Showing posts with label Gay Politician. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Politician. Show all posts

March 10, 2020

Was The Country Ready For A Gay Pres. Pete? Would It be Ready Past This Election?

It was the question that followed former Mayor Pete Buttigieg everywhere he went when he first announced his presidential campaign: Is the country really ready to send a gay man to the White House?

But soon, it seemed, the novelty wore off. Many saw that as a sign of progress: Part of the reason his campaign was such a big deal, they said, was that it wasn’t a big deal what his sexual orientation was.

Instead, other questions arose around Mr. Buttigieg’s prospects of winning. What does the mayor of the small Midwestern city of South Bend, Ind., know about being president? Why isn’t he connecting in a more significant way with African-American voters? Would he be able to unify the fractured Democratic Party? Some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists, many of them young and nonwhite and far to the left of Mr. Buttigieg, started to ask whether he really represented their interests.

In certain progressive circles, in online commentary and in much of the national media, the history-making aspect of Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign often warranted only a passing and perfunctory mention. And the sprawling, diverse Democratic field featured plenty of other potential firsts, including six women, one of them African-American, a Latino man and two Jewish men. 

But many, especially those who have fought for L.G.B.T. equality for decades and have seen society grow more tolerant but not entirely accepting, say that Mr. Buttigieg’s contribution to history will be misunderstood and diminished if the main takeaway is that the first openly gay man to have a serious shot at the presidency elicited a collective shrug from a country, as if the country had moved on from its homophobic past.

Roberta Kaplan, who argued the 2013 Supreme Court case that overturned a federal law limiting recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples, Windsor v. United States, said in a tweet last week shortly after Mr. Buttigieg ended his campaign that she was still in awe that he got as far as he did.

If you had asked her seven years ago whether an openly gay candidate could credibly run for president in 2020, she wrote on Twitter, “I would have said you were nuts.” In an interview a few days later, Ms. Kaplan said she was still just as struck by Mr. Buttigieg’s success. But just as surprising, she said, is “that there’s a failure to understand history — and a very recent history.”

“On the one hand, people over-assume acceptance and equality. And on the other hand, there is no question the L.G.B.T.Q. movement has achieved equality at a speed that probably no other modern movement has,” Ms. Kaplan added. “And those things kind of have to live in tension.”
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Mr. Buttigieg felt that tension constantly during his campaign, existing in between what were essentially two realities. One was the reality of certain progressive activists, rival Democrats, social media and many of the reporters who covered him, which was focused on why he shouldn’t or couldn’t win the nomination, his supporters said. 

At a rally in Denver a few days before Mr. Buttigieg dropped out of the race, Zachary Ro, 9, told him, “I want to be brave like you,” and asked, “Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too?”
At a rally in Denver a few days before Mr. Buttigieg dropped out of the race, Zachary Ro, 9, told him, “I want to be brave like you,” and asked, “Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too?”Credit...Chet Strange for The New York Times 

“The too-isms always followed him,” said Tom Sheridan, a consultant in Washington who has worked with Congress to expand legal protections for people with AIDS and disabilities. “He was too young, too straight-acting, too boring, too inexperienced because he was mayor of a city that was too small.”

To many who felt a sense of empowerment from his campaign, though, those misgivings felt disconnected from their reality.

Mr. Buttigieg described the gratitude and optimism he often encountered when he was traveling the country, and acknowledged it was so powerful it took him aback at first. “Even I thought, ‘OK, maybe this is not all that much of an event,’” he said in an interview last year.

Strangers would approach him and try to convey how much it meant to see someone so public and so prominent talk about his experience as an L.G.B.T. person. One was just 9, a boy in Denver who told Mr. Buttigieg at a rally a few days before he dropped out of the race, “I want to be brave like you,” and asked, “Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too?”

Sometimes they were much older, like the flight attendant who was so overcome with emotion when he encountered Mr. Buttigieg at an airport that he was unable to speak. “He just made eye contact and came to the point of tears,” Mr. Buttigieg recalled. “And then walked off not knowing what else to do.”

Even in 2020, part of the paradox of running a successful campaign as an openly gay man meant that his orientation could not define him to voters who might not fully accept it. He understood this, and ran his campaign in a way that always sought equilibrium. The protective armor against his sexual orientation seemed in many ways to be his résumé. He was “Mayor Pete” the Rhodes Scholar, Navy veteran, pianist and technocrat conversant in eight languages. 

In this sense, he too is responsible for the way his sexual orientation was downplayed.

But the backlash he faced from fellow Democrats and liberal activists limited his ability to control his campaign’s narrative — a reality of presidential politics that is hardly unique to him. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s early days as a candidate, for instance, were dominated not by questions over her proposed wealth tax or other policy initiatives she wanted to discuss but over her claims of Native American heritage.

Mr. Buttigieg had to answer tough criticism from African-American residents of South Bend who said they felt marginalized and neglected. And as he acknowledged, his explanations weren’t always sufficient.

These criticisms made him seem like a poor fit for a generation of younger liberals who are deeply concerned about issues of racial justice and inequality. Progressives said they felt he didn’t speak for them; they sometimes heckled him at his events. 

Many of his defenders said the media and other Democrats focused too aggressively on his inability to attract more support from black voters, a problem other candidates like Ms. Warren and Senator Amy Klobuchar faced.

“Why was Pete singled out for a problem that other candidates were having?” said Joel Benenson, the Democratic strategist and pollster who worked for the Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns and whose firm consulted for Mr. Buttigieg. Mr. Benenson pointed out that even after Mr. Buttigieg came in first in the delegate count in the Iowa caucuses and a close second place to Mr. Sanders in New Hampshire, large percentages of the country still did not know much about him, making judgments about his inability to attract entire demographics premature.

After Iowa, he was viewed more favorably than unfavorably in a poll of registered voters nationwide by Quinnipiac University. (This was not true for Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, the poll found.) But almost a third of those surveyed said they had not heard enough about him to form an opinion. 

“This guy, a mayor of a city of 100,000 people, was coming in first and second. And he’s not even nationally known,” Mr. Benenson added, which is an achievement he said was also glossed over.

His supporters also argued that skeptics placed an unfair focus on how Mr. Buttigieg would perform in South Carolina, turning a small, conservative and highly religious state into a definitive proxy for his support among African-American voters nationwide. They also pointed to some statewide polling that indicated voters there would find it difficult to vote for an L.G.B.T. presidential candidate.

“We have a long ways to go in the South and with the church,” said Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P. and a proponent of L.G.B.T. rights. Asked if he thought an openly gay or lesbian person could be elected president, Mr. Spearman said yes. “With Mayor Pete, I think down the road we’ll see how much of an impact his running will affect us.” Asked if Mr. Buttigieg could have won his state, Mr. Spearman said he wasn’t so sure.

Though first-of-their-kind campaigns often fall short, they can make progress in other ways. Robert Raben, a Democratic consultant who works on liberal causes and diversity initiatives, likened Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign to the moment in 1984 when Jesse Jackson stood onstage with his family at the Democratic National Convention. He had run for and lost the Democratic nomination that year, and yet his speech was watched by some 33 million viewers.

“You saw a black nuclear family that could have been in the White House,” Mr. Raben said. “It went from the abstract to the concrete.” With the idea of a gay couple living in the White House, Mr. Raben added, “Buttigieg brought us from the abstract to the concrete.”

While the question of whether the country is ready to send a gay man to the White House remains unanswered, the question of whether Americans will treat one seriously as a presidential candidate is now closed, he said. “And we’ll never have to have that conversation again.”

The New York Times

March 5, 2020

Was Pete Butigieg Hated by The Very Liberal Left?

 Pete and His husband Chasten

Below is the opinion of a columnist from  The Guardian. In his piece he asks, Why Pete Buttigieg was hated by the left? I don't know if he was hated by the left but he was by the ultra left. I make a difference between the two because my experience is that not every liberal is liberal on everything, so you have a couple of levels below Progresive. But I was surprised to see people picking Bern and Elizabeth over him and the reason I believe was because they did not see him as gay enough.
In the gay community you have to be known as gay, not by announcing it but by doing some gay things ie: get togethers in gay bars or gay events and be accepted like it was a club otherwise you will be by yourself. For an outgoing people is not a problem but not eveyone has that type of personality. What people in general are learning is that gays do not fit inside one decription but I wonder if some gays realize that. 

From the begining very left wing gays were not seeing Pete as a regular gay perhabs not understanding that there isn't such a thing. I can understand envy or regret that he was accomplished but even that is not a reason to hate him because they are accomplished gays that would rather vote for Trump than for a gay progresive. He was not a rich man, yet he was accomplished in the way he went doing things in his life starting at an age in which straight and gay guys are interested in doing other things.

