The Democratic primary is starting to look like a showdown between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, at least until the Bloomberg show begins, so it’s been interesting to see the emergence of old videos and essays that show Bernie had a staunch, unapologetic defender in…Pete Buttigieg.
The first important piece of media came from just a year ago, when Buttigieg defended the concept of “socialism,” and said that embracing the label was a political winner:
Fascinating! As Slate notes, he’s singing a very different tune today:
At Friday night’s Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg attacked Bernie Sanders—who is polling ahead of Buttigieg in the state—for “dividing people with a politics that says, if you don’t go all the way to the edge, it doesn’t count. A politics that says, it’s my way or the highway.” On Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Buttigieg if he believed “that the Democrats can defeat Donald Trump if they have to defend socialism.” Answered the former Indiana mayor: “I think it will be lot harder.” Elsewhere on Sunday, Buttigieg told a crowd that Sanders’ universal health-coverage plan was too expensive and that the party needs to “do something” about the federal deficit even though the subject is “not fashionable in progressive circles.”
But the quote from the clip above, back when he wasn’t so concerned about “fashionable” trends in the party, is basically a direct repudiation of today’s Buttigieg campaign:
There was a moment where people just weren’t saying what they believed, especially on the left—they were just so cowed by living in this conservative moment that even Democratic presidents or politicians were saying conservative things, which to me raised the question of why we bothered voting for [Democrats]. So what was so interesting to me about then-obscure congressman Sanders was that he just said what he thought. He attached himself to this label that was really suicidal in most contexts politically, socialist, especially 20 years ago. And just said what he was about. And I wished that more people on both sides of the aisle would just do that. And I really respected that and still do.
This is by far the most compelling change of heart, since it happened so quickly, but it’s also interesting to note that Buttigieg won an essay-writing contest as a senior in high school in which he explicitly and effusively praised Bernie Sanders.
It’s hard to say what Buttigieg is thinking, but Sanders’s support is so strong because he has stuck to his principles through thick and thin, and doesn’t change based on what he perceives is the surest way to get him to the next rung of the political ladder. Perhaps it’s a lesson worth internalizing.