Actually that is absolutely not true, but for some reason it feels true. To me, Pete Buttigieg represents some of the worst impulses in American politics— false commitment, elitism, neoliberalism, and deceit. But then again, so do the vast majority of candidates. Actually, most of them feel like terrible options, people who won’t really work to make this country what it could be, what it has to become; people intent on maintaining the status quo, changed ever so slightly as to appease some folks while leaving most under the thumb of this country’s oppressive systems.
To be honest, I’ll vote for anyone who isn’t Trump. In the general election, your vote for president is realistically between two predetermined options. At that point, that little slice of time in the voting booth, you have to hold your nose and vote for the option that isn’t proto-fascist. We vote for Democrats because they’re not Republicans, not necessarily because we believe in everything every potential Democratic candidate says. But a boy can dream, can’t he? Dream of actually wanting to vote for a candidate? To believe that the work he does in the voting booth will actually feel right when combined with all the work he does in the real world? As a faith-based voter, I dream of a candidate who espouses the same values I hold dear, someone who doesn’t make me feel like I’m sinning when I vote for them, committing or sanctioning some kind of violence. With the current Democratic field, finding that candidate feels difficult.
While for a while I’ve been pretty excited about Elizabeth Warren, recently part of me has begun to question whether I’d want her or someone even further left, like Bernie. Both to me are good options, people that I would generally feel excited to vote for. But that’s not what this article is about. No. This article is about who I absolutely do not want to win the nomination.
Firstly, there are the obvious no-goes. Michael Bennet? Absolutely not. There’s really no good reason he’s still in the race. While he’s a great senator, he is, in no way, the right person to lead this country in its current era. John Delaney? I’m not sure what possessed him to even throw his hat in the ring. There’s nothing new or interesting about him. Not that being new or interesting is really that important for this policy centered voter, but it’s still important to be able to capture the nation’s imagination. Other folks that really don’t matter include Steve Bullock, Wayne Messam, Tom Steyer, and Joe Sestak. And while I find candidates like Andrew Yang amusing, he’s not really at any chance of winning.
Now come the real candidates—people that could, in theory, be the next president of the United States. The following candidates are people that I would be upset to see get the nomination, in order of increasing disdain.
Firstly, Kamala Harris. The California Senator’s reluctance to actually take a firm stance on Medicare for All was bad enough, but it’s her record as a prosecutor and as AG of California that makes me hesitate the most. Her decision as Attorney General to block gender affirming surgery for Michelle Lael-Norswrothy felt incredibly punitive and unnecessary, a reflection of the deep transmisogyny and misogynoir of America’s carceral systems, the kind Harris buttressed and defended throughout her career. The treatment of transwomen, especially trans women of color, in California’s prison system under Harris’s watch was truly brutal. For instance, Candice Crowder, after facing rape and abuse in a men’s prison, was put in solitary confinement for months, mistreated by staff and penetentery workers systematically. I’m not comfortable lending my vote to anyone who sought to uphold such a vile, evil system.
Joe Biden is a bad option, too. Very bad. Incredibly bad. Not only is he a genuinely very creepy man, but his policies, too, are terrible. From the 1994 Crime Bill to the Defense of Marriage Act to the Iraq War to anti-abortion legislation to anti-busing efforts to the war on drugs to pretty much anything he has done in his legislative career, the man is a moral failure. He represents the worst parts of the party and the worst elements of the lingering racism, misogyny, and violence still holding firm in the party’s Northern branches. He’s also just generally incompetent and prone to major gaffes.
Then there’s Tulsi Gabbard. While we can be critical of her previous stances on queer rights, or her love of foreign dictators like Assad and Putin, my real beef with Tulsi rests in her blatant support for fascism in India. She’s been known to take money from individuals associated with the Sangh Parivar, a militant Hindu nationalist organization and the parent body of the ruling, oppressive Bharatiya Janata Party, and has spoken at multiple Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh events in India. She is a known friend of strongman Narendra Modi, a mouthpiece for Hindutva, a vile theocratic ideology that is responsible for unspeakable violence across the subcontinent. She describes these sorts of attacks as “Hindu-phobia,” but in reality they are attacks on her character. She is backed by, and in turn backs, militant terrorist networks.
And, of course, Pete Buttigieg. The man I dislike the most in this race. Pete Buttigieg represents to me the kind of candidate that would have been promising thirty years ago, before we knew any better. Yes he’s a polyglot. Yes he’s poised. But he’s woefully under qualified to be president. The only reason it feels like he’s running at all is because he’s all out of options in increasingly red Indiana, and he’s reached the highest office he can without abandoning the state in which he chose to begin his political career. Buttigieg feels like the kind of candidate who has always believed it was his destiny to become president. And it’s that entitlement, with no real substance behind it, that aggravates me. His service in Afghanistan also frustrates me, as he did his tour after graduating from Harvard, after working for McKinsey, and after being elected to the mayorship in South Bend. To use military service, oriented as it is in systemic violence, as a prop to add to one’s resume, to me, is incredibly distasteful. And that’s exactly what it was. He didn’t have to go to Afghanistan, he didn’t have to enlist like so many poor and frustrated Americans do just to struggle for some kind of opportunity. And then there’s his marrying of faith and his queerness. As a queer Christian, nothing frustrates me more than having someone who participates in the violent apparatus of the state, who doesn’t believe in radical structural change, who doesn’t seem to really care about the social ethics of Christianity, be the face of the marginalized in my faith. To be queer and Christian, for me, has always been a struggle, one that has required deep introspection and a thorough shift of perspective toward a profound understanding of radical love. For so many queer Christians, reconciling our identities with our love of God has forced us to confront some of the worst aspects of this world, to develop a radical theology of compassion. I see none of that from Buttigieg. I see none of that deep, Godly love; I see no real commitment to the poor, the marginalized, the hopeless. And that’s what makes me the most angry. And that’s why, come November 2020, if Buttigieg is on the ballot, I’ll have to pray real hard to get myself to tick off his name.