One thing that amazes me is how well adjusted lots of gays are for the dark roads we had to travel.
If you were born in 1990 and below you know what truly hatred is for the sake of hatred because they saw someone different. Some of us got the worse treatment from our own families, like is happening in many parts of the world. As a community we still need to grow and learn how to treat other gays the way they wish to be treated by everyone.    Adam Gonzalez

The day after Pete Buttigieg won Iowa, the writer Mark Harris, who is married to the playwright Tony Kushner, tweeted: “Even if you support someone else, as I do, the fact that a gay man can win a state caucus for President is a welcome milestone.”
Iowa has long been something of an outlier – in 2004 it was among the few Republican controlled states that rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – but the idea that an openly gay man could win the Democratic caucus there took most Americans by surprise. That it was a milestone, as Harris pointed out, was clear – or should have been. The fact that it needed stating said everything about this strange, emotional, deeply divided campaign.
Like me, Harris is a Gen Xer who can remember the Reagan-Thatcher years, and who witnessed a new identity politics emerge from the devastation of Aids. Many of those people saw friends cut down in the prime of life. They went to paupers’ funerals for colleagues long abandoned by their parents. They witnessed a criminal and deadly silence from Washington, compounded by snarky jokes about a “gay plague”. In the UK, when I was at college, gay men were still being arrested for kissing in public. We had to wait until we were five years older than our straight counterparts to have sex.
For those among us who can recall a not-too-distant time when going into a gay bar still felt dangerous, watching a gay presidential candidate get so far while being mercilessly pilloried has been a disorienting experience. It was as if our own community was clipping our wings at the very moment we were learning to fly. 
Buttigieg did not deserve unconditional support – no one does – and in debates he had to stand on his record, as all candidates must. Allegations that he’d sided with white police officers over the firing of South Bend’s first black police chief, and that the city’s economic growth had bypassed black communities, stuck hard. When he abandoned the race on Sunday it was a tacit recognition that in spite of his ambitious Douglass Plan, a manifesto for black empowerment, he had not swayed minds. His lack of traction with black voters, though in the end about the same as for Elizabeth Warren, remained his achilles heel to the end. 

February 24, 2020

Nine Year Old Boy Wants To Come Out~He Asks Pete Buttigieg For Advice

Pete Buttigieg greets Zachary on stage at a campaign event in Denver on Feb. 22.
 Pete Buttigieg greets Zachary on stage at a campaign event in Denver on Feb. 22. Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg welcomed a nine-year-old boy on stage at a rally in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday night after the young boy asked the Democratic presidential candidate for help coming out as gay.
“Would you help me tell the world I’m gay too,” the boy wrote in a pre-submitted question that was read to Buttigieg. “I want to be brave like you.” Buttigieg, who is the first major openly gay presidential candidate, was momentarily speechless. The crowd, numbering in the thousands, started to cheer “love is love,” as the young boy, Zachary, was brought onto the stage.

February 10, 2020

Christian Media Reports on Pete Buttigieg and His Husband with a Touching Picture

Last night after Pete Buttigieg appeared in a townhall televised by CNN, his husband, Chasten, tweeted out a photo of Pete putting his head on Chasten’s shoulder.
In the tweet, Chasten Buttigieg said: “I couldn’t do this without you by my side too, P. In this together, and I am so proud of you. #CNNTownHall.
At the CNN townhall, Buttigieg had pointed out his husband Chasten sitting in the audience. He did so while talking about the cause of what he called “LGBTQ equality.”

“Here I am, now finding that that very same fact that I thought might prevent me from having an impact in the world—at least a certain kind of impact in certain kind of way—is actually very much part of the impact I get to have now,” said Buttigieg.
“I mean, I’m not running to be the gay president of the United States, I’m running to be a president for everybody,” he said.
“But, talk about God having a sense of humor. And so, my hope is that, because I know right now there are so many especially young people who question whether they fit—in their own family, in their community, as they come to terms with who they are,” he said.
“And we got a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ equality right now,” he said. “But, I think the fact that I’m standing here, the fact that my husband’s in the audience watching right now is just an amazing example of that belief that, yes, yes, you belong, and this county has a place for you.”

February 4, 2020

This is How Pete Buttigieg Earn His Support in an Formerly Anti Gay Iowa

Pete Buttigieg doesn’t often remind people that he’s running a historic presidential campaign. The 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has emphasized an easy-to-like persona: a nice-guy Midwesterner with middle-of-the-road policies and a bit of Obama-style hope-and-change rhetoric. As he campaigns across Iowa ahead of Monday’s caucuses, he doesn’t make much of the fact that he’s the first openly gay candidate with a serious chance of being the nominee of a major political party.

