Like me, Paul Waldman is pretty goddamn tired of Democrats telling us that the problem in America is Democrats don't understand Trump voters, and nobody's been more guilty of that in the short 2020 campaign season so far then South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
If you thought we were past the tiresome “How can Democrats appeal to Trump-loving Trump voters in Trump Country?” conversation, I’m going to disappoint you. And I’d like to use some recent comments from South Bend, Ind., Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to illustrate how problematic the discussion among Democrats is when it comes to thinking about different areas of the country and what kind of people live where.
Buttigieg was in the coastal enclave of San Francisco when he gave a radio interview that included this:
There are some folks I encounter here who seem to have trouble believing that things like Trump voters actually exist. And so I feel sometimes like I’m an emissary from the middle of the country, just pointing out that things look a little bit different in rural communities, industrial communities like mine, and that we really need to find ways to knit this picture back together into one America.
There’s a bit more to the discussion, but it goes on in that vein. Buttigieg’s intentions are good, since he wants to promote mutual understanding and common purpose. But he frames the problem as one that stems from condescending liberals who don’t sufficiently appreciate the lives and perspectives of people in the Midwest. In other words, the divide that exists is the fault of liberals alone. If they could just do more to understand the people who wind up voting for someone like Donald Trump, that would be the path to achieving unity.
I have a crazy dream that goes like this. After a whole bunch of think pieces asking why Republicans are so contemptuous toward components of the Democratic base — let’s say African Americans — a Republican contender for president starts telling his party that they have to change the way they think, feel and talk. “For too long, members of my party have treated African Americans with scorn,” he’d tell an interviewer. “But as someone who has spent time in those communities, let me explain how they see the state of our country, and why we need to find ways to meet them where they live. Republicans are out of touch and that has to change.”
Of course, a Republican presidential candidate would never say that, because a Republican presidential candidate would never criticize his own party's voters. They're happy to disrespect and insult Democratic voters and the places where they live, but they will testify that their own base is made up of only the most worthy of Americans, hailing from the small towns and rural areas where all virtue finds its true home.
And for the love of god he's right. Can you imagine what would happen if a Republican said "We need to do a better job of understanding black voters" or "Latino voters" or "Asian voters" or "LGBTQ voters" because "We've treated them as less than American and less than human"
I'm tired of guys like Buttigieg saying I have to bow to a party that wants to strip me of everything.
He's going to have a really hard time in the primaries and deservedly so.