Tag Archives: pete buttigieg

I was a Pete Buttigieg supporter. Now I’m not voting.

It still hurts. I thought if I slept on it I might feel better, but I don’t. Hell, I barely slept last night, tossing and turning until 3:00 in the morning. For those of us who supported Pete Buttigieg, who last night suspended his campaign and will no longer seek the Democratic nomination, today is just really fucking hard. It’s never easy to lose, and when you doorstep, phone bank, and throw yourself into a campaign with gusto it’s always difficult to concede defeat. It really is akin to the stages of grief.

Yet like vultures, other campaigns are already circling, trying to pick off Mayor Pete’s supporters before the body is even cold. His departure does naturally raise the question of where we on #TeamPete will end up. The conventional wisdom is we are natural Biden voters now. I think that is incredibly shortsighted and misses what it was about Pete that appealed to many of his most ardent supporters – he was young, progressive, and promised to lead us into the future, not return us to the politics of the past. Don’t count out Bernie Sanders or even Elizabeth Warren receiving a fair share of migrants from Team Pete.

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, when my state (Tennessee) is scheduled to vote, meaning I and countless other supporters of Mayor Pete have a very short amount of time to decide where to go. For me, though, the answer is obvious: nowhere. I will not vote in this primary, unless it is for Pete Buttigieg.

Before I go any further, let me head off accusations that I am throwing a temper tantrum, taking my ball home because I lost, enabling Trump, yada yada yada. I have pledged to “vote blue, no matter who,” and I stand by that. I’m aware of the realities of the situation, and crucially, I am not a fascist. I won’t let my own grievances prevent me from doing what is best for the country. Anyone—my 10-year-old nephew, Snooki from Jersey Shore, a plague of locusts—would make a better president than Donald Trump. I am entirely committed to voting for whoever the Democratic nominee is in November. However, I will not have a say in who that nominee is.

The truth is I have been preparing for this eventuality for a while. I’m no political neophyte, and the writing on the wall was evident; I’ve known in my gut for weeks now that Mayor Pete would not be the nominee, at least not this time. There are lot of reasons for that, some of them entirely fair and some of them infuriatingly not fair. Still, I saw what was coming and considered my options. I didn’t like what I found.

I don’t think any of these candidates deserve my vote. Let’s look at why:

  • Joe Biden is a walking gaffe. As I wrote in January for The Independent, I think he should have dropped out long ago because this Burisma/Ukraine scandal—though undoubtedly bullshit concocted by the right to smear him—is an albatross around his neck. But it’s not just that. His treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings, his weird habit of smelling women’s hair, and his age (if elected, he’ll be our first octogenarian president) all concern me. The truth is, I think a Biden nomination is a disaster waiting to happen. This is his third bid for the nomination, and the third time might be the charm. Frankly, I don’t think he should have even run, though I accept it is not my place to tell anyone whether they should or shouldn’t run. But if I’m looking for the strongest nominee to go up against Donald Trump, Biden isn’t it.
  • Bernie Sanders is the Donald Trump of the left. There, I said it. In another article for The Independent, I lamented the fact that Bernie and his supporters seem to be hellbent on making every last mistake Jeremy Corbyn made as Labour leader. Last night, while all the other candidates were congratulating Pete on a race well ran and noting the historic nature of his candidacy, Bernie was trying to woo his supporters. Hard pass. I am not about to join a campaign whose supporters have spent the last several months harassing and attacking me, other Pete supporters, and Pete himself online. It’s not happening. Bernie Sanders and his supporters are toxifying American public discourse the same way the Red Hats are. What’s more is they think they are entirely justified in doing so in the name of class war, a bunch of middle-class kids who think they’re radical by supporting what are at best soft-left policies. Bernie isn’t going to bring the revolution even if he wins, because he isn’t a revolutionary, he’s a shouty old man who has enabled the most vile and vitriolic trolls. A Bernie Sanders nomination will be a disaster for the party, but by all means carry on with your ideological purity tests. I will have no part of it.
  • Elizabeth Warren is a liar. She lied about being Native American. She lied about Pete changing his policies to suit his donors. She made a mountain out of a wine cave. She has blasted big money in politics yet rolled over big money donations from her Senate campaign to her presidential campaign and just recently took money from a Super PAC. It’s upsetting, because before this election I really liked Elizabeth Warren, and for a long time she was my second choice. Not now. It doesn’t really matter, though, because right now this race looks like it’s going to be between Sanders and Biden, so she’s a non-entity. I do want to say, though, that in my experience her volunteers are very nice.
  • Amy Klobuchar is an abusive jerk. I never gave credence to those reports that Amy Klobuchar abused her staff until I saw her condescending, smug attitude towards Pete Buttigieg on the debate stage. “I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete.” So do I Amy, so do I. Honestly, her disdain for Pete was palpable, and it was a massive turnoff to me as a voter. It also rang as homophobic to me and many other gay men who are all-too-familiar with self-righteous people like her patronizing us. Like Warren, she’s also a non-entity if this race is how it looks right now, which is a two-way contest between Biden and Sanders.
  • Mike Bloomberg is a Republican. I mean, that’s it. He’s done a lot of good on gun violence, but I don’t trust Mike Bloomberg to govern as a progressive. I don’t like that he’s poured millions of his own money into ad buys while eschewing campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. I don’t think he would be a marked improvement on the Trump years. I don’t think he can win. That he’s still in the race when Pete Buttigieg isn’t is a damning indictment of the role money can play in American politics.
  • Tulsi Gabbard is an authoritarian sympathizer. From Narendra Modi to Bashar al-Assad in Syria to Donald Trump in America, Gabbard loves herself an authoritarian leader. Her views on foreign policy are enough to disqualify her from receiving my vote, but her record on gay rights is also questionable enough to raise red flags.

Pete Buttigieg is the only candidate who articulated a message of hope, of unity, and of moving the country forward. He’s the only candidate in this field I could enthusiastically vote for, and he is the only candidate I think could beat Donald Trump. I am utterly unimpressed with my remaining options and cannot in good faith say any of these people deserve to be the Democratic nominee. Therefore, for the first time in my life, I will not be voting in the Democratic primary. May the biggest asshole win.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Requiem for Pete Buttigieg

“Being open about my sexual orientation at school – and the hell that goes along with it – is not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do.” I wrote those words in my diary in 2003. I was running for student body president as the only openly gay student in my sleepy little town in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I had come out my sophomore year, and the daily crucible of homophobic slurs and threats of violence I experienced taught me that victory was a longshot.

I ran anyway.

17 years later, Pete Buttigieg didn’t become the first openly gay president. Tonight, following a blistering defeat in South Carolina, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana suspended his campaign for the Democratic nomination. As an ardent supporter of Mayor Pete, and as a gay man, I am heartbroken—as are millions of others like me, gay and straight, who felt inspired by his candidacy.

I mourn for what we were denied. The sight of an openly gay man, his husband holding the Bible, take the oath of office. White House Christmas cards with a smiling, happy same-sex couple (and possibly their children; the Buttigiegs are young enough to start a family). The inspiring rhetoric and cool-as-a-cucumber disposition which made him feel to millions of people the ablest and best hands in which to place the country. I lament the fact that thousands of volunteers and grassroots supporters around the country are feeling as heartbroken as I am, disappointed and forlorn and unsure of what to do now that the man we all believed should be president won’t be.

Yet I am heartened by what we have accomplished. Growing up, the only political role models I had were Barney Frank, a surly and stalwart old Democrat who has written eloquently about his own struggles coming out, and Harvey Milk, who was shot. That was it. At the time I mounted my campaign for student body president, no state had legalized gay marriage. Another entry in my diary from that autumn screams that “gay marriage band struck down by a court in Massachusetts!” It was a watershed moment, one that inspired a 17-year-old gay boy to keep his chin up, that it might get better.

Watching Mayor Pete speak tonight felt a lot like that. “We send a message to every kid wondering if whatever marks them as different, means they are somehow destined to be less than—to see that someone who once felt that exact same way, become a leading American presidential candidate with his husband at his side,” he said. I thought of all the 17-year-old gay kids watching him as he spoke, as he kissed his husband in front of a row of American flags draped along a stage, a loving same-sex couple who could have been our first same-sex first couple.

