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Pete makes us proud, won’t be nominee

Buttigieg rise reflects Democratic anxiety over candidate roster

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Pete Buttigieg, gay news, Washington Blade
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, Ind.) speaks at a campaign rally at City Winery in Washington, D.C. on April 4, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A few weeks ago barely anyone knew the guy.

Since announcing his improbable presidential campaign, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has utilized a savvy strategy of seeking and accepting any and all media appearances to change that.

His coordinated effort has been a successful undertaking, fast propelling the 37-year-old gay politician toward generating both growing name recognition and generally positive reviews. Until poll-dominating Joe Biden entered the fray two weeks ago, Buttigieg had recently begun to overshadow the combined coverage and attention garnered by most other Democratic contenders.

“Mayor Pete,” as the fresh face with the hard-to-pronounce surname initially became known, quickly provided concrete proof of how far the nation has come in accepting the LGBT community. The mere fact that a soft-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent, compelling, and openly gay candidate could occupy the center-stage of national politics was testament to how fully integrated the gay community has now become in American life.

He has encouraged that unabashed public embrace by presenting a positive and relatable personal and professional story emblematic of the straight-talking style and down-to-earth demeanor of his Hoosier habitat. The let’s-give-a-listen reaction Buttigieg garnered has more to do with his innate ability to speak like an actual human instead of ideological automaton, not for the uniqueness of his sexual orientation. He has also benefited from the common sense of his calmly elucidated statements when contrasted with the flamboyant artificiality and vacuous sloganeering of stereotypic vote-seekers.

Although he has so far intentionally conveyed thematic messages and not specific policy proposals during his time in the spotlight, centrist voters aligned with the Democratic Party have found Buttigieg a refreshing and compelling standout among a mind-numbing and sight-blurring array of what is already nearly two-dozen competitors. He comes across as authentic amid a bevy of either shop-worn or contrived political personas.

Even last week’s Time magazine cover photo with affable husband Chasten Buttigieg had the look of a Midwestern couple possessing simple and straightforward bearing, more Walmart-wearing normal dudes than fancy-pants urban gay men. It was not only in stark contrast to the image-stylin’ portraiture of the recent Vanity Fair magazine cover and pictorial feature on Beto O’Rourke by renowned photographer Annie Liebovitz, but helped explain why Pete was besting Beto in polls.

While Buttigieg has well represented LGBT Americans, he won’t be the Democratic nominee in the 2020 presidential campaign. But his not being nominated won’t be because he’s gay.

A Quinnipiac poll late last month indicated only 23 percent of all voters nationwide would not be willing to support a gay male presidential candidate. A nominee planning to eliminate private health insurance and enact ‘Medicare for All’ would lose the support of far more voters than that.

The fear of a repeat of the electoral humiliation in 2016 poses a distinct dilemma for Democrats, and dictates evaluation of potential nominees. Party loyalists struggle with an array of candidates uncertain which, if any, of them can beat the incumbent Republican.

Newly released national polls by both CNN and Gallup indicating that support for Donald Trump has currently risen to his personal-best high of 46 percent, coupled with 56 percent approval for his handling of an increasingly strong and stable economy with the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years, only heightens Democratic anxiety.

A temperate and, if only by comparison, politically moderate Middle American Buttigieg candidacy could provide a winning formula. Democrats, also needing to satiate a delusional far-left activist party base, are too nervous about another national loss to select a relatively inexperienced young mayor of a modest-sized mid-nation town as standard-bearer.

It’s exactly that conundrum that has boosted Buttigieg’s campaign but will eventually render him an also-ran.

In the meantime, and in a glorious manner that has greatly mattered, Mayor Pete has made us proud – and has already won a victory in doing so.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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Trump thinks he can say anything — even quote Hitler — and win

Listen to his words and be very afraid

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President Donald Trump

Trump believes he can say anything, even using Hitler’s words, and be elected. My faith is in the decent people in America; they will reject him. It was reported “a video posted on Trump’s social media profile featured mock-up headlines and newspaper clippings envisioning coverage after a Trump victory. One headline read: ‘What’s next for America?’ with text underneath that referred to “the creation of a unified Reich.”

The word “Reich” is associated with Germany under Adolf Hitler, who designated his Nazi regime the “Third Reich.” Then it was reported in an interview with political analyst Jon Delano on KDKA-TV of Pittsburgh, “Trump was asked whether he supports any restrictions on a person’s right to contraception?” He responded, “We’re looking at that, and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly, and I think it’s something you’ll find interesting. I think it’s a smart decision. We’ll be releasing it very soon.” 

