Buttigieg Addresses Supporters in Northern Virginia

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told supporters last night at a fundraiser in Alexandria, Virginia, that Sunday marked the launch of a 10-day push that will be “absolutely crucial” to the future of the country, leading to the South Carolina primary this Saturday and then the Super Tuesday primaries, including Virginia’s, on March 3.     

He said it began with about an hour of sleep Saturday night followed by attendance at the First Baptist Church of James Island in Charleston, South Carolina this morning, a rally in next-door Arlington, on a high school football field that drew almost 9,000, according to the campaign, and then the fundraiser hosted by U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. tonight at his townhouse home in Old Town Alexandria that drew 120, according to the campaign, at contribution levels of $1,000 and up.

Buttigieg said “critical” decisions will be made by voters in the next days that “will set the course” for the coming presidential election year, and he said that while he and his Democratic rivals have “some of the same ideas,” there are “different visions on how to do it,” and those differences have him “very concerned.” He contrasted his goal of “drawing a majority into the tent” to, in a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders and his current lead in the primaries, those who push away those who do not agree 100 percent of the time.”     

“My approach is to beckon many who may not agree wholly with us onto the right side, and not beat them over the head instead.” On this, he said he and Sanders “have fundamental differences.” The challenge, he said, is to “not only win, but govern.” As examples, he said that there needs to be “real health care for all” without “kicking anyone off health care.” and that, in his view, “capitalism is not the root of all evil.” He said that “we need to galvanize, not polarize,” by “giving people a sense of belonging by offering solutions that are better, richer and kinder.”     

Recalling the Charleston Mother Emanuel AME church where nine members were gunned down by a white supremacist in 2015, Buttigieg touted his “Frederick Douglas Plan” for the restoration of African-American communities where persisting patterns of racism “will not go away on their own, but intention and resources are needed” to change racist patterns. African-American South Carolina State Rep. J. A. Moore came to tonight’s fundraiser to introduce Buttigieg, saying how the candidate had won his support by demonstrating his concern for the issues.     

Health care, gun control, climate change and voting rights were areas where the opportunity exists but only as “our only shot” to remedy them in this election year. In response to one of six questions the candidate took, Buttigieg said his priorities will begin with “undoing a lot of bad policies” of the current administration, and then involve reforms to protect and secure democratic institutions, a rapid return to the Paris Climate Accords, and racial and economic equality. Inequalities, he said, are not inevitable, but are the result of policy decisions that must change.     

He expressed deep concern with the reports that the Russians are working to interfere in the U.S. elections this year, saying there need to be paper trails on all votes taken, a clear message from the U.S. that all the tools at the U.S.’s disposal, from diplomatic to economic, will be used to counter the threat as “deterrence on behalf of election security,” and that “such a powerful majority show up at the polls” as to be “beyond cheating distance.”     

Answering a question from a seven-year-old about how to encourage the expansion of democracy overseas, he said, “We have to encourage it, we can’t make them do it, but added that factors like addressing human rights and moral concerns into fair trade agreements and offering clear moral support for those striving for democracy, such as in Hong Kong recently, is vial. “We need to encourage it,” he said, adding that supporting it here at home is also vital.     

The host of the event. U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, introduced Buttigieg by saying he’d gone out of a limb to be the first U.S. congressman to endorse him “about a year ago” (Beyer was also one of the first to endorse Barack Obama in 2007). He said that Buttigieg’s brains (“He knows six languages, was a Rhodes scholar and likes James Joyce), his story of military service, turning around a languishing midwestern town as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and character, remaining calm, even smiling, in the debates and demonstrating the gifts of a healer. “He may be the least wealthy and youngest” of the candidates, Beyer said, “But he’s the richest and most mature.”