They would see there on that stage a middle-class, middle-American gay man who dared to dream bigger than anyone thought he had a right to dream. No one can say Americans won’t vote for a gay man for president; Pete Buttigieg, a gay man, won the Iowa caucus. He outperformed senators and governors and in three states a former vice president. He had the audacity to think America was ready for an openly gay president his husband, the first gentleman, and America proved that even if it isn’t there yet, it’s further along than many of us imagined.

At the risk of being premature—he’s not even 40, and his future is bright—this is the legacy of Pete Buttigieg. Someone always has to go first, and for gay Americans, now someone has. If voters ever had any doubt that a gay candidate could be as articulate, as unifying, as electable as a straight candidate, Mayor Pete proved them wrong. Much like Shirley Chisolm’s historic 1972 run blazed a trail for women and people of colour, Mayor Pete has laid a path for future candidates to follow. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, or it will happen in 2024 (as some supporters chanted as Mayor Pete spoke) but a precedent has been set, an apprehension calmed, a fear assuaged. It’s no longer a question of if a gay man can be elected president, but rather when.

I lost my bid for student body president in 2003. Years later, I got a message from one of my high school teachers. “You made this school a better and more accepting place,” she said. “What you did mattered.” It was one of the most touching messages I have ever received, to know that in my own small way, I changed at least a little part of the world.

I hope Pete Buttigieg feels that way tonight. He should be proud of what he has accomplished. I know I am. His campaign may have ended, but his story has only just begun. Watching it unfold, I have never been prouder to be a gay American.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

 

Responding to #QueersAgainstPete and their baseless attacks on Pete Buttigieg

A new group, “Queers Against Pete,” has popped up in the Twittersphere. They have a website (which you can check out at www.queersagainstpete.com) and an open letter which you can sign, if you wish. However, before you do that, I’d like to offer my line by line rebuttal. There are some serious errors, omissions, and misrepresentations here which are worth considering. Please note that for the purposes of this blog I have used the letterwriter’s own acronym “LGBTQIA” to refer to our community.

Open Letter

Dear fellow members of the LGBTQIA community,

Hello, letter writer!

This election cycle we will be presented with plenty of options. Up and down the ballot, candidate’s stances will impact us, our families and communities. If we’ve learned anything from our ancestors and transcestors, it’s that we must speak out…and act up. This primary election is one such example.

Transcestors? Never heard that. Clever word play.

There has been much talk about identity and diversity in the race to win the Democratic party nomination for president. Some have touted former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s openly gay identity as proof of progress in our politics. However, being gay is not enough to earn the support of LGBTQIA communities.

I agree that being gay is not enough to earn the support of the LGBTQIA community. I wouldn’t vote for a gay Republican because their politics do not match mine. There is no reason why anyone in the LGBTQIA community or any community should feel compelled to support Pete Buttigieg just because he is gay.

However, Mayor Pete is proof of progress in our politics – or at least in our society. His candidacy was unimaginable even 10 years ago. Keep in mind it was only 12 years ago that America elected its first Black president. Keep in mind it was only 5 years ago that marriage equality – which I’m sure you have radical arguments against, but stay with me – was legalized across the nation. I came out in 2001 (you can read about that here), and the world was very different. We’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and that is worth acknowledging at the very least.

We cannot in good conscience allow Mayor Pete to become the nominee without demanding that he address the needs and concerns of the broader Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) communities. While many see different issues in silos, we are clear that LGBTQIA people are directly and disproportionately impacted by police violence, incarceration, unaffordable healthcare, homelessness, deportation, and economic inequality among other things.

This is where it would be nice if you offered evidence that LGBTQIA people “are directly and disproportionately impacted by police violence, incarceration, unaffordable healthcare, homelessness, deportation, and economic inequality.” Maybe we are. But citing statistics and sources is important when making a claim. Because, for example, if a Black gay man is shot dead by the police in an extrajudicial execution—as happens far too frequently in our nation—I would argue that more often than not it’s because he is Black and not gay.

I will, however, concede the point that LGBTQIA people care about more than what we often refer to as “LGBT rights.” I respect the desire to point this out, because too often the media portrays “identity voters” as only caring about a narrow set of issues when that is simply not the case.

Mayor Pete is leaning on the support and actively courting the LGBTQIA community, but has shown time and time again that he is out of touch, not fit to be President of the United States, and simply falls short.

I actually haven’t seen Mayor Pete “leaning on the support and actively courting the LGBTQIA community” anymore than any other candidate (and less so than Elizabeth Warren), though I’m not sure why you present that as a bad thing. Candidates should be trying to win over LGBTQIA voters.

  • Mayor Pete opposes free universal free public college and does not support cancelling student loan debt;

    This is true, and when I endorsed Mayor Pete, I noted it as one of the principle policies on which we disagree. But here’s what Mayor Pete’s plan does do: it makes public universities free to families making up to $100,000 a year and adds $120 billion to the Pell Grants funds (which is an excellent fund and put me through college). 80% of American families will be eligible for free tuition.

    Pete’s logic is that the richest among us should be expected to pay their fair share. Pete’s plan is not, as you imply, a plan which is built out of selfishness or callousness, but a radical reshaping of American higher education. It opens a door for millions of Americans to get a degree who previously would have been prevented because of the skyrocketing cost of college tuition.

    As for student loans, Pete has pledged to cancel student loan debt for students who attend predatory for-profit schools. He has laid out an income-based repayment plan for people struggling with student loan debt – and the loans will be cancelled after 20 years in the plan. He will end wage garnishments for low-income workers, and offer student loan forgiveness to public servants after 10 years of employment in the public sector.

    These progressive plans do more than we’ve ever done to help students and those with student loan debt. They’re also more palatable to American voters, the majority of whom oppose free college and paying for loan forgiveness with a new tax. It’s important to move the country forward, but we must also meet voters where they are.

  • Mayor Pete has no plan to restore the right to vote for all formerly and currently incarcerated people, create an alternative to police, or end cash bail;

    Let’s take a look at Pete’s plan. “Pete will abolish private federal prisons and reduce the use of private contractors, eliminate the for-profit bail industry, and work with states to cap the amount of revenue cities and counties receive from fines and fees.”  He also wants to eliminate mandatory sentencing and look at sentencing caps, eliminate incarceration for drug possession, legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions. He wants to equalize funding between federal prosecutors and federal public defenders – ensuring a robust and top-notch defense for the accused. He supports a constitutional amendment to ban the death penalty. Pete does support restoring voting rights to felons released from prison, but he does not support allowing those currently incarcerated to vote – an uncontroversial opinion with which 69% of Americans agree.

  • Mayor Pete has not addressed the concerns related to Eric Logan, a Black South Bend resident who was shot and killed by a white police officer. Furthermore, while in office, Mayor Pete refused to release the police tapes relating to the demotion of Darryl Boykins, the first Black person to serve as police chief. We echo the demands of Black Lives Matter – South Bend to create a Citizens Review Board and for the release of the tapes;

    It would be helpful here if you explained what specific concerns related to the police killing of Eric Logan you want Mayor Pete to address. Your vague wording strikes me as intentional – you want to score political points using a dead Black man but you do not actually have any grievances specific to this case. “The disconnect between the Black community and the municipality under several administrations has been a festering problem in the greater South Bend area for more than 50 years,” KaRon Kirkland, a 62-year-old lifelong South Bend resident told NBC last year. “It didn’t start with Pete.” For more on what Mayor Pete did for Black South Benders, Buzzfeed produced this detailed and thoughtful reporting in December.

    As for Darryl Boykins, I’m going to let Pete tell you what happened in his own words, as he goes into the details of the Boykins case in his memoir Shortest Way Home. I’ve quoted at length here, but I encourage you to stick with it, as it is one of the most misunderstood and misreported aspects of his mayoralty.

    “…after interviewing [Boykins] and two competitors for the job, I decided during the transition phase that I would reappoint him,” Pete writes. Boykins—who apparently was paranoid that “some other officers” were gunning for his job (despite the fact that Mayor Pete had decided to keep him on)—

    “allegedly confronted them with tape recordings that could embarrass them if disclosed. He had access to these tapes because some phone lines in the department were connected to recording equipment used for interviews and investigations, and the officers had been recorded on that equipment without their knowledge. As court filings would later document, the chief threatened to take action against at least one officer he had come to consider disloyal. Perhaps the chief didn’t realize that I was already leaning toward reappointing him; or perhaps it just seemed like an insurance policy.

