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Pete Buttigieg says Donald Trump's white 'identity politics' creating a 'crisis of belonging'

  • May 12, 2019

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Pete Buttigieg, a two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is now running for president at the age of 37. Here’s what we know about the man and his campaign.
Dwight Adams, dwight.adams@indystar.com

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Saturday accused President Donald Trump of dividing America and contributing to a “crisis of belonging” for people of color, immigrants, gay people and others.

While Trump’s proposed border wall is a fantasy, the South Bend, Ind. mayor said, the administration is erecting real walls with what he called the most divisive form of “identity politics” – white identity politics.

That can leave black women, immigrants, the disabled, displaced auto workers and others feeling like they’re living in a different country, Buttigieg told a gala of gay rights activists.

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Buttigieg, who is openly gay, said there is also some schismatic thinking in the Democratic Party, such as when “we’re told we need to choose between supporting an auto worker and supporting a trans women of color, without stopping to think about the fact that sometimes the auto worker is a trans woman of color and she definitely needs all the support that she can get.”

Buttigieg said at the Human Rights Campaign gala in Las Vegas that each person has a story that can be used to either separate – or connect – them to others.

“What every gay person has in common with every excluded person of any kind is knowing what it’s like to see a wall between you and the rest of the world and wonder what it’s like on the other side,” he said. “I am here to build bridges and to tear down walls.”

Buttigieg’s remarks were a continuation of a unity theme he’s emphasized since officially launching his presidential campaign last month. His campaign logo includes a bridge that encapsulates his first name.

Trump sounded out his potential rival’s harder-to-pronounce last name at a campaign rally in Florida Wednesday, while ticking through Democratic presidential contenders: “Boot-edge-edge,” the president sounded out, “They say ‘edge-edge.'”

On Friday, Trump compared Buttigieg to the longtime mascot of Mad Magazine, a freckled-faced cartoon boy.

“Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States,” he told Politico.

Buttigieg, who had to Google the character that was popular long before he was born to understand the jab, made an oblique reference to it Saturday.

He said his teenage self would not have been able to comprehend the fact that he would wake up in Las Vegas one day “to reports that the president of the United States was apparently trying to get his attention.”

“Let alone if you told him that the president somehow pronounced his name right,” Buttigieg said as the audience laughed.

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Saturday’s event at Caesars Palace was one of more than a dozen local dinners the Human Rights Campaign is holding before their national dinner in September in Washington.

Two other presidential candidates – California Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey – spoke at a March dinner in Los Angeles. 

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, will co-host a forum for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates this fall.

“Anyone in this room understands that politics isn’t theoretical; it is personal,” Buttigieg said. “So many of us have a marriage that exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

That’s why, he said, what matters in Washington is “not the show.” But “the way a chain of events starts in one of those big white buildings and reaches into our lives, into our homes, our paychecks, our doctors’ offices, our marriages,” he said. “That’s what’s at stake today.”

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