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Columnist Ian Welfley argues that while Mayor Pete Buttigieg may not stand out as the most obvious presidential candidate, he may just give the other candidates a run for their money. 

It’s irrefutable that America is currently facing one of the most politically tense eras in its history. People can’t talk about their political preferences without everything spiraling into a cutthroat altercation where all respect is thrown out the window. As our great nation approaches its next presidential election, many have been keeping a close eye on the up-and-coming candidates vying for office in 2020, and often ponder which of them is the glue that can mend America’s ideological cracks. 

From Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren to Joe Biden, the Democratic playing field has never felt so plentiful. However, there’s an underdog that many seem to omit from presidential discussions: Pete Buttigieg. This little-known mayor from Indiana has been quietly rising through the polls, and just might be the most ideal candidate for the job.

The problem is that Buttigieg doesn’t have much name recognition, with people not even knowing how to pronounce his last name (it’s boot-edge-edge). An Economist/You Gov poll in late March showcased that 62% of Americans don’t know who Buttigieg is. If Americans were aware of Buttigieg’s campaign and the credentials that qualify him for office, they’d come to find that he has the capability to become our nation’s first millennial president. At the age of 37, not only would Buttigieg be the youngest man ever elected to office but the first who is also openly gay

Pete Buttigieg’s education credentials are impeccable. He graduated from Harvard in 2004 and subsequently won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, where he proceeded to acquire a Bachelor of Arts degree with first-class honors in philosophy, politics and economics. After an illustrious college career, Buttigieg worked at the consulting company of McKinsey before enlisting in the military as a gay man prior to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

When he was only 29, Pete Buttigieg was elected mayor of South Bend, the fourth largest city in Indiana, in 2011. Between the years of 1960 and 2012, South Bend’s population had decreased by more than 30,000 people. As soon as Buttigieg’s first term began, he vowed to change this by raising or refurbishing 1,000 vacant houses in 1,000 days. Buttigieg proved to be true to his word when the goal was met a whopping 62 days before the deadline.

The most recent census has demonstrated that South Bend’s population has had a rapid upsurge since Buttigieg took office. When Buttigieg was deployed to Afghanistan halfway through his first term as mayor, and came out as gay after that, South Bend proved it still had unwavering faith in its mayor when he was reelected with 80% of the vote. This background in a small industrial town like South Bend is indispensable to Buttigieg’s campaign since it shows he can connect with working-class voters in a way that candidates from other areas of the country can’t.

Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality alone is a factor that has inspired hope for change throughout America. This was on full display when the valedictorian at the conservative Mormon school of Brigham Young University came out as gay during his commencement speech last April, citing Buttigieg as his inspiration. Buttigieg also has a way with words, as he’s able to fluently speak seven, including Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari and French.

Pete Buttigieg preaches the liberal values one would expect from a gay Democratic candidate, such as wanting to give free medicare to those who want it, being an avid supporter of women’s reproductive rights and desiring to repeal the electoral college.

Buttigieg’s most unique policy pertains to the Supreme Court. He claims that he wants to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 15 justices. Buttigieg feels that if five justices are appointed by Democratic presidents and five justices are appointed by Republican presidents, those 10 justices must then unanimously agree on who the additional five should be. It should be noted that Buttigieg is the only Democratic candidate discussing a legitimate solution to the ubiquitous power struggle within the Supreme Court.

Pete Buttigieg truly has been a breakout candidate in the early months of the 2020 election. Already, he’s gone from no one knowing his name to raising an impressive $7 million for his campaign in so short a time. Another Economist/YouGov poll also shows that Buttigieg is one of only three candidates in the Democratic field with a current net-positive national approval, demonstrating that America is showing a lot of sympathy for this Christian LGBT candidate.

While some may argue that Buttigieg is too young for the job, he’s certainly showing no signs of apprehension. When asked whether he had a problem standing up to Trump, Buttigieg responded, “I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was, you know, working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan.” Truly, Buttigieg is a candidate to look out for in the coming months.

Ian Welfley is a junior media arts & design/communications double major. Contact Ian at welfleim@dukes.jmu.edu.