File this under “I thought it was a good idea at the time”

In his never-ending quest to show that he is always in the middle of any two positions, in the debate yesterday Pete Buttigieg came out with a line that clearly had been carefully rehearsed, like pretty much everything that he says. That it had been planned and that he was proud of it can be seen by the fact that his campaign tweeted it out during the debate right after he said it.

But people immediately pounced on the fact that the 1960s, far from being a nadir of mindless left wing anarchy, was the time when thanks to the revolutionary actions he disdains, we had major advances in civil rights and the feminist movement, where the Stonewall riots of 1969 galvanized the recognition of the need to recognize the rights of the LGBT+ community, the introduction of Medicare, the War on Poverty, the revelation of the abuses if the FBI and CIA both at home and abroad, and where people took to the streets to fight against the cruel and senseless war in Vietnam. Was he saying that all those were bad things?

The Sanders campaign’s top national surrogate Nina Turner was quick to slam Buttigieg for his ignorance and shallowness.

This episode reveals clearly why Buttigieg has almost zero support in the black community. His campaign must have realized that this was a major blunder and has deleted the tweet and will now try to bury it because what it reveals about his thinking is not flattering. But he said it in front of a national audience and is not going to be allowed to forget it.

There is now emerging a cottage industry of envisaging ‘Buttigieg centrisms’ such as “School integration for those who want it” and “We need to find a middle ground between Jim Crow and equal rights”, and “We need to find a middle ground between torturing people and treating them as human beings”.

How long will it be before people realize what a phony he is?


  1. Porivil Sorrens says

    I can’t for the life of me even understand who he was trying to reach with such an idiotic comment. There isn’t some big untouched demographic of civil rights centrists, even most mainstream modern neoliberals admit that the civil rights movement was good. Somehow, he came up with a comment that alienates both anti-racists and racists.

    Not that I’m saying that it’s bad to alienate the latter group, just that he managed to find a statement so stupidly means-tested that it appeals to literally nobody.

  2. says

    @Porivil Sorrens
    It’s my understanding that he said this as part of the discussion over Bernie’s defense of Castro. So that means his statement relates to the Cold War and he’s trying to show his patriotism for being against those pinko commies. You know, like those ones Chris Matthews is all faux concerned about assassinating people in Central Park or whatever. (insert eyeroll emoji here)
    If that is indeed the context, it’s still poorly thought-out. Sure, some “revolutionary politics” don’t pan out for the better, but it should have been obvious that some of the 1960’s clearly did.

  3. Who Cares says

    Click the twitter link for the quote.

    We can’t afford a scenario where it comes down to Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950’s and Bernie Sanders with his nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960’s.</blockquote

    Basically an excluded middle fallacy where one of the sides (Sanders) is only bad if you are in the group of people who are trying to own the U.S. Worse this point used to build the excluded middle fallacy is just another fallacy, a cross between the straw man argument (Sanders admitting that he wants to see the US burn) and slippery slope (implied that Sanders as president will result in the same kind of rioting as then).

    I don't get how that line of Buttigieg ever got through the part of his campaign management that is supposed to sanity check these kinds of things.

  4. vucodlak says

    @ Porivil Sorrens, #2

    I can’t for the life of me even understand who he was trying to reach with such an idiotic comment.

    That’s easy- Buttigieg was reaching out to the white moderate. You know, the folks MLK Jr. roundly excoriated in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail as being some of the biggest enemies of justice. The infinitely self-satisfied defenders of the status quo who believe they’re the only truly wise and good people because, while they support the goals of people seeking justice, they decry any method that disrupts their comfortable lives or illusions. Those morality is entirely based on their own convenience. A revolution might disrupt their cosseted existence, and therefore revolutionaries are misguided at best, and agents of wicked chaos at worst.

    Mayor Pete said it himself- it’s chaos he opposes, and comfort he offers. Comfort for well-to-do white liberals, that is. Anyone else who is already uncomfortable should be used to it by now, and has no right to make a fuss.

  5. Porivil Sorrens says

    Right, but even said white moderates overwhelmingly look favorably on the 1960’s civil rights movement in this day and age, even if they have a weird rose-tinted view on it. He’s dogwhistling to a group that, by and large, doesn’t actually agree with the thing he’s dogwhistling to them about.

    It’d be like saying “We need to oppose chattel slavery, but also oppose the abolishment of slavery”. In this day and age, everyone who agrees with the former dislikes the latter, and vice versa, so it’s a statement that is too anti-racist to appeal to racists, but too racist to appeal to anti-racists.

  6. Mano Singham says

    I think it may be simpler than that. Buttigieg’s shtick is that he represents the future and the others the past. He also wants to frame Sanders as like Trump. As a result he wanted to draw parallels between the two and came up with the “Trump wants the 50s, Sanders wants the 60s” line, while not thinking through all the implications.

  7. vucodlak says

    @ Porivil Sorrens, #7

    Right, but even said white moderates overwhelmingly look favorably on the 1960’s civil rights movement in this day and age, even if they have a weird rose-tinted view on it.

    That’s simply not true. They probably think back fondly to Woodstock, like the Beatles, and they probably tried pot a few times, but they never liked the protests, civil disobedience, or revolutionary politics. At most, the white moderate might have been involved on the fringes of some movement as an act of youthful rebellion, but then they “grew up and settled down,” and they look with contempt at anyone who ever took the revolutionary talk seriously.