    Enter the Federal Wiretap Act—a set of very strict federal laws about recording other people without their knowledge. In fact, making such recordings or disclosing their content can be a felony, punishable by prison time as well as fines. There are state laws, too, against recording a conversation without the knowledge of either party, absent a warrant or other legal clearance. The recorded officers knew it, and complained to federal authorities, who took the issue seriously. So that’s how it came to be that, a few weeks into the job of mayor, I learned that my newly reappointed police chief was being investigated by the FBI. Eventually a message came through, thinly veiled but quite clear, from federal prosecutors: the people responsible for the covert recordings needed to go, or charges might be filed……I sat at the end of the conference table in my office and contemplated which scenario was more likely to tear the community apart—a  well-liked African-American police chief potentially being indicted over compliance with a very technical federal law, or me removing him for allowing things to reach this point? There was no good option: the community would erupt either way.”

    Buttigieg then called Boykins, asking him to voluntarily step down. (Pete admits this was a mistake—he should have done it in person, and he learned that lesson.) Boykins agreed, and the community was predictably outraged. The next day, Boykins changed his mind and withdrew his resignation. Pete, however, felt he had no choice. “Even leaving aside that I believed removing him was the best way to avoid him facing potential legal action, I had lost confidence in the leadership of a chief who had not come to me the moment he realized he was the target of an FBI investigation.” Pete didn’t fire him—only the Board of Public Safety can fire an officer—he demoted him.It was only after this that local press began reporting that the officers who had been recorded had allegedly used racist language to insult Boykins. “The content of the tapes had not come up when I was talking with staff or with the chief about the issue,” Pete writes, adding that he was immediately concerned about the “credibility and legitimacy” of the South Bend Police Department. “…[S]ince so many of the worst race-based abuses in modern American history happened at the hands of law enforcement, policing was the most sensitive part of the entire administration when it came to demonstrating that we acted without bias.”

    The crux of the issue is that Mayor Pete had and has no way of knowing what is on those tapes. The recordings were made illegally. “Under the Federal Wiretap Act,” he explains, “this meant that it could be a felony not just to make the recordings, but to reproduce or disclose them. Like everyone else in the community I wanted to know what was on those recordings. But it was potentially illegal for me to find out, and it was not clear I could even ask, without fear of legal repercussions.” Mayor Pete still has not heard the recordings and doesn’t know if he or the public ever will—not because of some coverup, but because of federal law.

    Mayor Pete learned a lot from the Boykins incident. “The most important lessons of this painful episode were… about the deeply fraught relationship between law enforcement and communities of color,” he writes. “Ferguson and everything that followed in the Black Lives Matter movement came after the tapes controversy exploded locally, but their urgency grew from the same root: the fact that many of the worst historical injustices visited upon [B]lack citizens of our country came at the hands of local law enforcement.”

  • Mayor Pete has not said if he would support a moratorium to end deportations or that he would decriminalize border crossing;

    Mayor Pete has committed to supporting a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including a push for legislation on the issue within his first 100 days in office. He wants to reduce barriers to healthcare and education for undocumented immigrants and protect undocumented workers from retaliation when reporting labor violations. He plans to increase the number of visas issued for family reunification will fight for reforms to reclassify spouses and children as immediate relatives and recognizing same-sex partners from countries lacking marriage equality in order to allow an immigrant to sponsor their same-sex partner.

    While it is true that he has not said if he would support a moratorium to end deportations or if he would decriminalize border crossings, what you are talking about is essentially an open border. I support open borders (not just in America, but globally). Most Americans do not, and it is a cudgel with which Trump will bludgeon any candidate who does support open borders. That doesn’t mean Pete’s immigration plan isn’t progressive.

  • Mayor Pete opposes complete Medicare for All and universal childcare;

    It’s telling that you had to add the word “complete” before “Medicare for All,” because you know to do otherwise would misrepresent Pete’s policy. “Medicare for All Who Want It” would automatically enroll the uninsured and be the greatest expansion of American healthcare in history. Only 13% of Americans support “Medicare for All” as proposed by Bernie Sanders – while a majority of Americans support universal healthcare without abolishing private insurance. “Medicare for All Who Want It” insures the uninsured, provides an affordable option to low income people and will prompt private insurers to either compete with lower prices and better products or fail. I am someone who believes healthcare should be free at the point of access, but I do not believe Medicare for All is a winning electoral policy, and I certainly don’t believe anyone—not even Bernie Sanders—could get it through Congress, even if both Houses are controlled by Democrats. Barack Obama couldn’t even get a public option through because of the conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats. This goes back to meeting voters where they are and choosing practicality and incremental improvements over ideological purity at the expense of power.

    From his website: “Pete will make a historic $700 billion investment in affordable, universal, high-quality, and full-day early learning, as well as outside-of-school learning opportunities in K-12 education. He will make early learning and care from birth through age five free for lower-income families and affordable for all, and invest in the child care workforce.”

  • During his tenure, Mayor Pete demolished homes of many South Bend residents who were unable to afford repairs and drastically ramped up unfair fines;

    This is not entirely accurate or fair. It is referring to Mayor Pete’s “1000 homes in 1000 days” initiative which, as the name implies, demolished 1000 abandoned or vacant homes in 1000 days. The media has really gotten this story wrong. The project tried to track down owners where they could and provide time and support for renovations to be made to bring the properties up to standards. Indeed, South Bend’s lack of enforcement on property codes in the past exasperated issues. This was met with the “South Bend Repair” initiative which poured $1 million into helping homeowners repair dilapidated homes. Another grant would give homeowners $25,000 to repair their homes.

    Part of the success of the “1000 homes in 1000 days” is, of course, demolishing unlivable homes (as we know abandoned buildings are hotbeds from crime), but also of refurbishing and rebuilding affordable housing for South Benders. Indeed, Mayor Pete met with residents and took 40% of homes off the demolition list after hearing their concerns (a hallmark of Mayor Pete’s mayoralty by the way – he listens to constituents)

    Mayor Pete has committed to building or restoring at least 2 million homes for the lowest-income Americans as well as investing in initiatives making homeownership a reality for millions of lower-income Americans, especially lower-income Black Americans who have experienced racial discrimination in housing.

  • Mayor Pete does not support boycotting for political reasons;

    I cannot find any evidence that supports this claim. He has allowed protestors at his events and has engaged with them when they are willing. I do not know how to respond to this claim other than to say I believe it is a flat-out lie.

  • Mayor Pete has no plan to cap credit card interest rates or guarantee a job to everyone who needs one; and

    From his website: “When your credit card company rips you off, you should have the right to a day in court with a good lawyer, full rights, and public transparency. In most cases, though, the company probably forced you to sign away that right. As consumers, we should always have the right to a fair process and strong protections that keep companies honest in the first place.”

    I suppose I must concede that it is true that Pete Buttigieg does not have a plan to guarantee a job for everyone who wants or needs one. To the seven Americans to whom a promise of a job for everyone is a make-or-break issue, Pete Buttigieg isn’t your candidate, and fair dos.

    For everyone else, Pete plans to ensure workers in the gig economy are guaranteed their labor rights, strengthen unions by fining companies who interfere in union elections, institute gender pay transparency, enshrine multi-employer bargaining rights into law, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and end “right to work” laws, among other bold, progressive initiatives. His record in South Bend, where he revived a Rust Belt city on life support, shows that he knows how to grow the economy and attract 21st century businesses and create 21st century jobs. Unemployment in South Bend fell nearly 10% during his time as mayor.

  • Mayor Pete supports the increase of defense spending which is already 50% of the federal budget.

    “America’s security challenges demand a military budget that provides both the overall capacity and specific capabilities to deter conflict across the globe and fight and win if necessary. I’ve been clear that we need to maintain absolute military superiority. The question of how much we should spend should be defined by where and how we need to spend it to best protect our citizens and our interests,” Buttigieg told Military Times last November. He does not mention increasing spending, but rather maintaining our military superiority and modernizing our military. I’m not sure where you’re getting this figure from, making this another instance where it would be helpful if you actually cited your sources. The fact that you don’t should make anyone reading your latter deeply skeptical of your motives and accuracy in presenting Pete Buttigieg as an enemy to the LGBTQIA community.