This despite polls showing nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe contraception should be legal, and available. After the backlash, he appeared to backtrack. Blaming someone else for the post on his website, and saying he supports contraception, but adding, it should be left to the states. I say believe what he says first, and be afraid. Women should be very afraid, if Trump is elected. Leaving it to the states gets you this: Louisiana lawmakers voted to classify abortion pills as controlled substances. This would make possession of the drugs without a prescription a crime in Louisiana, punishable by jail time. This when the Guttmacher Institute reports 63% of all abortions in the U.S. in 2023 were medication abortions. Yes, Trump is scary. 

While Trump continues to say these crazy things and seems to get away with it, the mind-boggling thing is most of the media continue to focus on Biden’s age, and a few misspoken words. Where is the rationale for that? We see misleading polls in this election cycle, in every race. Recently, Joe Scarborough had major questions about the New York Times/Siena polls, and the methodology used. It appears some respondents listed as most likely voters, actually hadn’t voted in a couple of years. Many of the polls where Trump is leading are within the margin of error. If we look at polls over the last couple of years on legislative races, and abortion, they have been wrong. Democrats ended up winning even if the polls said they were even, or behind. Maybe people just don’t want to talk to pollsters anymore, or maybe even lie to them. I haven’t responded to a pollster for at least five years. I get calls from pollsters on my land line (yes, I still have one), my cell phone, and get surveys and polling questions by email. I never respond. My advice is to disregard the public polling. 

I know candidates do internal polling, and that is fine for their purposes. But the general public would do better to listen to the candidates, hear what they say, read what they write, and believe them. Trump actually says he wants to become a dictator, and uses terms like ‘The Reich.’ He watches what states are doing about abortion and contraception and continues to say that’s fine by him. He calls the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, great patriots, and says he will pardon them. He invites a known white supremacist, Nick Fuentes, to dinner with him at Mar-a-Lago. He opposes doing anything about the border now, telling members of his party to vote against the first bipartisan bill to do something about immigration in years. He uses the slogan ‘America First’ and thinks naively, in this world, we can pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. He wants to cozy up to Putin, and thinks that is good for America. 

Young people need to be scared because he is a climate denier, and they will live with the results of that the longest. Just look at the estimate of the hurricanes for this coming season, you see what will happen if we do nothing. Trump promises a group of energy billionaires if they raise a billion dollars for him, they can “drill baby drill.” Bloomberg reports, “A victory by Republican Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election threatens $1 trillion in energy investments and future support for low-carbon energy sources,” according to a Wood Mackenzie report.

Americans must simply listen to what Trump says. That should scare, at a minimum, every woman, African American, Latino, member of the LGBTQ+ community, and young person. If we hear him, we must believe him; and we must soundly defeat him.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Urgent concerns arise when congressional staff face ethics investigations

We need safeguards to mitigate risk of unfair outcomes

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Congressional staff tend to avoid engaging in conduct that could reflect poorly on the members they represent or that which would otherwise bring them out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight.

Last week, however, was the second time in which I broke a story about a chief of staff on Capitol Hill who found himself the subject of a complaint to the U.S. House Ethics Committee, the body whose primary responsibility is investigating reports of unethical and unlawful conduct by America’s elected representatives.

In the first, Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a report against Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss’s top aide because he had placed stickers over a transphobic sign that the far-right Georgia congresswoman had displayed outside her office. 

The second complaint came from an official with the Biden-Harris administration over an especially combative and anti-trans email that was sent by the highest-ranking deputy in a West Virginia Republican’s Congressional office.

The two cases are not otherwise analogous. As the emissaries of lawmakers who are responsible to their constituents, staff should be held accountable for out-of-bounds behavior like sending offensive emails to harass colleagues on Capitol Hill or in the federal government. 

By contrast, decorating a poster in the Longworth House Office Building without permission is hardly a crime that should be escalated to the Ethics Committee, particularly not when the poster is offensive to members of a marginalized community and was hung in the first place to provoke a colleague across the hall who has a trans daughter.

If a monthslong probe exploring whether a career Hill staffer had brought discredit upon the House of Representatives with his stickers was not absurd enough, it was kicked off by none other than Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been guilty of that charge virtually every day since she was elected. (Recall, for instance, that she has called for violence against her political opponents, including by publishing a video on social media in which she said then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves the death penalty.)

A member of Congress wields a tremendous amount of power relative to even the seniormost Capitol Hill staff, a fact that was brought into sharp relief for Auchincloss’s chief of staff as he sought to defend himself against not just the committee’s investigation but also an affidavit by the Capitol Police in support of an arrest warrant along with threats and harassment so severe that his home was monitored by law enforcement.

The House Ethics Committee declined to comment when I reached out last week to confirm receipt of the complaint filed against the GOP staffer, just as they had refused to provide information about the status of the case initiated by Greene’s report.

The committee’s Senate counterpart is even more of a black box.

An article by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan government accountability group, notes that in the recent indictment of New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, “the shocking details revealed by the allegations seemingly had no end.”

