Pete Buttigieg: My Gay Rights Struggle Connects Me to Black Voters

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 20: Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by MSNBC …
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Mayor Pete Buttigieg said his experience of being a gay “stranger in my own country” helps him build support among the black voters whom he needs to overcome former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don’t know me,” the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said Wednesday during the Democrat candidates’ debate hosted by MSNBC. Buttigieg continued:

Before I share what’s in my plans, let me talk about what’s in my heart and why this is so important. As mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low-income for eight years, I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of the community, where far too many people live with the consequences of a racial inequity that has built up over centuries, but then compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory.

I care about this because my faith teaches me that salvation has to do with how I make myself useful to those who have been excluded, marginalized, and cast aside and oppressed in society. I care about this because while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country. Turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago, lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line, every day, even if they are nothing like me in their experience.

Buttigieg’s city of South Bend has a population of 100,000, a quarter of whom are African Americans. Buttigieg’s tepid support among African Americans is critically low, especially compared to Biden’s strong support among African Americans in the early-voting state of South Carolina. 

Bloomberg News reported October 27:

Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan aims to “dismantle racist structures and systems” and calls for a range of criminal justice reforms including abolishing the death penalty, reducing sentences for drug offenses, and legalizing marijuana.

Buttigieg, moreover, is gay, and his sexual orientation may be a hurdle, as evidenced by a focus group of black voters in South Carolina convened by the Buttigieg campaign that found that his marriage to a man was “uncomfortable” for some voters. McClatchy’s State newspaper of Colombia, South Carolina, first reported on the results of the focus group.

A 2017 Pew Research Center poll showed the share of African Americans who favor same sex marriage was 51%. That’s up from 39% in 2015, but lagged the 62% support among Americans overall.

“A new Quinnipiac University poll of South Carolina voters found South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg still at zero percent among black voters,” National Review reported on November 18. In contrast, Biden held 44 percent support among black voters in the state. 


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