These gaps in Mayor Pete’s platform will fall particularly hard on LGBTQIA communities. Take housing as an example: 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQIA. Nearly one-third of trans people have experienced homelessness, and one in ten have been evicted from their home for being trans. This is only exacerbated by the fact that there is no federal law that consistently protects LGBTQIA individuals from housing discrimination. And while Mayor Pete, like the rest of the field, supports the Equality Act, this isn’t enough. Public housing remains in disrepair in the U.S., with billions in backlogged repairs due to decades of underinvestment, and the changes Pete proposes are grossly inadequate relative to the scale of the problem, and will not solve our housing crisis. We need only look to Pete’s track record of tearing down hundreds of homes in Black and Latino neighborhoods in South Bend to show us that he is not committed to protecting our communities.

Here you actually cite your sources, which makes it all the more frustrating—and suspect—that you did not cite sources in your critiques of Mayor Pete. That being said, yes, homelessness is a pernicious problem for the LGBTQIA community, and the Equality Act (which you correctly note Mayor Pete supports) would go a long way in addressing the discrimination the LGBTQIA community faces in housing and public accommodations. As previously mentioned, Mayor Pete has committed to improve public housing and repair or rebuild two million homes for low-income Americans. I’m not sure how that is “grossly inadequate” as it is one of the biggest public works projects in modern American history. The Buzzfeed article you cite with regards to his “track record of tearing down homes” is rightly critiqued in an article from Washington Monthly I cited earlier in this blog and paints a one-sided, slanted, biased view of what happened with “1000 homes in 1000 days” – an initiative which helped many POC and/or low-income South Benders repair their homes and addressed the urban blight of abandoned and decaying houses.

As LGBTQIA people our lives are layered and must have an intersectional framework in our analysis, organizing, and movement building. We know that: Education justice is LGBTQIA justice. Racial and economic justice are LGBTQIA justice. Decarceration is LGBTQIA justice. Immigrant and refugee justice is LGBTQIA justice. Health justice is LGBTQIA justice. Housing justice is LGBTQIA justice. Demanding corporate accountability and for wealthy people to pay an equitable share of taxes is LGBTQIA justice.

Yes, education, racial and economic justice, immigrant and refugee justice, health justice, etc etc etc are “LGBTQIA issues” (or matters of justice as you say) because 1) they effect LGBTQIA people just as the effect the rest of society 2) LGBTQIA people care about these issues just like other communities care about them. So while I think this paragraph comes off as sort of smug, it’s not entirely wrong. What is wrong is suggesting Pete Buttigieg doesn’t care about these issues.

During this critical election, it’s important that LGBTQIA people demand more from our leaders and from a candidate claiming to be in community with us. Leaders within our communities — especially Black trans women —  have worked tirelessly over the past two decades to push LGBTQIA movements to value and fight for our full identities and experiences. We cannot afford to go backwards or accept the status quo.

Pete Buttigieg isn’t “claiming to be in community with us,” he is in community with us. Stop trying to tell me otherwise. He is gay, whether you like it or not. Voting for Mayor Pete is voting to move American forward and bridge the divides within our nation. It is not accepting the status quo, and it is not going backwards.

It is for these reasons and more that a group of us have come together under the banner of #QueersAgainstPete. If you agree, we invite you to add your name to this letter and join our collective voice against Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for president. We believe the LGBTQIA community deserves better than Pete.

I have to question why you hate Pete Buttigieg so much. Writing this letter about one of the most progressive candidates for president in American history instead of any other candidate reeks of homophobia in that it’s clearly written from a perspective that Pete isn’t a “proper gay” or isn’t “gay enough” because whoever wrote this disagrees with his policy positions. I believe the LGBTQIA deserves better than a deliberately misleading open letter and smear campaign against the first openly gay candidate for president. So no, I won’t be signing.

I would encourage anyone who has read this far to check out www.peteforamerica.com to find out what Pete Buttigieg really plans to do for Americans (LGBTQIA or not).

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Thoughts on that woman who wouldn’t vote for Pete Buttigieg because he’s gay

 

I can’t stop thinking about this viral video of an Iowa voter asking to change her vote after she discovered Pete Buttigieg is gay. My first thought was “where the hell has this woman been?” The fact that Pete Buttigieg is gay has been plastered everywhere. Hell, I’ve written about Pete’s sexuality and what his historic run means to me as a gay man at least three different times. My second thought was “I hope every single person who says Pete isn’t gay enough sees this and realizes that if he’s gay enough to experience homophobia he’s gay enough for them to shut up about it.” Then, my third thought was “I bet they’d say ‘see, that woman didn’t even know Pete is gay!’ as proof that he’s just a straight-acting poser who isn’t gay enough.”

That video bothered me. That woman’s homophobia is something I’m familiar with. As a gay teen coming of age in eastern Kentucky, I experienced my fair share of that. When I ran for class president my senior year there were people who wouldn’t vote for me because I’m gay. I had more than one person—friends, classmates, family members, a teacher—tell me I’m going to hell and will burn for eternity. They all insisted they said it out of love. Maybe they did. It still felt a lot like hate, though.

That video inspired me too, though. Nikki van den Heever is the woman being credited on Twitter as the precinct captain who calmly, patiently, and thoughtfully tried to explain to our bigoted friend why Pete’s sexuality doesn’t matter. She was articulate and compassionate—both towards Pete and towards the woman who didn’t want to vote for a gay man. It brought to mind another woman, Crystal O’Connor, from Buttigieg’s home state of Indiana. You might remember her as one of the owners of Memories Pizza, a small family business in Walkerton which became the center of the 2015 Indiana RFRA controversy when O’Connor said she wouldn’t cater pizzas to a gay wedding.

That’s a homophobic opinion, to be sure, but something about the way the O’Connors were treated has always bothered me. For one, why were they even asked? Who in general wants pizza at a wedding? Not gay people, I’ll tell you that. (Okay, maybe I would, but I really like pizza.) And did it really further the cause of gay rights to publicly humiliate and cancel them for expressing an opinion when asked? The vitriolic reaction they received has always troubled me, but my concerns are mitigated by the fact they made bank off the controversy, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in a GoFundMe campaign. I guess homophobia pays well.

I much prefer the way van den Heever handled the caucusgoer. She kept her cool, explained her position, didn’t belittle or condescend, and contained a situation which could have gotten ugly. She expressed respect for the woman’s right to hold a different opinion without ever actually saying she respected the opinion—because respecting the right to be homophobic is one thing, but respecting homophobia is quite another.

From what I’ve seen, no one has doxed our homophobic friend. No one has sent her death threats. No one has threatened to ruin her business. Of course, no one has raised close to a million for her either, so maybe she feels like the loser here. I would.

I can’t get that woman out of my head though. She seemed so ordinary, like the type of woman you’d meet at a rummage sale or chat to in line at the grocery store. She wasn’t a foaming-at-the-mouth homophobe ready to go out and bash a gay. She was your grandma, or your auntie, or you. A nice Midwestern woman who just happens to not like gay people.

It’s not justifying homophobia. Thinking of that woman, though, and thinking of Memories Pizza, and thinking about all the people in my life who have felt emboldened to condemn me to Hell for daring to love another man, I keep thinking about how nice they were. How well-intentioned. How they genuinely thought they were the good guys, that they were doing the right thing. When the religious right talks about “deeply held beliefs” vis-à-vis opposing gay rights, they’re not blowing smoke up your ass. They really do believe in the righteousness of their cause.

That’s both reassuring and concerning. They don’t think they’re being hateful, which counts for something, or at least is better than intending to be hateful. But on the other hand, how many people out there are so convinced they are right that they would be willing to refuse to sell pizza to a gay couple or refuse to vote for a gay candidate. I know the answer. Most gay people know the answer.

Which brings me back to the “Pete’s not gay enough” crowd. Pete’s clearly gay enough to have a homophobic Iowan refuse to support him. He’s gay enough to where, if he held Chasten’s hand as he walked down a rural road he might here homophobic slurs. He’s gay enough to have felt the suffocating pressure of life in the closet. He’s gay enough to know the liberation that comes from leaving it.

I’m a Christian who is gay. I’d like to sit down with that woman and have a conversation. I doubt I’d change her mind, but I might at least be able to convince her that voting for a gay man isn’t a mortal sin. Orthodox religious people are here and they’re not going anywhere. Gay people are here and we’re not going anywhere. The country is plenty big for both of us, if we can just establish a baseline of respect.

