Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has recently received acclaim and criticism for the latest characterization of his campaign. There have been many of those in the media who have characterized his move on healthcare as supporting a public option rather than the "Medicare for All" that Warren and Sanders have been all in for. There has been a lot of pushback from supporters and those campaigns over this issue and others.
But let’s be clear, even though Pete is not in favor of policies that are as left as positions taken by Senator Sanders (VT) and Senator Warren (MA), it is hard for me to stomach that Pete is a moderate. He has simply taken positions that are more moderate than Sanders and Warren.
Being in favor of a public option is not a moderate stance. It is most certainly a center left view but this is not moderate when considering where the median voter in the party is. If we look at one of the more contentious issues that the party has been litigating in this primary process, healthcare, we can see this most clearly.
While “Medicare for All” as a policy is moderately popular with Democrats, the policy, en masse, is not as popular. Even amongst Democrats, establishing a stronger public option has polled slightly better with Democrats and far better with Independents and Republicans.
But this, however, doesn’t make Mayor Pete a moderate. This is the same guy who is advocating for the elimination of the Electoral College, restructuring the Supreme Court, and is in favor of both voluntary buybacks for assault rifles and the establishment of a gun license. These views are all held by those who are as far left as it gets in this race.
While we have yet to see what pitting a candidate like Warren or Bernie against a Republican in a general is like yet, it is safe to say that the tag of being a “socialist”, whether it is true or not, could potentially have significant harm to the general election candidate.
This makes the decision to nominate a candidate who has a higher chance of being perceived that way difficult. This is why I think the Buttigieg campaign is leaning into this persona that the media has given him despite his policy.
Sure for those wanting radical change, Pete attempting to appeal to more middle left policies may seem less appealing. But the idea that he is a moderate and will, therefore, not enact change if given the chance is a false pretense to perceive his campaign from.
He is out for the liberal values that Democrats are vying for, but just from a path of gradual change rather than abrupt change. Whether this is a good plan from a governing standpoint is yet to be seen; but as for electorally, I think it is good for his presidential bid.