Pete Buttigieg Confronts Race and Identity in Speech to Gay Group

LAS VEGAS — Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., on Saturday directly confronted one of his biggest vulnerabilities as a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination: running as a white man who has led a life of relative privilege at a time when many in his party are eager for a woman or a minority candidate to become their next leader.

Speaking at a fund-raiser for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes, Mr. Buttigieg drew on his own experiences as a gay man in a predominantly straight society. But he also rejected the idea that “there are equivalencies” in the forms of discrimination experienced by different minority groups and individuals.

“I may be part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But being a gay man doesn’t even tell me what it’s like to be a trans woman of color in that same community, let alone an undocumented mother of four or a disabled veteran or a displaced autoworker,” he said at the event, hosted by the Human Rights Campaign.

Mr. Buttigieg recalled the experiences of several historically oppressed groups and the political movements that brought greater social and political equality, including Latino farm laborers, black civil rights activists and the modern gay rights movement that grew out of the Stonewall rebellion in Greenwich Village. He called for “the beginning of a new form of American solidarity” among people who understand that they live “in a society that sees us for what makes us all different.”

At the same time, Mr. Buttigieg warned that identity politics can be corrosive on the right and the left, and said he feared that it often drove people in his party with a common purpose bitterly apart.

“The wall I worry about most isn’t the president’s fantasy wall on the Mexican border that will never get built anyway,” he said, jabbing at President Trump, who has been lobbing insults at Mr. Buttigieg all week. “What I worry about are the very real walls being put up between us as we get divided and carved up.”

Then he made an explicit appeal to his audience. “And what every gay person has in common with every excluded person of every kind is knowing what it’s like to see a wall,” he said.

Mr. Buttigieg, 37, who graduated from Harvard and Oxford, spoke with pride and amazement about being featured on the cover of Time magazine with his husband, Chasten, under the headline, “First Family,” something he said he never could have contemplated was possible when he was a closeted teenager.

“I am ready to use my story, my energy, my alliances,” he added, “and yes, my privilege, to throw myself into tearing down those walls.”

One of the biggest challenges for Mr. Buttigieg so far has been persistent doubts from activists and allies alike about whether he could appeal to voters beyond the mostly white crowds who have been showing up at his campaign rallies in growing numbers. He has also faced questions about his record in South Bend, including the firing of the city’s first black police chief, and about the frustration among some African-Americans that they have not benefited equally from the city’s economic resurgence, which he often highlights. In recent weeks, Mr. Buttigieg has reached out to black leaders and campaigned at events held by minority groups.

Mr. Buttigieg’s appearance at the dinner on Saturday capped a West Coast swing that included sold-out fund-raisers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, adding more money to coffers that are already larger than the vast majority of his rivals for the Democratic nomination. One fund-raiser was at the home of the actress Gwyneth Paltrow; another was at the Abbey, a popular West Hollywood gay bar.

As he and his campaign have evolved — he started out as a curiosity and in a matter of weeks became one of the top-tier candidates in a crowded Democratic field — Mr. Buttigieg has been successful in attracting the financial support of many of the wealthy and famous people in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street who helped raise millions of dollars for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

He has also attracted a new and notable foe: the president. After initially ignoring Mr. Buttigieg and reserving his ridicule for other potential Democratic challengers, Mr. Trump has commented on the mayor twice in the last few days.

“Representing us against President Xi of China,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Florida on Wednesday night, his voice thick with sarcasm. “That’d be great.”

Then he compared Mr. Buttigieg to the adolescent, gaptoothed cartoon mascot for Mad magazine. “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States,” the president said in an interview with Politico on Friday.

Mr. Buttigieg, who has attempted to make much of his argument to voters about the need for generational change in politics, professed to be a bit puzzled by the Neuman reference.

The humor magazine’s heyday was years before he was born. “I had to Google that,” he said when asked about it. “I guess it’s a generational thing.”

And asked to respond to Mr. Trump’s criticism that he could not handle negotiating with the Chinese, Mr. Buttigieg said in an interview that he would be happy to put his diplomatic skills up against the president’s.

“There’s very little evidence that this White House knows what it’s doing when it comes to China,” he said.

Source

more recommended stories

  • Trump Opens Tokyo Visit With a Tweet Sure to Unnerve the Japanese

    TOKYO — President Trump kicked off.

  • Bernie Sanders, No Longer the Front-Runner, Brings Campaign Home to Vermont

    MONTPELIER, Vt. — Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • Fact-Checking Bernie Sanders on the Campaign Trail

    “Absolutely. In fact, climate change is.

  • A Lesson of Sandy Hook: ‘Err on the Side of the Victims’

    NEWTOWN, Conn. — Scarlett Lewis sees.

  • Iran Slams U.S. After Middle East Troop Buildup Is Announced

    LONDON — Iranian officials lashed out.

  • John Bolton Says North Korean Missile Tests Violated U.N. Resolutions

    TOKYO — North Korean weapons tests.

  • On Politics: The Biggest Stories of the Week

    • China’s Supply of Minerals for.

  • Supreme Court Blocks Two Rulings Striking Down Voting Maps

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on.

  • Barr Got More Power to Review the Russia Inquiry. Here’s What We Know About Its Origins.

    WASHINGTON — President Trump has given.

  • Edited Pelosi Video vs. the Original: A Side-by-Side Comparison – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search U.S..

  • Jay Inslee Is Running on Climate Change. The Issue Is Catching On, So Why Isn’t He?

    RAYMOND, N.H. — For years, climate.

  • News Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of the Week’s Headlines

    Did you stay up to date.

  • On Politics: The Trade War Is Here to Stay

    Good Friday morning. Here are some.

  • Hope Hicks Left the White House. Now She Must Decide Whether to Talk to Congress.

    A White House spokesman did not.

  • 2020 Democrats Join McDonald’s Workers Striking Over Wages and Harassment

    As McDonald’s held its annual shareholder.

  • Sanders’s Education Plan Renews Debate Over Charter Schools and Segregation

    When Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a.

  • Trump Administration to Announce Farm Aid to Ease Pain of Trade War

    He reached out to Canadian and.

  • Pentagon to Build Temporary Shelter for 7,500 Migrant Adults Facing Deportation

    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on.

  • On Politics: Trump Blows Up Meeting With Democrats

    • New York State lawmakers approved.

  • U.S. Yet to Find Evidence of New Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

    WASHINGTON — The United States has.

  • Michael Avenatti Is Charged With Stealing Nearly $300,000 From Stormy Daniels

    Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged the.

  • Trump’s Battles: Today’s State of Play

    congress and the presidency As Democrats.

  • Gillibrand Proposes Huge Investments in Maternal Health, Child Care and Education

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign on.

  • On Politics: Trump May Impose Limits on Chinese Maker of Surveillance Tech

    Good Wednesday morning. Here are some.

  • Anita Hill Worries Female 2020 Candidates Are ‘Not Being Taken Seriously’

    Mr. Biden spoke with Ms. Hill.

  • U.S. Says Syria’s President May Be Using Chemical Weapons Again

    WASHINGTON — The State Department said.

  • Kentucky Has a Primary Election Today. Here’s What to Watch.

    Voters in Kentucky are choosing their.

  • ‘Our Subpoenas Are Not Optional,’ Nadler Warns McGahn – Video

    By REUTERS | May. 21, 2019.

  • As McGahn Prepares to Defy Subpoena, Democrats’ Anger Swells

    WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee.

  • Lawmakers Break Ramadan Fast on Capitol Hill

    WASHINGTON — As the House’s day.

  • Fox News Welcomes Pete Buttigieg. Trump and ‘Fox & Friends’ Aren’t Pleased.

    Mr. Hume added, “Oh, and covering.

  • Impeachment Appeal Pushes Justin Amash From G.O.P. Gadfly to Insurgent

    Calls to the congressman’s cellphone and.