I don’t need every evangelical to believe I am fine the way God made me; my value isn’t tied up in what Intolerant in Iowa thinks, but is derived from my own self-worth and my God. I do need them to accept that I have a right to exist in the public life of this country, though. Similarly, as much as we’d like to stamp out these homophobic attitudes, gay people need to accept that we’re not going to win over everybody. Some people are just stubbornly prejudiced, though they wouldn’t consider themselves prejudiced at all. They really do feel that strongly. Browbeating them into submission isn’t a long-term solution.

Mayor Pete himself is running a campaign on bringing the country together and overcoming differences of opinion. He would probably be hurt by what that woman said, just as any gay man would be—more, maybe, since she’s saying it about him—but having read Shortest Way Home (in which Mayor Pete briefly writes about Memories Pizza), I don’t think he’d want us attacking her or her faith. (Not that anyone I’ve seen has. I’m just making a point.)

Still, I wonder if that woman knows any gay people. She probably does, though she might not know she does. I wonder what they think seeing her doggedly decide Pete Buttigieg isn’t worthy of being president after learning he is gay? I feel bad for them. I also hope they’ll pull her aside, maybe over a cup of coffee, and come out to her (if they haven’t already). I hope they’ll share a little of their struggle and listen as she shares a little of hers. Studies show tolerance and acceptance of gay people increases if you know gay people. Maybe she just needs a little call-in. SI mean, she’s participating in the Democratic caucus, so she’s clearly not a lost cause.

It hurts me that a woman who thought Pete was the candidate for her changed his mind just because she found out he’s gay. That speaks to the level of homophobia still present in much of this country, a homophobia many gay people experience on a daily basis. We’ve come a long way since I came out in 2001, but we’ve still got further to go. I’m heartened, though, to think that Pete Buttigieg might have won the Iowa caucus. If he didn’t win, he did very, very well. Love trumps hate, and Iowans have shown that just because one homophobic woman won’t back Pete because he’s gay, for many more people it isn’t an issue. That’s encouraging. We should hold on to that.

Skylar Baker-Jordan has been writing about UK and US politics for more than a decade. His work as appeared at The Independent, Salon, Huff Post UK, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter or become a supporter by contributing to his Patreon account.

Low voter turnout in Iowa should concern Democrats

Picture it: Iowa, 2008. On a cold winter’s night 240,000 cornfed Midwesterners descended on precincts across the state to caucus for their preferred Democratic candidate. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both locked in a ferocious political war for the nomination, and this was the opening skirmish. After eight long years of an unpopular Republican president, Democrats were energized and turned out in record numbers to support their favored candidate.

2020 couldn’t be more different. Turnout has dwindled to 170,000 and we don’t yet have a winner. While much of the Democratic establishment and mainstream media is handwringing over the fact we don’t yet know the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses, we’re ignoring the elephant in the room. In the end, the only result that may matter is that voters didn’t show up like Democrats hoped and needed.

Historically, the Iowa caucuses have a low turnout. There are reasons for this, including issues of accessibility and the fact that American elections generally have low rates of participation. It’s also true that the turnout is predicted to be roughly on par with 2016.

Democrats lost in 2016, though, making the lack of enthusiasm a possible harbinger of doom for our party come November. Bernie Sanders has promised to inspire a new generation of Americans, Pete Buttigieg promised to bring in “future former Republicans,” and nearly every candidate tried to reach out to people who feel left behind. Yet exit polls suggest a dip in first-time voters, indicating that candidates have failed to bring new recruits into the Democratic fold.

That’s a problem. Democrats need to attract disaffected Republicans, remorseful Trump voters, young people (whom election after election shows are apathetic about voting) and energize Democratic voters to actually show up at the polls. Iowa isn’t a perfect mirror of Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—but it’s close enough that the lack of enthusiasm from the Hawkeye State is troubling. We need to win these states if we hope to defeat Donald Trump, but we can’t win them unless we have a broad coalition of new and returning Democratic voters—people who sat out the 2016 election and people who voted for Trump but regret it.

All of this is compounded, of course, by the fact that we don’t know who won Iowa. Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg last night gave speeches which sounded like victory speeches but weren’t really victory speeches. That’s all they were, though—speeches. We have a crowded field of candidates, so perhaps the enthusiasm gap between 2008 and 2020 is simply that voters are spoiled for choice and opted to let others winnow the field. Maybe, as the field narrows, enthusiasm and momentum will shift to one candidate and we’ll see the excitement and passion we saw the last time we elected a first-term Democrat to the White House.

I’m not holding my breath, though, because I remember the 2016 primary. Not the Democratic one—though I remember that, too—but the Republican primary. Some 16 candidates fought out a bitter contest for the GOP nomination, yet there was one—a spray-tanned former reality tv star—who consistently led the polls. He didn’t win Iowa, but the enthusiasm around him was palpable, and it carried him to the White House.

I’m not saying Democrats need our own Donald Trump—no one needs another Donald Trump, or for that matter, the original. But we need someone who excites people like Donald Trump excites people—except, you know, excites them for good reasons and not for racist reasons. We need someone who makes the farmer in Iowa or the autoworker in Michigan or the waitress in Wisconsin say “she says what I’m thinking” or “he tells it like it is.” I’m not talking just about attracting Trump voters here, but about energizing Democrats in Milwaukee and Philadelphia and Dayton who stayed home in 2016. We need someone who makes them believe their lives can be better, who makes them feel like their voices are not only heard but are important.

We don’t yet have that candidate.

We can’t win with 2016 levels of enthusiasm, and we can’t win with 2016 turnout. While candidates and party officials lament the shitshow that was the Iowa Caucuses, they ought to be less concerned with who won than who didn’t show up. If we can’t attract new and returning voters to our party, we’ve already lost.

Skylar Baker-Jordan has been writing about UK and US politics for more than a decade. His work as appeared at The Independent, Salon, Huff Post UK, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter or become a supporter by contributing to his Patreon account.

Skylar reads… “Shortest Way Home” by Pete Buttigieg

“Skylar reads…” is a new series of book reviews by writer Skylar Baker-Jordan. Each book will be scored on a scale of “one book” to “five books”, with five being the best.

I picked up Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg for the reason most people will have bought the book—to get to know him better. Before last year, most Americans had never heard of the young midwestern mayor who was skyrocketing to the top tier of candidates in the Democratic primary. It seems Buttigieg anticipated this problem, and Shortest Way Home serves as an introduction to Buttigieg, his life, his experiences as mayor, and a general sense of his governing style.

For those looking for detailed policy positions or a deep philosophical treatise that might help nail down Buttigieg’s politics, this isn’t the book. Buttigieg doesn’t really touch on national policy, though you do get some idea of his positions on such things as the economy (government intervention is good, as with the auto bailout), social issues (no surprise, he supports gay marriage) and American involvement in the Middle East (it’s complicated, but the endless wars have got to stop). If you’re looking for the nuts and bolts of “Medicare for all who want it” or Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan (his policies on race and issues affecting Black America), you’re not going to find it here.

That was, of course, never the point of Shortest Way Home. Clearly written to provide background and context for Buttigieg’s presidential bid (the book was published in February 2019, a month after Buttigieg announced his exploratory committee), it is your typical autobiography. Buttigieg traces his life from a brick house in South Bend to Harvard Yard and Oxford to a high-rise office in Chicago and back to South Bend, where he was elected mayor in 2011. It’s an impressive if not always interesting journey on its own—anyone who works in politics or media knows the Ivy League cum Oxbridge (or vice versa) type—and Buttigieg writes about his hometown and childhood with a warmth and ease he doesn’t always display on the campaign trail.

It isn’t until we get to 2010, when Buttigieg ran a failed campaign to unseat an incumbent state treasurer, that Buttigieg’s life story really differs that much from your average high achieving white boy, and it’s here where Buttigieg’s writing is the most animated and dynamic. He writes with gusto about trekking across the Hoosier state, going from fish fries to parades while cold calling in between. The characters he meets along the way—a Republican who writes him a cheque because his buddy “says you’re a good guy” or the party official who meets with him while plowing a cornfield—seem like they could have come out of Primary Colors. Where a more cynical writer would have turned them into ridiculous caricatures, Buttigieg writes about them with admiration and respect.

