Pete Buttigieg Says 2020 Election Is a "Moment That Calls for Someone Like Me"

Pete Buttigieg - New Yorker Festival - H - 2019
Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor sat down with New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick to discuss his policy positions, personal life and why he's the right person for the nation's top office.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg was greeted with a rapturous standing ovation when he took the stage at the New Yorker Festival on Saturday afternoon. Then a conversation led by New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick dived directly into the impeachment inquiry.

"Is Donald Trump’s political goose cooked?" Remnick asked.

"My perspective is to focus on the day after Trump is president," Buttigieg said, calling it a sunny day when the administration is out of office. "I’m running to be that president because we need someone capable of turning the page."

Buttigieg explained that whether or not impeachment comes to pass has to do with the "conscience of Senate Republications," adding that "this is about accountability when the president has admitted to an abuse of power."

Over the course of an hour and a half, Remnick and Buttigieg discussed the South Bend, Indiana mayor and presidential candidate’s policy positions, personal life and age, foreign policy and military concerns, jobs plan and more. But the most important question might have been: "Why are you running for president?"

"Anytime you run for office, you should ask two sets of questions. One, what does the office need? What does the office call for? What does the next occupant of the office have to do? What do they need to be like? And then you ask the question, what do I bring to the table that’s different from the others? And then you look for a match," Buttigieg said, explaining that his position as a gay veteran from the middle of the country distinguishes him and the way he views politics in the current climate.

"This is a moment that calls for someone like me," said Buttigieg, adding that he’s the opposite of the current administration to many laughs in the room.

When Buttigieg said he "was born in 1982," he acknowledged the audible murmurings among the Upper West Side crowd, and Reminick asked him to discuss his position as the youngest candidate in the race.

Buttigieg responded by saying that whether or not someone can handle the rigors of the campaign trail is a good indicator as to whether they are fit for the job. "Certainly wisdom comes with age, wisdom comes with experience," Buttigieg said. "But the current president is the oldest we’ve ever had."

Buttigieg also discussed his healthcare plan, which he described as "Medicare for all who want it." Remnick pushed him as to whether the numbers make sense from a budgetary perspective, and Buttigieg pointed to the fact that industrialized societies with universal healthcare also have medical providers in the private sector as well. He was also cautious that the promise of Medicare for all might be too tough to deliver on.

"What sounds good on a big stage isn’t always the right answer," Buttigieg said. "You should only make promises you’re prepared to keep."

Remnick also asked about Buttigieg’s experience in the military serving in Afghanistan and what he thinks about the president’s recent withdrawal of troops and special forces in Syria.

"It’s a betrayal," Buttigieg said, as the removal of troops leaves the U.S.' Kurdish allies unprotected. "We were actually holding the people who put their lives on the line to help us fight ISIS, and we’re literally leaving them to their deaths."

Remnick also asked about Vice President Mike Pence as a potential president in the case of impeachment. Buttigieg worked closely with Pence when he was governor of Indiana and noted that although they disagreed on many things, they were able to work toward some common goals together.

"Now it’s very hard to know what he believes," Buttigieg said, adding that his views have become clouded by Trump. "I was surprised, but I guess at the end of the day, it was his ticket to relevancy."

Buttigieg also discussed his personal story, noting the decision to run made his husband Chasten somewhat reluctant at first but now he’s supportive. "We really care about our marriage, and this is a tough thing to do to a marriage," Buttigieg said. The Democratic candidate also discussed his own coming-out story, sharing that he came out at age 33 for the purely selfish reason that he wanted to date.

Buttigieg has seen both positive and negative repercussions, in public and in private, since coming out, but noted that the people he’s been able to touch and inspire on his journey make it all worth it. He also called for the importance of the Federal Equality Act to protect all marginalized identities.

"The best thing you can offer is just to be yourself," Buttigieg said to a round of applause.