    That’s who Mayor Pete is talking to. They agree that things like the civil rights movement were a good thing, because that’s what the majority opinion is today, and it costs them nothing to believe that. But, if the civil rights movement were happening today, the white moderate would be speaking out against the protest marches, the acts of civil disobedience, and anything that disrupted their lives in the slightest or made them feel uncomfortable in any way. “Let it happen naturally,” they’d say, “and stop making such a fuss.”

    They never come right out and oppose justice. Taking a stand of any kind just isn’t something the white moderate does. Buttigieg is offering comforting platitudes to a group whose devotion to any cause never goes any deeper than lip service. Make no mistake: those people hear him loud and clear. His empty words echo in their empty hearts. He’s like an evil Mr. Rogers, telling them that they’re perfect the way they are; that the injustice they turn a blind eye to is in no way their fault.

    Did you catch the dangerous muttering from the crowd when Sanders brought up the USA’s ugly history in Latin America? That was the sound of the discomfited white moderate. Sure, they agree that overthrowing democratically elected governments isn’t a great thing, but isn’t someone who keeps talking about it just as bad as the mass murderers?

    In the eyes of the white moderate, absolutely. Being a white moderate isn’t ideologically consistent nor is it based in logic. It’s a purely reactionary position, recoiling from anything that might disrupt their cozy existence. Mayor Pete’s words don’t need to make sense; they only have to be just the right mélange of comforting buzzwords and ideas.

    It works. The white moderate hears a modern equivalent of…

    “We need to oppose chattel slavery, but also oppose the abolishment of slavery”

    …and enthusiastically agrees.

  8. Porivil Sorrens says


    That’s simply not true.

    No, it is in fact, true. The majority of the white moderate alive today do overwhelmingly support the civil rights movement. I’m not saying that they’re politically aligned with the civil rights movement, but that they do ostensibly agree with its goals and do find outward support for segregation to be objectionable. The only people I have ever encountered that did not agree with that were literal nazis, and I do not think that literal, hitler-saluting nazis are the majority of the white moderate.

    …and enthusiastically agrees.

    Except not, given that the statement is being widely and vehemently condemned, even by ostensibly centrist media.

    No one is claiming that the white majority are ardent supporters of civil rights, but they demonstrably do oppose ostensibly segregationist statements. Irrespective of what their actual beliefs are, this is an aesthetically unappealing statement, and that is why it is an example of idiotic means-testing. Even people who ostensibly support his sort of milquetoast centrism demonstrably found this statement to be objectionable.

  9. vucodlak says

    @ Porivil Sorrens, #10

    No, it is in fact, true. The majority of the white moderate alive today do overwhelmingly support the civil rights movement.

    What does that have to do with what I’m saying? Where did I say that they didn’t? Nowhere have I said that they disagree with established norms- that’s not what the white moderate does.

    Yes, they have always agreed that segregation is bad, and racism is bad. Yes, they agree that the civil rights movement was a good thing now, because it costs them nothing and inconveniences them none to do so. But in the 1960’s, they were the ones criticizing every effective thing activists did as too much and counterproductive etc. They pay lip service to idea of justice, but the actual work of fighting for justice is messy, and they hate messy.

    Today, they’re the ones that hear the word “revolution” from Sanders and his supporters and say it’s too much, it’s counterproductive. They want to hear bland and comforting promises that things will go back the way they were before, when they could pretend that all this political stuff was part of some separate reality because their lives were just peachy.

    They can’t do that with Donald Trump- he’s too boorishly incompetent and openly malicious. They can’t do that with Bernie Sanders- he’s too open about wanting to make real, concrete changes. Mayor Pete says: “Elect me, and you can go back to not thinking about this.” -that’s the bland, empty promise that resonated with white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    Buttigieg’s entire shtick thus far has been to make comforting noises and promise an end to “chaos.” The white moderate hates chaos, no matter the cause. He offers the hope of no change to the white moderate. That’s what they want.

    Except not, given that the statement is being widely and vehemently condemned, even by ostensibly centrist media.

    So he screwed up the messaging. Good. That doesn’t change the fact that his message was intended to be the same comforting blather about returning to normalcy and ending controversy.

    There was never any intent on the part of Mayor Pete’s message-crafters to oppose the civil rights movement. It was pretty clearly meant to be play into last night’s redbaiting and paint a picture of Bernie as a scary, scruffy radical from the Weather Underground. That people have chosen to read his statement as anti-civil rights sucks… for Pete. Appearing controversial scares off white moderates faster than food with actual spices in it.

    Should his team have foreseen this possibility? Sure. But no one has ever accused marketing types of being particularly bright. Or the agency, for that matter.

  10. brucegee1962 says

    I think his problem is simply that he the sixties are ancient history to him — stuff that happened long before he was born. It would be like me talking about what it was like to live through World War II — I just wouldn’t get it. A few grainy videos during civics class just won’t let you appreciate what the decade was like.

  11. Porivil Sorrens says

    I don’t think we disagree, actually, we’re just talking past each other. I agree that Buttigieg’s whole deal is being a ghoulish status-quo dogwhistle to a time when everything was nice and you didn’t have to worry about those uppity disadvantaged groups pissing in your cereal -- ironic, given that his other tactic is a cynical appeal to his sexuality to ride on the coattails of progressive politics.

    My point was more that his delivery and formulation was completely idiotic in this specific case, because it was just uncouth enough to upset the aesthetic presuppositions that the white moderate hold dear. It’s such a blatantly inept attempt his goal that it is honestly embarrassing to know that said line was a pre-planned statement rather than just a dumb tweet.

    The people who support Buttigieg would happily support Trump if he ran as a democrat and used less blatantly fascist language (ie, they will instantly jump ship to Bloomberg if Buttigieg drops out before Bloomberg does).

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