Mayor Pete’s sexuality isn’t a primary point of conversation in the 2020 race is a remarkable testament to how much LGBTQ rights have progressed over the past decade. And it’s even more striking in Iowa, where Buttigieg has centered his campaign on winning smaller, rural counties, places that just a decade ago were the epicenter of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the state. 

In April 2009, six years before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in favor of it. The case, Varnum v. Brien, made Iowa the first state outside the liberal coastal enclaves to legalize gay marriage. Only Massachusetts and Connecticut had marriage equality at that time. (California had briefly legalized gay marriage thanks to a court ruling before voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 banning it.) While it might have seemed out of step for Iowa to be at the forefront of the issue, as I wrote for the American Prospect in 2011: “The state also has a history of extending civil rights earlier than the federal government. In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court’s first opinion granted citizenship to a slave when he entered the territory from Illinois. Iowa had desegregated its schools by 1868; a year later, it became the first state to admit women to the bar.”

Beyond checking off another state for activists, Iowa represented something different from the previous victories, a test case for how marriage equality might be accepted in the more rural parts of the country.

It didn’t go well at first. In Iowa, state Supreme Court judges are subject to judicial “retention” elections, a yes-or-no vote on whether a judge should keep their seat on the bench. Prior to Varnum, these had been staid elections. Judges didn’t run any sort of political campaigns to keep their jobs, and in the five decades, the system had been in place only four judges, each accused of malfeasance at work, had lost a vote. But three months before Election Day 2010, Bob Vander Plaats, a leading figure of the state’s evangelical right, launched a campaign on the steps of the state capitol, pushing voters to say no to three of the Supreme Court judges up for retention that year thanks to their vote on Varnum. Vander Plaats’ efforts were boosted by a string of right-wing national groups—the American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Family Research Council—with nearly $1 million spent to fund TV ads and a bus tour for the sort of race that typically had zero dollars in campaign cash. Each of the three Varnum judges lost. 

“He’s getting support in the areas where we lost the worst on marriage.”
Buttigieg doesn’t ignore Varnum, but he doesn’t spend much time at his events dwelling on the trailblazing aspect of his campaign. On a Thursday morning rally in Decorah, a small town in the upper northeast corner of the state, he didn’t make any reference to his sexuality until the last minute of his prepared remarks. When I saw him at his next event 60 miles south in Independence, he excised that aspect as intro instead using it as his closing note at the end of the Q&A portion. 

In both instances, he spun out that detail in the same fashion: “Iowa has this beautiful capacity for showing what can be done for people who aren’t quite sure,” he said in Decorah. “I was a volunteer—first time I ever came through Iowa, the first time I set foot in this state, they sent me to Creston as a volunteer on the Obama campaign in 2008. And I was here in Iowa when this state changed what the country and world thought was possible in American presidential politics. And then, about a decade ago, I wasn’t here to see it, but I was watching from where I lived when this state gave me permission to believe that someone like me could be wearing this wedding ring that I’ve got on right now.”

If you’d asked political analysts five years ago if an openly gay candidate could capture a swell of support in Iowa, that wouldn’t have been unimaginable. But they likely would have assumed that said the candidate had gained momentum through anchoring support in the state’s cities, the places already more friendly to same-sex couples before Varnum came around.

But if Buttigieg ends up winning Iowa, it’ll be thanks to places like Decorah and Independence. While Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have worked to rev up voters in the state’s cities and suburbs, Mayor Pete’s closing push has been all about the rural eastern part of the state, places that flipped from Obama to Trump. That’s the case for both Winneshiek County—home of Decorah—which went for Obama by 23 percent in 2008 but which Trump won narrowly in 2016, and Buchanan County—home of Independence—which was +18 percent for Obama in ’08 before Trump won by 15 points. Buttigieg’s campaign boasts that the large audiences he is turning out draw from some of the same crowd who voted for Trump four years ago. “I am meeting so many of what I like to call future-former-Republicans, who are determined to replace this president,” Buttigieg said in Decorah. “And they are more than welcome to this movement that we built.”

“He’s getting support in the areas where we lost the worst on marriage,” says Troy Price, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, who I first met back in 2011 when he was in charge of One Iowa, the state LGBTQ rights group that had helped spearhead the lawsuit that legalized marriage. “It’s the suburban areas, it’s the rural areas, that’s where he’s doing really well.” 

