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Buttigieg is Struggling to Attract Young and African American Voters

Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg has been getting some buzz recently. He is still on top of the Real Clear Politics Average in Iowa. He has just been supplanted for number one in New Hampshire. The young, openly gay mayor is lagging nationwide, however.

Buttigieg is struggling despite the fact that he is not extreme like Warren and Sanders and not elderly like Biden. On paper the mayor would seem to be the perfect general election candidate to go up against Donald Trump. The problem is that the young, moderate mayor is disdained by two important Democratic voting blocs, blacks and younger voters.

FiveThirtyEight notes a number of problems Buttigieg is having with African American voters. They are not impressed with his record as mayor of South Bend, where blacks are still lagging economically. Blacks, more than Americans at large, have a problem with Buttigieg’s sexual orientation. African American voters are more inclined to support former Vice President Joe Biden because of his long-term relationship with Barack Obama.

Politico notes that Buttigieg is aware of the problem he has with African American voters and is trying to repair it with small sit downs in South Carolina and other states with large numbers of black voters. Still, some prior missteps are holding the candidate back.

“In recent weeks, Buttigieg’s missteps with African American voters — both in his campaign’s outreach to them and his own previous statements about the black community in South Bend — have threatened the picture of a candidate on the rise in the early states. In the November debate, Buttigieg’s rivals were asked about his campaign’s usage of a stock photograph of a Kenyan woman.

South Carolina officials said Buttigieg botched the roll-out of local endorsements for his Douglass Plan, a policy aimed at lifting up African Americans, by putting out a list of supporters that included some people who said they weren’t backing his policy plan.”

The other important voting bloc that is turned off by Buttigieg consists of younger Democrats. The fact would seem to be counterintuitive. Buttigieg is 37 and is the picture of youth and vigor. But, as the Atlantic points out, the strengths that Buttigieg has that would serve him in good stead in the general election is holding him back in the Democratic primary contest.

The primary reason that young Democrats don’t like Buttigieg is that he is not a socialist. Young people, with no experience of the Cold War and no knowledge of places like Venezuela, are uncommonly enamored of socialism. They view Buttigieg as a threat for true blue socialists if he wins early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Atlantic thinks that young Democrats hate Buttigieg because they regard him as a flip flopper, taking on moderate positions on issues like Medicare for All because he wants to appeal to older, more moderate voters. He is also too much identified with the wealthy, a class of people young Democrats loath and despise.

However, the biggest reason young Democratic voters are disinclined to support Buttigieg has more to do with psychology than politics, the Atlantic concludes.

“Young educated liberals look at Buttigieg and see a nauseating caricature, not of the person they are, or even the person they wanted to be, but of the person they’ve felt pressured to emulate but never quite became—an outcome they regard with tortured ambivalence.

Buttigieg is the guy they hated in college, not only because he was obnoxiously successful, but also because his success sat uncomfortably, hauntingly close to the version of success they once felt prompted to achieve.”

Buttigieg’s strengths are in fact weaknesses where younger Democrats are concerned. His youth, his intelligence, and even his comfortable sexual orientation are regarded as an afront to those of his age group. He makes them feel uncomfortable and inadequate because, albeit a millennial, he lacks the noxious stereotypes of that generation, He is too successful while they are still struggling.

Despite the strange problems Buttigieg is having with young voters, NPR notes that he is aggressively courting them. He main argument is the same that John F. Kennedy made sixty years ago. It is time, he suggests, that the torch should be passed to a new generation. Whether that argument is enough to extract younger Democrats from elderly socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren remains to be seen.