If you follow social media, you know that Pete Buttigieg has been making some Democrats apoplectic. Maybe it’s that he’s running closer to the center than his rivals. Maybe it’s the vagueness of his platform. Or maybe it’s just that he doesn’t seem angry enough.
Trolls aside, the most common critique of Mayor Pete is the obvious one: He’s just the mayor of a small midwestern city. Beyond that, he has no political experience. There’s a common assumption that the President should have experience with leadership at scale. Most candidates are senators or governors. The last President with no elected office behind him (present company excluded) was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who’d commanded 3 million Allied troops in Europe. By contrast, the city of South Bend has about a thousand employees.
The counterargument is that no job can really prepare someone for the presidency. It’s an entirely unique position. No amount of experience can mold a person who’s unsuited to it into someone who excels at it. That’s why I feel that intangible factors are far more important: having the right temperament, being a quick learner, choosing sound models to emulate.
A candidate’s experience is really only valuable insofar as it gives us a window for evaluating them. The campaign trail offers another window. “When I first heard of him, I didn’t take him seriously. Then I started watching him speak and answer questions about policy, in detail and in terms of where the country should be going. He’s wise, sensible, well balanced, and well prepared,” tweets Will Saletan. No amount of experience is as valuable as those qualities.
This is Part 7 of an ongoing series making the case for Pete Buttigieg in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.