Buttigieg, like the politicians before and after him, will never transgress or bring any substantial change to a system that he benefits from.
Pete Buttigieg is considered a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, but his politics are a fallacy.
Buttigieg is the specific brand of white person that I have come to abhor, precisely because they base their perceived substance on empty performance.
When I think of Buttigieg, I think of my white classmates in international affairs courses, who are asked to see themselves as arbiters of development. Who after graduation, enter the ranks of neoliberal organizations like Mckinsey & Company—a marketing firm which worked with ICE and the Trump administration on creating even crueler ways to detain migrants in camps; who can sleep well at night because they exist cradled by the cushions of the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and a comfort that does not actively set out to challenge oppressive ideologies or structures. To challenge any of their privileges would require divesting from their kin and the very organizations that sustain said ideologies or structures.
To address, and I mean to hand-in-dirt address, systemic change is to transgress. It is to move against the very real forces of white supremacy that ask that we instead confine our actions to the parameters that it has set. Transgression rarely arrives with accolades or compliments. Transgression, instead, arrives with ostracization. You lose friends; you break relationships. In challenging a violent status quo, you lose. You risk your professional career; it may halt, or it may reach an impasse.
For some, specifically Black and indigenous communities, it can mean death. I would be dishonest if I said that to write for Wear Your Voice has afforded just liberation. It is a liberation because I am able to speak my truth, but, it has also meant that I publicly share views that are not palatable to the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Views that transgress. And, I have felt fear, because to voice what I have — in my personal life — has consistently resulted in isolation. Transgressing is not a “feel-good” activity.
Buttigieg is the quintessential white liberal. The kind of white liberal that will temporarily change their WIFI password to “impeach45” for Thanksgiving. The kind that takes photos at marches, but returns home — unscathed — to maintain relationships with relatives that have voted for Trump.
For liberals like Buttigieg, they do not transgress as much as they temporarily perform.
Take, for example, his recent policy proposal: children of millionaires should not benefit from a tuition-free public college. It is a common GOP perversion, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out. It is also similar to the false liberal politics of Hillary Clinton, who also expressed, “I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.”
Buttigieg engages with it, so as to performatively pose himself closer to the “most vulnerable.” The “most vulnerable” work hard; the rich do not deserve the taxpayer money of the “most vulnerable” to send their children to college. But, the trouble, in his criticism, is that the plan that he attacks is designed to help the same “most vulnerable” that he seeks to champion.
Michael Hiltzike, a business columnist, writes, “Social programs that serve limited economic groups, especially the middle-class and poor, are always more vulnerable to political attack than those that serve everyone.”
Buttigieg’s politics are akin to white feminism. Just as being a woman does not absolve the white woman of her whiteness and accompanying power and privilege, being gay does not absolve Buttigieg of his whiteness and accompanying power and privilege.
Just like the white feminist, Buttigieg can perform solidarity but acts in alliance with the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that their politics supposedly criticize. He can dole out the “Douglass Plan” to “tackle systemic racism,” but have fired the first Black police chief of his constituent town.
Just like the white feminist, Buttigieg will never transgress.