also got this sweet deal instead of higher home prices (which benefitted the Boomers whose homes have appreciated in value), student loan debt, precarious employment, and ridiculously expensive child care.

Mayor Pete understands that these voters want to think that the youth love and look up to them, and so he has played the part of the dutiful son. This strategy has gone over gangbusters.

He also seems to understand that most older middle class white people would like to maintain the status quo. (This is why they generally vote Republican.) This is basically the same as it's ever been, and only the most forceful of disruptions can change that mentality. As horrible as Trump has been, he has not been bad for the bottom line of this demographic. For them anti-Trumpism is a moral stance, not essential to their survival.

Candidates like Sanders and Warren are promising to deliver presidencies that are more than the status quo ante. The problem is that the demographic who votes more in primaries, where turnout is really low, are older middle class whites. Right now I am predicting that the Democrats will not nominate Warren or Sanders, and will put Buttigieg or someone like him in the starring role. That candidate, like HRC, will fail to have an enticing vision of the future. Trump will win again in a minority victory relying on the electoral college.

The current status quo is unacceptable, but most palatable to the people who control the primary. This is a tragic situation.

No comments: