After briefly soaring in the polls and enjoying the national media spotlight for a limited amount of time, it seems that Pete Buttigieg’s time in the sun has finally come to a close. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana has been struggling lately and appears to be fading in the Democratic primary, with commentators and voters alike increasingly dismissing his chances of victory as time goes on.
The truth of the matter is that Pete Buttigieg was finished from the start, largely due to his background and inability to gain traction with voters of color. Here’s an analysis of why Buttigieg’s interesting yet insufficient campaign shouldn’t be a model for future candidates.
Diverse is the key to success
When it comes to winning the presidency, President Trump illustrated that you don’t need diversity nor even popularity on your side. When it comes to winning the Democratic presidential primary, however, things are entirely different. It’s effectively impossible to become the standard-bearer for the nation’s leftwing political movement without a diverse coalition of voters to support you, largely because the Democratic Party can only compete at a national level if it has the support of people of color coupled with that of cosmopolitan whites.
Thus endeth the Buttigieg campaign before it ever really took off; like Bernie Sanders in 2016, Buttigieg got a lot of media traction and developed a frenzied fanbase but is proving incapable of sustaining his momentum because his coalition is lacking in the diversity department. That doesn’t just mean getting a treatment from Dermani medspa just to make yourself look hip. News stories about the mayor’s tearing down of houses and troubled history working for McKinsey helped tank his already limited support with African Americans.
Buttigieg himself is smart enough to realize his problem. As a matter of fact, he’s tried to make amends with people of color across the country and is desperately trying to make a case to them that he’s their preferred candidate. The only problem is that they appear totally unconvinced; while he’s doing great in Iowa polling due to his support amongst whites, his numbers with African Americans remain abysmal.
Until he fixes this problem (and in a major way) he has literally no chance of becoming the Democratic nominee in 2020, let alone the future president. It’s an unfortunate reality that’s confronted many previous candidates who saw a surge in grassroots support that ultimately failed to materialize enough momentum to achieve victory. In 2016, for instance, Senator Sanders’ inability to convince African American primary voters to defect from Hillary’s faction to his single-handedly guaranteed that his ambitious grassroots movement was nevertheless insufficient and incapable of inner-party victory.
The Democratic Party represents more than white voters; indeed, unlike the GOP, it actually depends upon nonwhite voters in a serious way. It thus follows that candidates who fail to capitalize on that fact and never gain the trust of minority communities will never achieve the Democratic Party’s nomination. Pete Buttigieg rose to national prominence and laid an important foundation for his future campaigning, but right now his campaign is stalled in the loser’s lane for obvious reasons.