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Socialist Alternative - December 18, 2019

"This is why Buttigieg’s boosters are dead wrong when they argue that his identity as a young, mid-western, gay veteran will be enough to inspire and turnout the Democrats’ leftward trending base to defeat Trump. Most young voters – including a majority of black millennials and women under 45 – are backing Sanders because they understand that winning real change will be far easier with an “organizer-in-chief” in the White House rather than another progressive faker who owes their career to big business."

With under two months until the Iowa caucus, Pete Buttigieg has risen to the top of the polls there, according to the polling average. His backers hope a victory in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he closely trails Sanders, will propel the South Bend, Indiana, mayor into frontrunner status, wrecking Biden’s central appeal as the most “electable” candidate, and elevating Buttigieg into U.S. capitalism’s best hope against both Sanders and Trump.

As Democratic strategist Brad Bannon explained to Fortune: “Silicon Valley and Wall Street thought Biden was going to be the one to stop Warren or Sanders from being the nominee. Now, people like Zuckerberg are leading the way and they’re looking for a new moderate, business-friendly candidate because they don’t think Biden is going to make it to the finish line. In Buttigieg, they’ve found a young attractive rising candidate to be the anti-Warren.”

Buttigieg has outpaced Biden in fundraising by $15 million, fueled by small online donations and especially by Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Big Tech has given five times as much to Buttigieg as Biden. However, whether Mayor Pete can unseat Biden as the corporate establishment’s favored candidate, or defeat Sanders and Warren among Democratic primary voters, remains far from certain.

An Anti-Establishment Pretender

“I have never been part of the Washington establishment,” Mayor Pete declared, aiming to undercut John Kerry’s early December endorsement of Biden. At the core of Buttigieg’s appeal is his image as a pragmatic, progressive outsider, with a personal profile that ticks a bunch of boxes. As a 37-year-old gay veteran Harvard-educated mayor of a small mid-western city, his backers have packaged him as a “transformational candidate” who can inspire young people like Bernie and defeat Trump among white workers in the heartland.

When knocking doors for Kshama Sawant’s re-election in Seattle’s historically black Central District neighborhood back in September, I was surprised by a conversation with a 16 year-old supporter. 

“So who are you supporting for president,” he asked. “Bernie,” I said, adding: “Like Kshama, he’s fighting for things like taxing the rich to fund affordable housing and a Green New Deal. He understands we need to build mass movements of regular people to win real change.”

“I like Kshama, but I think Bernie’s too old,” he said. “I’m supporting Buttigieg.” His mom, a middle-aged Black women who had invited me in for a conversation on the local election, was visibly annoyed at her son’s interjection. “You shouldn’t judge people by their age,” she shot back.

Sanders retains a significant lead in the polls over Buttigieg among both young people and African Americans. Yet there is widespread confusion about Buttigieg and, more broady, about the root causes of our deep social problems. We’re in a political moment where mass appeal for the “OK Boomer” meme overlaps with polls showing 70% of millennials would vote for a socialist.

More flexible strategists of U.S. capitalism hope these contradictions can be exploited to cynically tap into generational resentments, and other shallow appeals to identity, to build a winning electoral coalition for a thoroughly pro-corporate candidate like Buttigieg. At the same time, as Buttigieg faces greater scrutiny as a potential frontrunner, the half-hidden reasons he’s become a darling among wealthy elites will increasingly repulse millions of politically conscious workers, young people, and progressive-minded voters. ...
Read full commentary at Socialist Alternative