Back in 2012, after a month of crisscrossing the state to track the Republicans challenging Barack Obama, I stuck around after the caucuses to try to answer a question: In the three years since Varnum, how had legal same-sex marriage changed perceptions in small-town Iowa? Whether same-sex marriage could garner mainstream support at the time was still an open dispute. Barack Obama had so far stayed silent on the issue, and no state had legalized marriage through a popular vote (though both of those facts would change by the end of that year).

I traveled to Clayton County, which went heavily against the three judges in 2010, voting them out by double-digit margins. The county seat, Elkader, with a population of just over 1,200 people, draws tourist traffic during the spring and summer. There is little change in gradient to most of Iowa’s landscape except for the northeastern corner Elkader occupies, one of the few spots in this part of the Midwest that the ice age glaciers supposedly bypassed. Elkader is particularly scenic, lying in the base of a valley surrounded by Iowa’s best approximation of mountains. If you drew a line between Decorah and Independence, Elkader would be just a little east of the exact midpoint.

In Elkader, I met two men in their 80s who had moved to the town before the court decision but married shortly after Varnum. They told me they hadn’t encountered much backlash, and continued on with their lives, still volunteering at the small local museum with no trouble. “You can do the same thing in a big city, but that’s because in a big city you’re anonymous,” one of them told me. 

“Well, nobody is anonymous here, and that’s what makes it very gratifying. That you are known.” The small stretch of downtown was anchored by an Algerian restaurant run by a young gay couple, one of whom, Brian Bruening, now runs the county Democrats. When I stopped by a Saturday evening mass at the local Catholic church, the woman who served as the cantor was married to another woman. “We don’t all have the same faith and we don’t all walk the same way,” the church’s 77-year-old priest told me after the service, explaining why his congregation should make a concerted effort to reach out with an open heart to those who might have different views.

“The hearts and minds of people started changing so quickly on it, once they started seeing couples getting married,” Price says. “That was always the plan when they started down this path of the lawsuit in ’05, if we can get it in Iowa it will spread everywhere because it’s not just an east coast or west coast thing.” 

To be sure, not all was rosy. Some parents were still wary to let their children around gay and lesbian couples. The pastor at the evangelical church on the outskirts of town was far less welcoming. “If you want a church that will proclaim that homosexuality is ok and that same-sex marriage is ok, if you look long enough, you’ll find one,” he told me back then. “They won’t follow the word of God as it’s written.” But even he acknowledged that it wasn’t so clear cut. “It’s one of those subjects where everyone wants to be accepting of everyone, but we can’t compromise God’s truth for that.”

But it was clear that those interactions might slowly melt away the hate as time went by. “Being at One Iowa in 2010 and 2011,” Price says today, “not only were there people still hesitant because of what happened with the judges, there were people bitter that it was ‘our fault’ for pushing that lawsuit and putting us in this position, that we would have won all this stuff if it hadn’t been for Varnum. By 2015, when the US Supreme Court ruling came out, [the politics of marriage equality had become] a positive out there. You could feel it, you could see that out there. It just moved really quickly after 2010, it just moved really fast.”

Buttigieg swung by Elkader last September. “The most important, the best thing in my life, my marriage, only exists by the grace of a single vote on the US Supreme Court,” he said in his remarks. “And by the way, thank you Iowa for what you did to bring about marriage equality in the United States.” He’s earned the support­­ of Bruening, who said in his endorsement, “I’m with Pete because I see a better future in him—a better America and a better world.” Bruening told me that Buttigieg drew the biggest crowd of any of the Democrats and that perhaps about a third of the attendees were people who have voted Republican. “That he’s married to a man,” Bruening says, “is so not an issue.” 

Buttigieg’s hesitancy to make too much of his place as a first in presidential politics hasn’t exactly engendered goodwill from some activists in the LGBTQ community. Last week, Iowan Lyz Lenz wrote a piece for Gen headlined “What Pete Buttigieg Doesn’t Understand About LGBTQ Life in Iowa,” in which she explained how, while marriage might be a more settled issue, there are still plenty of equality fights in the state, and the local community wasn’t fully behind Mayor Pete. 

But the fact that Buttigieg’s allyship is quieter, that his marriage to Chasten Buttigieg would be a boringly bland political marriage were it not for their respective genders, might be what helps normalize his relationship for these rural communities. “The fact that he’s palatable to middle America,” Bruening says, “is why he’s popular in Iowa.”

“If you step into some of the smaller towns, the more rural towns, you can hear the slurs used as a casual form of language, but the young people today are much more open to letting people live their lives however they want,” Dan Callahan, the chair of the Independence County Democrats, who had introduced Buttigieg, told me after his event in Buchanan county last week, as George Michael’s “Freedom” played over the loudspeakers to usher out the crowd. “There’s a lot of these older people here today. They’re the same way. ‘What you do doesn’t affect me, so I’ll let you do it, if you let me do what I want.’ That’s a lot of what Iowa is all about.”

As much as rigid gender norms loosened nationally in the 2010s, people across the LGBTQ spectrum still face plenty of discrimination, and things haven’t progressed nearly as far on trans rights as they have on marriage equality. Just last week, a group of nine Republicans in the state legislature, including the representative for Clayton County, introduced a bill that would have stripped trans protections from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, but the Republican in charge of the relevant committee quickly killed the provision. “It’s one of those issues,” Price says, “that has moved so quickly and become such a non-issue for most people’s minds that when the Republicans do start talking about it, they get immediate pushback.” Should Iowa send Mayor Pete forward as its top choice against Trump, it doesn’t mean the state is absolved of any lingering homophobia, just as Barack Obama’s win here in the 2008 caucuses didn’t mean racism was solved in the Hawkeye state.

But the fact that Pete is even a competitive candidate, and that the main reason he has a chance is thanks to the small towns that just a decade ago would have been highly judgmental to someone like him, is a quiet success story—one of the few political bright spots of the Trump era.

“There’s a lot of people here who are probably still uncomfortable,” Callahan told me. “But it doesn’t mean they’re going to treat you differently or do anything differently. And they’re certainly not going to vote to support those kinds of actions.” 

December 6, 2019

Is The Nation Ready to Make This Gay Boy The Next President of The United States

 Is This The Next Gay President of The United States?

Mr. Frank is the author of “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America.”

As Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., has surged to a top position in Iowa polls in the Democratic presidential primary, media reports have emerged warning that his sexuality may yet derail his White House bid. A recent national Politico/Morning Consult poll found that a plurality of voters, 45 percent, think the country is not ready for an openly gay president, with only 40 percent saying it’s ready. Consultants have chimed in to say the mayor may be less electable than coastal elites realize because he’s gay.

Ordinary voters are quoted saying they — or their “devout Christian” mother — “would never vote for a gay.” And the Buttigieg campaign’s own focus groups recently found that many undecided black voters in South Carolina regard the candidate’s sexual orientation as a “barrier” to winning their votes.

But the power of polls to predict behavior around social issues and disfavored groups has always been poor, and what we know about people’s attitudes and actions when it comes to L.G.B.T. concerns tells a cautionary tale about how to interpret claims by voters that they won’t support an openly gay candidate for president.

Pollsters have long known about the poor predictive power of asking respondents how they would treat members of an unfavored minority group, especially in politically polarized climates. In the 1930s, following a period, like today, of growing anti-immigrant sentiment, the Stanford researcher Richard LaPierre crisscrossed the country with a Chinese couple, visiting hundreds of hotels and restaurants. Nearly all of them welcomed the group as patrons.
But when he contacted the establishments months later asking them if they would serve Chinese people, over 90 percent said they would not. In an ensuing article, “Attitudes vs. Actions,” LaPiere concluded that polls about social attitudes often reflect how respondents feel rather than how they’ll actually behave.

Subsequent research has repeatedly confirmed this gulf between what people say they will do and what they actually do when it comes to the treatment of certain groups. In the 1970s, surveys suggested that military officers would resign if women were admitted to the service academies. Those who opposed the change used the data to fight women’s inclusion, warning that the military would suffer a fatal blow. But when women were admitted anyway, virtually no one left as a result.
The same argument surfaced a generation later to oppose L.G.B.T. military service. In 2008, a Military Times survey noted that 24 percent of service members said they would not want to serve alongside a gay or lesbian troops. Citing the poll, opponents of inclusive service warned of a mass exodus that could swell to half a million troops if President Barack Obama insisted on overturning a ban. Some said the policy change could “break the all-volunteer force.”

Yet after the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ended in 2011, nothing of the kind took place. A study written by a panel of service academy professors the next year found that “retention was unaffected” by the reversal of the policy. “There was no mass exodus of military members as a result of the repeal, and there were only two verifiable resignations linked to the policy change, both military chaplains,” the report said.

An equally relevant example of the gap between attitudes and behavior comes from President Obama’s politically risky decision to back same-sex marriage six months before the 2012 election. A Gallup poll conducted just after the announcement suggested that a quarter of voters were less likely to support the president in November because of his support for marriage equality. While it’s impossible to know how many, if any, of those voters actually declined to vote for Mr. Obama because of his position, he handily won re-election. 

Of course, as the first African-American to be elected president, he once faced the same questions Mr. Buttigieg does now about whether voters who express reluctance to support a minority candidate will ultimately match their voting behavior to their words. Although Mr. Obama likely lost some votes because of his race, his two-term presidency offers yet another data point that many will not.

While the “Attitudes vs. Actions” discrepancy suggests that voters tend to overstate the likelihood that they’ll penalize minority candidates, there is also evidence of the opposite effect: “Social desirability bias” — the tendency of respondents to tell pollsters what they think they’re supposed to say instead of what they really believe — as well as the presence of unconscious bias threatens to skew polling results toward more minority-friendly responses.

This was seen when pollsters failed to capture the full extent of Mr. Trump’s support because they concluded, some of his voters were reluctant to voice support for a candidate seen as bigoted. That is, they wanted pollsters to believe they were more enlightened than they were.

These conflicting polling phenomena complicate predictions of how voters will respond when faced with a minority candidate. The “Attitudes vs. Actions” discrepancy is a reminder that many people use surveys not to signal behavior they’ll actually engage in but to express their values and even their biases about members of unfamiliar or disfavored groups, especially when they feel those values may be under threat. After all, it’s not every day that a professional surveyor, with the implicit promise to make your voice count, asks you to share your views about something that you don’t always have the chance to discuss honestly.

Attitudes and intentions don’t correlate neatly with behavior. And headlines that over-read what such polls mean can become a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy, making some candidates seem less electable than they are. This is a good reason to support the candidate you think is best rather than the one you think others may prefer. Voters should decide at the polls, not in the polls, who wins high office.

December 5, 2019

NPR Reports on Pete Buttigieg Early Days As A Democrat Wanting To Push Up His Party

 When Pete Buttigieg arrived in England, he was a curious, bookish 23-year-old known to his friends as Peter.
The year was 2005. The Iraq War, unpopular among Buttigieg's college peers, was raging with no end in sight. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, had lost the 2004 election to an increasingly unpopular Republican president.
And Democrats, like Buttigieg, were soul-searching.
"It felt like a pretty dark moment," said Dan Weeks, one of Buttigieg's friends from Oxford who now lives in New Hampshire and is active in Democratic politics in that early nominating state. They were eager, Weeks said, to find like-minded progressives who were not "content with the 'Clinton Third Way' status quo that had defined the Democratic Party for basically our lifetimes."
The Third Way refers to the moderate Democratic politics of the Bill Clinton era that sought to reconcile centrist economic ideas with progressive social ideas.
Weeks said the Clinton model had failed their generation. And he, like Buttigieg, was searching for a way out of that centrism.
He met the future mayor of South Bend, Ind., then a newly minted Harvard graduate, while at Oxford. Buttigieg was studying politics, philosophy, and economics on a Rhodes scholarship. 
And it was during this time that some of the seeds of his political ambitions took root.
In deep conversations in college dorms — nearly 15 years ago — the future presidential candidate joined friends to create an informal group with a mission: rebuild the Democratic Party that had suffered from repeated election losses.
The Democratic Renaissance Project

Every week or two, Weeks met up with Buttigieg and another dozen or so friends to debate and discuss politics. "We were nerdy types, I suppose," Weeks said.

Their group was like a book club but without books.

"We were students. It was our full-time job to try to think big thoughts and understand how the world works," Buttigieg said, recounting his Oxford days in an interview with NPR.

Together, they called themselves members of the Democratic Renaissance Project.

The name was kind of tongue-in-cheek, according to Sabeel Rahman, another member of the group.

"I certainly didn't think that we were actually remaking progressive politics," said Rahman, Buttigieg's roommate at the time. "It was more just a way ... for us to work through our own thinking."

Sometimes the friends met in common rooms in the ancient ornate colleges around Oxford; other times they gathered at a local British pub that had been frequented by a former Rhodes scholar whose reputation loomed large in their academic circles: Bill Clinton. 

But as ad-hoc as it seemed, there was also a clear sense of generational urgency; if these brainy, young Ivy League-educated students wanted to live in a better country, it seemed they had to fix it themselves. They felt obliged to prepare for public service.

"It was something more than just the camaraderie, which counted for a lot," Weeks said. "We were looking to challenge each other's thinking, especially at that moment, when after almost eight years of George W. Bush, a lot of us were feeling like the country was almost unrecognizable."

Sometimes the group would circulate writings by modern-day political theorists about citizenship or progressive values.

"A lot of times we'd think through some of the policy debates of the day. The Iraq War was one that came up a number of times," said Rahman, who now serves as president of the progressive group Demos.

NPR contacted more than half a dozen former Democratic Renaissance Project members. Most declined to be interviewed on the record for this story. Buttigieg's friends are a high-achieving crew: They now work at elite universities, law firms and hedge funds. They didn't want to discuss campaign politics given their professional ties. Some are now financially supporting Buttigieg's campaign. Others certainly would vote for him. Weeks recently officially endorsed Buttigieg.

But, in a strange twist, at least two members have also worked for another 2020 presidential candidate: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

That includes Ganesh Sitaraman, a Buttigieg friend from his undergraduate days at Harvard who originally conceived of the Democratic Renaissance Project with him. In addition to the Oxford branch, the group had an outpost in Cambridge, Mass., where Sitaraman was studying.

Sitaraman is a close longtime adviser to Warren.

Pete Buttigieg arrived at Oxford in 2005 as a bookish 23-year-old deeply unsatisfied with the rhetoric of the Democratic Party.

Courtesy of Pete Buttigieg campaign
Centrist critic

During his Oxford days, Buttigieg felt there was a faulty theory circulating among Democrats — an assumption that in order to win elections they had to contort their values, work within the Republican framework and put a conservative spin on their message.

"There had been a smallness to the aspirations of our own party," Buttigieg said. "Because it felt like all those years, the whole first decade of this century, it felt like all that Democrats were doing was responding to Republicans."

There's an echo of this you hear from Buttigieg on the campaign trail, which includes a critique of his own party.

"If we want to win, we can't look like we're the party of 'back to normal,' " Buttigieg told Iowa Democrats earlier this year, in a version of a line he has repeated throughout the campaign. "What we have now isn't working, but 'normal' wasn't working either. That's part of how we got here."

Buttigieg said he was frustrated during the Bush years that the GOP seemed to have a monopoly on family, patriotism, and morality. He felt like his party was focused on policy, and he wanted them to think more about values and philosophy.

"A big part of what we were doing was studying the right," Buttigieg explained. "One of the things that we had noticed was that it was actually the American right-wing that had built the strongest relationship between kind of ideas and politics."

Buttigieg and his friends were obsessed with reforming the Democratic Party.
A 'National Challenge': Pete Buttigieg On Racial Inequity In Policing
Rahman says he remembers one particular example in which they staged a debate at Oxford. The prompt was: "The Third Way Is Good For The Democratic Party: Yay or Nay."

"Pete spoke up. I remember he was against that Third Way approach," Weeks said. "He was strong, and, I thought, certainly a pretty compelling critic of that way."

And yet, ironically, Buttigieg's current critics accuse him of being a modern Third Way politician, a candidate overly focused on rhetoric rather than ideas.

When Buttigieg began his presidential campaign, he suggested some radical changes such as scrapping the Electoral College and reforming the Supreme Court. Now that he's seen as a more viable candidate, he's not as vocal about those ideas.

"I think over time, I've come to appreciate more the policy work that comes out of moderate organizations," Buttigieg said in trying to explain how he reconciles how people see him today with his vocal opposition to centrism while in graduate school.

Small But Powerful, New Hampshire Grips Its Primary Spot. But Does It Matter?
Those friends who formed the Democratic Renaissance Project never came to a consensus on ideology among themselves. Most returned to the United States. Some joined universities; Buttigieg joined the consulting firm McKinsey. But every year they would still gather, sometimes in Washington or Cambridge, Mass., and debate ideas, often with a formal agenda and guest lectures.

At one meeting, they brainstormed where the country's politics would be in 10 years. The predictions were remarkably prescient: a country with worsening income inequality and tribalism. Around 2010, the group fizzled out. Today, some of the former members are more centrist, others more liberal.

But Rahman says there was something that united them.

"We came into that space not just with a sense of crisis but with a sense that progressive politics as it was being practiced in the post-Clinton era was not up to the task of what we needed progressivism to do," he said.

Many friends agree the focus on freedom, values and generational change Buttigieg speaks about on the campaign trail trace back to those days of soul-searching as liberal millennials living in a George W. Bush world.
 Pete Buttigieg (far right) arrived at Oxford in 2005 as a bookish 23-year-old deeply unsatisfied with the rhetoric of the Democratic Party.Courtesy of Pete Buttigieg campaign

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