The evidence against him was sufficiently flagrant and longstanding, the article argues, to “beg the question: Is the Senate incapable of finding and rooting out potential corruption before it becomes a crime?”

Part of the problem, according to CLC, is that the Upper Chamber’s ethics committee provides no means by which a complaint can be seen through to its investigation and resolution. The public knows very little about what the committee does, perhaps because the committee does very little: a study in 2023 found that none of the 1,523 reports that were filed over a period of 15 years resulted in any formal disciplinary sanctions.

Obviously, full transparency is impossible when sensitive information must be kept confidential to protect the integrity of an investigation. However, and especially if we are going to continue seeing complaints against Congressional staff rather than the lawmakers they serve, the committees should provide more insight into their processes and decision making.

Measures could include safeguards designed to mitigate the risk of unfair outcomes when investigations are brought by members of Congress and target those who have far less power. A mechanism requiring the investigators to share more information about cases under their review, to the extent possible, would also be wise — because even when the alleged conduct by a staffer may warrant a complaint, time and resources might be better spent rooting out misconduct by members of Congress, which is almost always far more consequential. 

We should also contend with the question of whether ethics committees are ever the appropriate place to explore and adjudicate allegations against staffers, since members are fully capable of enforcing the rules in their offices. 

As demonstrated by the long and tortured process through which George Santos was finally booted from Congress, getting rid of an elected lawmaker is far more difficult than, say, firing a chief of staff. 

Ultimately, perhaps the right question is: how can we hold elected representatives to a higher standard such that they model good behavior for their employ as well as for their constituents and Congressional colleagues?

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Biden must be more direct when talking to young people

Educate them about futility of third-party candidates

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Biden is doing a great job. But reality is, some young people are wavering in their support. I suggest when talking to young people, the president be more direct. What prompted me to write this was reading what some Morehouse College students are saying. Here is a suggested short speech.   

“I want you to know how honored I am for the opportunity to speak with you today. I will speak from my heart, and be very direct. I know you have disagreements with me. Some of you may even think I am actually too old to be president. But I am a candidate for reelection, because I believe I can still make a difference. I know you are very smart. You know only two candidates running have a chance to win. The next president will be either Donald Trump or me. 

You must figure out what issues are the most important to you. Then determine which one of us will be better for your future. Do the research on all the issues you care about. Recognize, no candidate is perfect, surely, I am not, but then no person is. I know many of you care about issues including climate change, student debt relief, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and civil rights. Issues like how the United States deals with the Israel/Hamas war, inflation, voting rights, abortion. Donald Trump and I disagree on how to handle each of those issues. We have vastly different views of the world. I believe the United States has a responsibility to lead. Our military, and our economy, are both the strongest in the world. We cannot hide, as he likes to say, behind the slogan ‘America First.’ We cannot close our eyes, and our borders, and pretend what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t impact us. 

I believe we must deal with the Iran-China-Russia axis. We must support Ukraine and continue sending weapons to help them win. If they do, we can keep our young men and women off the battlefield. Remember, we aren’t sending money, but weapons, which are made here, providing high-paying jobs to our own citizens. Some of you have issues with how I have dealt with the Israel/Hamas war. While I support Israel, I do hear you, and will do everything I can to move toward a free Palestinian state. Trump will not. He even moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, to make that point. I am pushing Israel to change its tactics, to protect the innocent women and children, in Gaza. We must do that.

I know many of you want more progress on student debt forgiveness, on fighting climate change, protecting a woman’s right to control her own healthcare and body, and equality for the LGBTQ community. You want to see an end to the structural racism in our country. You must know by my actions that I share those goals with you. I also share the feeling all this is not happening fast enough. But you are all smart. You know our government was formed with a system of checks and balances; three branches of government — legislative, judicial, and executive. While I may want to wave a magic wand to make these things happen, no one can. However, I commit to you, I will fight for them every day. 

Some of you may be thinking, ‘Third-Party’ candidate. I ask you to remember, no third-party candidate has won since 1856, and our structure of the two-party system tells you one cannot win in 2024. In fact, for 36 years, none has ended up winning more than 5% of the vote. Then remember a few facts about Trump. He was found liable for sexual abuse. He has shown by words and actions, he is a racist, sexist, homophobe, who is also a climate change denier. He opposes student debt relief. He also tried to stage a coup after losing the last election. 

Again, like it or not, it’s either me or him. And again, while you may think I am too old, remember, he is my age. If you intend to vote for Trump, that is of course your choice. But if you don’t want him, and his MAGA cult, controlling your future, your choices are to stay home, vote for a third-party candidate, or vote for me. Two of those choices will help elect Donald Trump. So, I ask respectfully, after you do the research, that you give me your vote. Again, I am not perfect, but I will never stop working to make your, and your family’s, life better. I will always work for a more just, and safer world, for all of us.  

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