Indeed, the book often feels less like an autobiography and more like a love letter to Indiana. Whether Buttigieg is recounting how state political and business leaders—including Republicans—came together to defeat a homophobic law passed by then-Governor Mike Pence or how his hometown revitalized itself (under Buttigieg’s leadership, of course) after appearing on a list of failing American cities, “Mayor Pete” writes eloquently and glowingly about his home state. It’s a reminder to those not from the industrial Midwest that the region isn’t the dying wasteland many seem to presume, and it’s in these passages Buttigieg shines.

Buttigieg doesn’t shy away from the more controversial aspects of his mayoralty, which is good. He goes into detail about the demotion of former police chief Darryl Boykins and reckons with his own shortcomings when it comes to policing—one of the chief controversies he’s faced on the campaign trail. He acknowledges mistakes, owns up to failures, and explains his decision in a frank and honest way which would likely surprise his harshest critics.

The book isn’t without its faults, though. Buttigieg’s writing is largely constrained and guarded, and it’s clear he’s holding back and choosing his words carefully. This might be good when you’re a politician, but it isn’t great when you’re an author. Because Buttigieg remains so cautious in what he will and won’t discuss, it’s difficult to get a real grasp on who he is. We find out a few personal details (he’s an early riser, but not by choice; he loves Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue) and get a few funny anecdotes (one that sticks out is a practical joke Chasten’s family played on him), but largely we’re meeting Pete the politician, not Pete the man.

That’s a shame, really, because Pete the man has an interesting and relevant story to tell as well. Buttigieg discusses his decision to come out and his relationship with Chasten, but he skips a crucial part of the journey every gay man takes – figuring out you’re gay and what happens next. Memoirs by politicians still in the arena are typically cautious and light on the type of rich and honest details that make the genre so compelling, and Shortest Way Home is no exception. It would have been nice to read about Buttigieg’s internal conflict in accepting his sexuality, when he realized he was gay, and how that realization came to pass. We don’t get that, though, and as a result we’re left with the notion that a big part of Buttigieg’s story is missing. For the man who is the first serious openly gay candidate for president, not grappling more with the process of coming out to oneself is a serious omission.

Perhaps that will be discussed in the post-presidency book. I hope so, because Shortest Way Home is poorer for not including it. If you want to get to know Pete Buttigieg, it’s worth reading—but only if you want the sanitized political version. Honestly, there’s not much here for the average reader that they couldn’t get by reading Buttigieg’s Wikipedia page or any of the dozens of profiles mainstream media has done on him. Shortest Way Home is essential reading to Buttigieg supporters and those interested in the changing economic landscape and the changing cityscapes of the Midwest but not many people beyond those groups. It’s a fun read, though, and I enjoyed the time I spent in Buttigieg’s South Bend with its working-class charm and Hoosier hospitality.

📘 📘 📘

Skylar Baker-Jordan has been writing about UK and US politics for more than a decade. His work as appeared at The Independent, Salon, Huff Post UK, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter or become a supporter by contributing to his Patreon account.

Pete Buttigieg, Hillary Clinton, and who gets to show emotion in American politics

Last night the New York Times editorial board endorsed Senator Amy Klobuchar and/or Senator Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic nomination. Leaving aside the arguments for and against each of these candidates as well as the arguments over whether endorsing two candidates makes sense (I think it does), I want to—quelle surprise—talk about Pete Buttigieg. Chiefly, I want to talk about Mayor Pete, emotiveness, and who gets to be expressive in American politics and culture.

First, let’s get something out of the way. I am supporting Pete Buttigieg for president. I think the New York Times’ interview was at times very unfair to him, especially Binyamin Appelbaum’s outright lies about his time as a consultant for McKinsey. I am not happy with the Times’ endorsement, though I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mayor Pete was the fourth-place pick of the editorial board (behind Warren, Klobuchar, and erstwhile candidate Senator Cory Booker).

With that said, there was an exchange that I think is worth discussing in a bit more detail than I’ve seen discussed elsewhere. In response to Appelbaum asking whether he feels the same anger a lot of young people feel about the state of the country, Mayor Pete answered that “while I may not be as emotive sometimes about my sense of anger or frustration or injustice – and I would argue that some people are given more room to be emotive than others – I would not be doing any of this if I were not propelled by a level of passion.” While debating the pros and cons of each candidate (as shown on The Weekly), Michelle Cottle complained that “Pete talking about how he doesn’t emote as much as some, that’s a real problem. I mean voters love that ‘I feel your pain’ stuff,” prompting Lauren Kelley to rightly point out “he also almost surely would be painted in some unfair way if the gay man on the trail was overly emotional, right? I mean, it’s a bind.”

Indeed, it is a bind – one in which many gay men have found themselves. I don’t know if Pete Buttigieg meant to imply that others have more leeway to be emotive because he’s gay or not (he never expressly says), and I understand the point Cottle was making. Voters really do love a passionate, emotive candidate – think Bill Clinton, think Bernie Sanders, think Donald Trump – though Barack Obama showed that sometimes cool-as-a-cucumber works, too.  But Kelley raises a point that I think is important to make, if not about Mayor Pete specifically, about politics and business in general. Who gets to be emotive, and who gets dismissed when they’re emotive, is something worth discussing.

Gay men have long been portrayed as flamboyant and dramatic, from Nathan Lane’s character in The Birdcage to Jack McFarlane in Will and Grace right on up to Cam on Modern Family. There’s nothing wrong with being flamboyant and dramatic—lots of gay men (myself included, frankly) are, just as lots of all sorts of people are. For a long time, though, the stock character of the gay “drama queen” was the predominant depiction of gay men in pop culture, and that image has become a stereotype of gay men in general. The problem arises not because some gay men are dramatic, emotional, emotive, or flamboyant, but because the straight world assumes that when a gay man is dramatic, emotional, emotive, or flamboyant it is because he is gay and that is, inherently, a bad thing.

As I said above, I’m an expressive and sometimes flamboyant gay man. I’ve never felt any shame in this. One of my nicknames among my friends in high school—given in good nature— was “Bitchy Diva Queen.” (The other was “Zazu,” because I always knew the gossip.) The nickname itself didn’t bother me. The way my emotions were often dismissed because of it, though, did. I developed a thick skin back then—you had to as an openly gay boy in a southeastern Kentucky high school in the early 00s—but when something really did upset me, such as sophomore year, when a group of bullies apparently planned to attack me, my genuine fear, anger, or hurt was dismissed as being “overly dramatic” by my friends, my classmates, and even the administration.

This attitude followed me into adulthood. I was heavily involved in student government during college. During one contentious meeting at a retreat, frustrated, I got up to go smoke (a filthy habit, I know). This was allowed considering how long the meeting was going; people were taking breaks as needed. I walked quickly and with purpose (as I always do, a product of trying to make it from one class to the next without getting attacked in high school), hurrying outside to light a cigarette. The next thing I know the student body president—my boss, as her chief of staff— is outside chastising me for “storming out.” When I tried to explain that I simply needed a cigarette, she wouldn’t hear it, dressing me down for being so dramatic.

Even into the professional world, even in a big blue dot like Chicago, this attitude has prevailed. When I was in meetings with management at the corporate headquarters of a large American mortgage company, I often felt dismissed if I showed even a hint of emotion. One well-meaning boss, who herself could often be heard cussing and screaming from her desk, suggested that I “tone it down” a bit. Another not well-meaning—and to no one’s surprise, male—boss told me to “stop being a diva and stop complaining,” even though I was one of several employees—though the only gay man—raising concerns that day.

Learning to keep cool is an important skill for anyone of any background, because sometimes you can’t just fly off the handle—and sometimes you won’t want to. I’ll be the first to admit there have been times that I have let my emotions get the better of me, when people had every right to pull me aside and tell me to chill out. I think that’s happened to most of us. For many years, this was compounded by an undiagnosed anxiety disorder which I only discovered I had in my late twenties. But time and again, people have somehow linked my emotiveness with my sexuality, othering me in the process.

