The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday May 26th

Column: Bye bye, Buttigieg

<p>Devon Johnson, opinion editor.&nbsp;</p>
Buy Photos

Devon Johnson, opinion editor. 

Pete Buttigieg is the kind of gay who wouldn’t send you a face pic on Grindr. 

For those of you who are less familiar with the gay dating app scene, this means that the former presidential candidate is, like his politics, a ‘moderate’ gay.

He’s the kind of gay who could pass for straight, who probably never got picked on for being too fem and only came out of the closet when it was safe. Yes he was in the military which isn't a very gay-friendly place, but he’s also a Harvard man and a Rhodes Scholar, speaks eight languages and he’s about as white as Wonder Bread. He’s the kind of gay who you could take home to your mother — though, perhaps not your drag mother

This, perhaps, is what led to his lack of support among the LGBTQ+ community and his struggle to amass anything more than the white, middle-class, moderate base that got him elected in South Bend. 

His ultra-moderate persona created a strong divide the LGBTQ+ community, and left many queer folx feeling as if Mayor Pete wasn’t “gay enough.” I had similar qualms throughout the entirety of his campaign and wondered if Buttigieg was really the glass-ceiling-breaking queer person who would fight on behalf of all stripes of the community.

Pete never wanted to make his campaign about his sexuality. “I’m not running to be the gay president of the United States, or the president of the gay United States. I’m out here to serve everybody.” 

While this middle-of-the-road ideology is understandable in an effort to cast a wide net, it left a lot of us wondering if his willingness to take a backseat to outspokenness on queer issues — particularly those that impact queer people of color — would translate to his time as president.

Buttigieg’s candidacy is emblematic of the identity crisis that is plaguing the Democratic Party right now, reflected by the Super Tuesday results. It's facing a struggle to choose whether democrats want to play it safe, or lean in to a more radically-progressive vision for the future.

On one hand, there were a lot of people who preferred that the gay candidate was, in some ways, the “straightest” candidate in the field. 

Greta LaFleur, a professor of American studies at Yale, penned what a lot of us queer folx were feeling when she characterized a photo of Pete and his husband, Chasten — “the tulips; the Chinos; the notably charming but insistently generic porch; the awkwardly minimal touching that invokes the most uncomfortable, unfamiliar, culturally-heterosexual embrace any of us have ever received — offers a vision of heterosexuality without straight people.”

On the other hand, you have the band of queer people who “want a dyke for president” — one who has gone without health insurance, who is a survivor, who knows the struggle that is all-too-familiar to LGBTQ+ people in America. It’s unlikely that Buttigieg has struggled for much of anything.

In the end, his decision to drop out and almost immediately endorse Biden showed that his true colors are more royal blue than rainbow.

Perhaps Buttigieg was just attuned to the fact that America isn’t ready to rally behind anything other than the most straight, most white, most moderate candidate — that we are naturally inclined to fight Trump’s white-masc fire with white-masc fire.

Buttigieg’s campaign was historic in many ways, and will undoubtedly pave the way for more LGBTQ+ people to run for elected office. But at the end of the day, he failed to get my support not because he wasn’t gay enough, but because he wasn’t bold enough.

While I’m fully aware of the perceived importance of electability and a united party — and will vote for a moderate Democrat in November if they were to earn the nomination — I hope that the American people will choose to reward boldness over cautious calculation. I believe that the portrait of America is much more colorful than the faces that are left in this race, and a step towards a more representative democracy will not be made by acquiescing to the status quo. 

In the future, I hope that we won’t let another billionaire buy the oval. I hope that we do not choose to rally behind old white men for the sake of “electability”. I hope that we are brave enough to vote for someone who would elect a "dyke" for president, too.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for March 7, 2022

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive