JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa — If I ranked Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana in the third tier of presidential candidates, why did I attend his town hall meeting five miles west of the Herbert Hoover birthplace in West Branch?
In a field of two dozen Democratic candidates one voter’s personal choice of a candidate is not as important as supporting the eventual nominee. What matters more in Iowa is the senate and congressional races because without a Democratic majority in both chambers of the legislature any Democratic president won’t get much done.
I went to learn about the electorate and who is active this cycle to better serve my campaign work for whoever are the Democratic nominees for Second District congressperson and U.S. Senate. The good news is a lot of people I’d never seen before were in the crowd of several hundred. Everyone was glad to be there despite the body heat in the over-crowded room.
The attraction people have to Buttigieg is palpable. We’re looking for something different and in some ways Mayor Pete is that. He’s young, living in his home town, a Rhodes scholar, a military veteran, goes to church, and is well known in the Democratic party. That’s part of the allure.
He’s also a good orator and handles audience questions with due consideration and aplomb. As I mentioned in my review of his memoir, “he illuminates the example of South Bend and what’s possible in creating a more sustainable life in urban centers.”
Emblematic of today’s town hall meeting was the five panel mural of a bull hanging over the stage, combined with the penetrating aroma of freshly smoked meat and barbecue sauce. If a person enjoyed barbecue one might stick around for dinner service. It had me asking, “where’s the beef?”
It was a pretty skinny cow. Pete Buttigieg has skilled elocution. His ideas are not very deep. He touted newly released policy pages on his website and said his policy roll out was as good as any of his competitors. I’ve never heard any of the women who are presidential candidates refer to others as “competitors.” I suppose we might give that male-ism a pass, but Hillary taught us we are stronger together. The caucus process doesn’t have to be similar to a sports event. A lot more is at stake than the horse race, even if it does generate clicks and serve egos.
The only news out of the town hall meeting was Buttigieg embraced the Citizens Climate Lobby position of adopting a Carbon Fee and Dividend. No matter how dire the environment gets, a president Buttigieg will need a house majority and a filibuster-proof senate majority for a fee and dividend bill to pass. Look at the ability Senator Mitch McConnell developed to block progress when he was minority leader during Obama’s first term.
The real action at the town hall meeting happened outside the main stage and venue. People in line talked about expectations, others thanked a friend for inviting them, families rushed to their vehicles to make the day’s next event. The strength of those relationships is what gives Democrats hope. That combined with what we hope will be an ability to pull together.
I’m glad I had a chance to attend today’s event. In Iowa we don’t know how lucky we are to have a presidential candidate within 15 miles of our home. Based on today, my faith is strong that Democrats will pick an excellent candidate to face off with the incumbent president. I believe we will soon find the wind at our backs lifting our sails toward a better tomorrow. The idea and a lot of hard work will get us there.