This is why it matters who gets to be emotive and who does not. Hillary Clinton famously had a similar problem in 2008, when she was first accused of being cold and unfeeling. When she did show emotion at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, she was pilloried for it. “ A common first instinct was to treat the episode as a ploy, a calculated effort to ‘humanize’ the candidate—an interpretation that depended heavily on its having been somehow staged or faked,” Hendrik Hertzberg wrote at the time in The New Yorker, “but the authenticity of Clinton’s emotion was apparent to anyone who took the time to study the many replays with an open mind…”

Hillary Clinton herself has addressed this double standard several times. In 2016, she told the viral photography project Humans of New York she “had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.” In her 2017 memoir What Happened, she rightly called this “another variant on the impossible balancing act” women must perform in order to show enough emotion to be quote-unquote likable while not showing so much that they’re thought of as quote-unquote shrill or overwrought. “If we’re too composed, we’re cold or fake. But if we say what we think without caution, we get slammed for it,” she writes. “Can you blame us for feeling like we can’t win, no matter what we do?”

I suspect the similar double standard experienced by Hillary Clinton and—it must be said, to a lesser degree—Pete Buttigieg is rooted in the same patriarchal, misogynist notions about how women and gay men behave. It’s why when a straight man gets angry, he’s “passionate,” when a gay man gets angry, he’s “dramatic,” and when a woman gets angry, she’s “hysterical.” This is further compounded by race, with tropes such as the “angry black woman” making it even more difficult for Black women specifically, and women of colour more generally, to be allowed space to have and show emotions without ridicule or prejudice. Black men, too, are often viewed as angry or violet where white men aren’t, as a 2017 American Psychological Association study reveals.

Homophobic, sexist, and racist double standards influence how we perceive people’s emotions and emotiveness. Mayor Pete never says why he can’t be as emotive as others, nor does he say who gets to be more emotive than he does. Zooming out from him and looking at the culture more broadly, though, it’s clear that in America, not everyone is equally free to express themselves. So long as stereotypes and double standards continue to affect who gets to show emotion and how that emotion is perceived, we should all remember that sometimes a candidate is guarded not because they aren’t passionate, but because they aren’t allowed to be.

Skylar Baker-Jordan has been writing about UK and US politics for more than a decade. His work as appeared at The Independent, Salon, Huff Post UK, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter or become a supporter by contributing to his Patreon account.

Why I’m voting for Mayor Pete

Mayor Pete Buttigieg at an event in Iowa City, Iowa on July 14, 2019 (Photo: Flickr/Pete For America)

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article for the Independent in which I lamented that neither Jehmu Greene nor Pete Buttigieg was elected Chair of the Democratic National Committee. “I just hope that we’ve not seen the last of Buttigieg or Greene, and that maybe party elders will start allowing them to lead us into the future,” I wrote at the time.

Well, the time has come for one of them. Pete Buttigieg has surprised almost everybody—but not me—by seemingly rising from obscurity to the top-tier of Democratic candidates for president. To anyone who familiar with Buttigieg before he sought the party’s nomination, though, there is nothing surprising about this. We’ve long known Pete Buttigieg was a rising star.

I have been continually impressed with him since he declared his candidacy in April. It was a brazen move for the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana—population 101,000—who had lost the only statewide race he ever ran. Many were, and are, sceptical that someone so inexperienced could or should be president.

I made similar arguments against then-Senator Barack Obama as a Hillary Clinton supporter and doorstepper in 2008. Over his eight years in office, Obama—who when elected was only four years removed from the Illinois legislature—proved that experience holding high public office is not a requirement for being an effective, even excellent, president. In 2016, the election of Donald Trump solidified the fact that Americans are willing to vote for someone with little or no political experience.

Of course, Trump also shows that a lack of experience is not itself a qualification. What Buttigieg lacks in elected experience—and what Trump lacks entirely—he makes up for in knowhow. As mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg cut unemployment by 6.6% (the second highest of any city studied in a recent report by Business Insider), an impressive figure given the economic stagnation occurring in much of the Rust Belt. Under his mayoralty, a Studebaker plant which had been decaying for half a century was turned into a state-of-the-art call centre. He thought about closing the city’s utility pay centres until he realised how many unbanked people relied on them—showing an ability to change course when presented with compelling new information and also an understanding of the real economic struggles of working-class Americans.

None of this is to say that Pete Buttigieg is a perfect candidate. There are plenty of areas where we disagree. “Medicare for all (who want it)” sounds good, but I worry about the political will—both in the short- and long-term—to adequately fund a federal programme that competes directly with private insurers, an issue you don’t have with simply “Medicare for all.” Still, I recognise that many Americans are deeply distrustful of “Medicare for all,” and getting such a policy through even a Congress completely controlled by the Democrats would be nearly impossible, as Obama discovered in 2010.

Similarly, I disagree with Mayor Pete on his plan to cap free college tuition for households who make $100,000 a year or more, thinking that like public schools, libraries, and fire departments, every American—regardless of income—ought to be entitled to a college education should they desire it. Most Americans aren’t as left-wing as me though, and I am nothing if not a pragmatist. I worry that a failure to meet American voters where they are could risk a backlash similar to that experienced by Jeremy Corbyn in the recent British election.

And then there is the issue of race. Mayor Pete’s lack of any real support among Black voters is concerning. There are real questions about his record on gentrification and policing in South Bend, ones he has yet to adequately answer. Goldie Taylor laid these issues bare in an essay for the Daily Beast, one well worth reading.

Still, getting out of my big blue bubble in Chicago and moving to North Carolina in 2018, and then Tennessee last month, I’ve realised that many of the people who voted for Trump aren’t foaming-at-the-mouth racists (though they definitely didn’t let Trump’s foaming-at-the-mouth racism stop them). They’re hardworking people hungry for a change. We need with speak to them, not over them and not down to them, and to let them speak to us if we have any chance of winning the crucial swing states we need to win—and more importantly, effecting real change that can help workaday Americans live easier, better, and happier lives.

South Bend’s remarkable comeback has been because Mayor Pete has a vision for his city and country not rooted in the past, like Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again.” He understands that the challenges facing American in the 21st century will not be met with 20th century solutions. “We propelled our city’s comeback by taking our eyes off the rearview mirror,” he said in a video upon launching his campaign, “being honest about change, and insisting on a better future.”

This honesty about change, and what is required to move forward, is the cornerstone of why I support Mayor Pete for President. “We’re not going to be able to replace this president if we think he’s just a blip, just an aberration. It’s going to take more than that,” he said in September. It’s a stark, and blunt, statement of reality that Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of a deep malaise within the American public (particularly the American white public).

This means healing the divisions in the country without sacrificing core progressive principles like racial equality, women’s rights, and an immigration system that welcomes rather than demonises those looking to make America their home. Overall, Mayor Pete gets this, and he’s shown he’s able to win and govern with these principles. He seeks to unite Americans of all stripes rather than continue the bitter divides which have stymied any consensus-building or change over the past several years.

Despite some stumbles and some unanswered questions, Mayor Pete joins together a progressive agenda with a pragmatic roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do attitude vital to tackling the major issues of our time. Pete Buttigieg has demonstrated a vision and ability to move America forward while bringing a bitterly divided nation together. It is why I will vote for him for President of the United States.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

On Pete Buttigieg, my Independent column, and whether I hate myself for being gay (spoiler: I do not)

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The author, centre, participating in a gay rights march in Lakeview, Chicago, in 2013. Photo: Brittany Sowacke/Redeye

On Friday, the Independent published an think piece I wrote entitled “If one more polyamorous coastal ‘queer’ tells me Pete Buttigieg isn’t gay enough, I’ll scream. He is – and so am I.” This article was in response to a few different “Pete’s the wrong kind of gay” articles I’ve seen over the past year, but the one that I used as my news hook was the most recent, by Buzzfeed’s Shannon Keating. I took issue with her views on Mayor Pete being an insufficient representation of the “queer” community, implying that “orgy attending, polyamorous Brooklyn bottom queens” (her words) are somehow more radical or more appropriate representations of the LGBT people than a boring old cis gay man like Mayor Pete.

The response has been largely positive. There are a lot of people out there who were clearly hungry for someone to state the obvious—that there is no right or wrong way to be gay, that being a “queer” doesn’t make you better than someone who just identifies as “gay,” and that Mayor Pete is and always has been gay enough.

Others disagreed. Some did so in good faith, and I had some respectful debates and constructive conversations both publicly on social media and in DMs. Others were cruel, telling me to throw myself off a freeway overpass or hoping I choke to death. Somewhere in between there lies the people I’m going to address in this blog—the people who decided that because I’m sick and tired of a certain subset of the LGBT community deciding who is and isn’t sufficiently “queer” I must be a self-loathing gay man with oodles of internalised homophobia.

Before we get to that, though, I want to make explicit what this blog isn’t going to address. I am not going to discuss Pete Buttigieg’s politics or policies. They are worth debating, but another day. I am not going to offer a treatise on the word “queer” and my thoughts on it. Again, that’s worth discussing, but this is not the time. And I am not going to call anyone out by name, as that would serve no real purpose.

I do want to briefly discuss a few points—and when I say briefly, I do mean briefly, because it is Sunday and I have zero desire to litigate these ad nauseum again—which have been brought up over the past 48 hours.

  • Am I a self-hating queer with internalised homophobia? To begin with, I don’t identify as queer, I identify as gay. That is important to me, because I have spent most of my life fighting to live openly and proudly and without fear as a gay man. I came out at 15, in 2001, which means I have spent more of my life out of the closet than in the closet. I experienced a crucible of homophobia every single day of high school, being called “faggot,” “fudgepacker,” “homo,” and, yes, “queer.” Far from internalising that homophobia, I rejected it and toxic masculinity to became even more unabashedly myself.
  • You criticised people for being too gay. No one can be “too gay,” because the only requirement for being gay is same-sex attraction. But if we’re talking about being camp, well, I have long worn makeup, had long hair—I went through an unfortunate phase where I thought teasing it was a good idea (“higher the hair, the closer to God”)—and have even been known to squeeze my ass into some women’s capris or baby tees because why the fuck not, they’re cute. I will rock out to some Cheryl or Kelly Clarkson or Steps. I have no problem living my authentic self and camping it up.
  • You hate queer culture. Do I enjoy all aspects of “queer culture?” No. I’m not a big fan of nightclubs in general, and no, I have never been in an orgy (though I’m not sure that is really a unique part of queer culture as straights can do this too). I don’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (though I have, and I enjoyed it) and I’ve not seen the reboot of Queer Eye. I prefer country to techno. I am at best a casual fan of Carly Rae Jepsen. These are all superficial markers of what it means to be gay, though, and if this is what the people who have said I hate “queer culture” means, well, I don’t hate it, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m still hella gay, because I sleep with men. That’s it. That’s the only reason.
  • You used homophobic language. I didn’t. I was riffing off Shannon Keating’s own language, specifically the part where she refers to “typical orgy-attending, polyamorous Brooklyn bottom queens.” It is interesting that no one took exception to a woman (I assume a “queer” woman, but I don’t know that) using this language, but when a gay man snarkily uses nearly similar language to counter the notion that these people are somehow the moral or political arbiters of gayness—no one is, not them, not me, not even Sir Ian McKellan—I am pilloried. I find many (not all, and maybe not even most) people who made this comment read my article in bad faith and used it to make a political point or discredit me without engaging in my broader point, which is that no one gets to decide who is and isn’t doing homosexuality right.
  • You are insulting anyone who isn’t gay like you. That was not my intention, and I’m sorry if it came across that way. I could have made clearer I was sarcastically using Keating’s own language in my article. I accept that point. But let me make it clear that no one should judge anyone for their lifestyle, presuming they’re not hurting anyone else. Identify how you want, live how you want, sleep with who you want, and snort what you want. I don’t care. Just don’t think any of those things make you a better gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person who doesn’t.
  • You don’t represent queer politics. This is true. I do not represent queer politics. I do not wish to represent queer politics. I think if you asked 30 different people what queer politics are, you’d get at least 15 different answers. I represent me, and my body of work speaks for itself. You are more than welcome to read it here at this website or at Muckrack, where my portfolio goes back several years.
  • You’re not radical enough. I’m a socialist. I want nationalised healthcare free at the point of access (not just “Medicare for All”). I want open borders. I want to nationalise utilities and end the fossil fuel industry. I want every American woman to be able to get an abortion if they want. I want to completely restructure the racist institution of policing if not abolish it and start from scratch. I have been championing these issues for years now. I also want to get married, maybe have kids, and live a quiet life with my family and my writing. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. If you do, that’s your problem, not mine.

This is by no means an exhaustive or all-encapsulating list, nor is it everything I want to say on the subject or think about certain issues. But it’s enough for now. I will start referring anyone who calls me self-loathing, or accuses me of having internalized homophobia, to this blog. Because here’s the thing, folks—by assuming that I’m self-hating because I wrote one piece in which I told you to stop telling people they’re not gay enough, you’re proving my point. Not every gay man likes the same things you do. That doesn’t mean they’re not properly gay.

Pete Buttigieg and the Equality Town Hall show how far we’ve come in the fight for LGBT rights

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Pete Buttigieg and Anderson Cooper shake hands at CNN’s Equality Town Hall on 10 October 2019. Photo: The Advocate/GETTY IMAGES

I went to the courthouse for my 18th birthday. Full of excitement and the promise of America, I proudly filled out my first voter registration card, marking “D” for Democrat. It was 2004, and as a young, openly gay American, I was ready to cast my ballot against the homophobic policies of George W Bush.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Bush coasted to re-election using lesbian and gay Americans as a wedge issue. Campaigning on a platform which included amending the US Constitution to explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, Bush was aided by equally odious state amendments which drove evangelicals to the polls in record numbers.

In Kentucky, where I lived at the time, I spent the summer and fall of that year knocking on doors, introducing myself as a gay man. It was a daunting task, but one I felt obligated to undertake. My community was under attack, and I was compelled to defend it.

During those long afternoons walking the streets of Bowling Green, I had many people tell me they opposed my equality. Some asked me to repent my sins. Still others slammed doors in my face. There were the occasional supporters, and I even happened to knock on the door of an older gay couple. Mostly, though, I was met with unabashed homophobia.

Fifteen years later, it’s hard to remember specific conversations. One, though, has always stuck with me. She was, she told me, a mother with a son not much older than me. Perhaps because of that she engaged me for longer than most people cared to. She would be voting for the amendment, she told me in the most apologetic tone, but she hoped it wouldn’t discourage me. “You’re going to win,” she said. “I see it with my son. Your side won’t win this year, but it will eventually.”

I thought about that woman last night as I watched the CNN Equality Town Hall, a forum in which Democratic presidential candidates answered questions from the LGBT community about issues that affect us. There were many moving moments, but none stood out to me more than when Pete Buttigieg spoke about struggling to come out as gay: “What it was like was a civil war, because I knew I was different long before I was ready to say that I was gay, and long before I was able to acknowledge that was something that I didn’t have power over.”

That moment was a watershed moment in LGBT and American history. On national television, an openly gay presidential candidate stood with one of the evening’s two openly gay moderators—both among the nation’s most respected journalists—and told the country what it was like to struggle with your sexuality. Simply put, that has never happened before.

Today is the annual Coming Out Day. Around the world, LGBT people are discussing what it means to finally kick open the closet door and be your authentic self. Some are taking the opportunity to actually do it. Last night, all those people—whether out and proud for decades or just peeking out the door—got to see a viable candidate for US President tell us his story.

It’s easy to dismiss how historic this moment is. Marriage equality is the law of the land, and LGBT people are more mainstream and visible than ever. We’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time.

Because of this, many people—even within the LGBT community—want to downplay, or do not see, how important last night was. Protestors advocating for more action to curb violence against transgender women of colour interrupted as Mayor Pete was being introduced. Later, he was asked whether he is “gay enough” to advocate for our community, as though there is any litmus test beyond being exclusively attracted to the same sex. “When somebody is weighing whether to come out or just come to terms with who they are, it’s really important for them to know that they’re going to be accepted,” he answered. “There is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans.”

Ending violence against trans women and discussions of diversity within our community are important. However, we should pause to reflect on just how much we’ve accomplished. An LGBT person asking an openly gay candidate for president whether he’s gay enough to represent our community is a stark contrast to where we were just four presidential elections ago. Let’s take a moment to savour that.

Mayor Pete might not win the presidency, but it doesn’t matter. He has already made history. His candidacy, and the forum we had last night, is a testament to the progress we have made in the fight for equality for all Americans. Thinking back to that woman on the doorstep all those years ago, I don’t know if we can claim victory yet, but last night, it sure felt like we were winning.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a writer based in North Carolina. He has previously written for The Independent, Salon, The Daily Dot, and more.