xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Super Tuesday’s twist: An historic candidacy comes to an end | COMMENTARY

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg respond to audience members after an announcement of Pete Buttigieg's ending the campaign for president, in South Bend, Ind., Sunday, March 1, 2020. Buttigieg, who rose from being the Indiana mayor to a barrier-breaking, top-tier candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, ended his campaign on Sunday.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg respond to audience members after an announcement of Pete Buttigieg's ending the campaign for president, in South Bend, Ind., Sunday, March 1, 2020. Buttigieg, who rose from being the Indiana mayor to a barrier-breaking, top-tier candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, ended his campaign on Sunday. (Michael Caterina / South Bend Tribune/AP)

On Sunday, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced he was dropping out of the race to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, ending an historic run by the first openly gay major presidential candidate. Much of the focus since then has been on the obvious questions: What does this mean for the race on Super Tuesday as approximately one-third of convention delegates are up for grabs from Virginia to Texas? Particularly with Monday’s withdrawal of Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — is this a one-two boost for former Vice President Joe Biden?

But some attention must be paid to another important question: What has the Buttigieg candidacy meant to the cause of gay rights?

Advertisement

Here’s one measure. Eight years ago on the same Sunday, Maryland’s then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, making Maryland only the seventh state in the nation to take that step, along with the District of Columbia. It was considered a major event, raising the governor’s national profile, and widely hailed as a “tipping point” in the LGBTQ movement.

Just a few years after Mr. O’Malley’s actions, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and recognized the constitutional right of same-sex partners to be married, legalizing it in all 50 states based on a case involving a marriage performed in Maryland. And while it would greatly overstate matters to suggest the nation was now fully united on this front, it’s impossible not to conclude that substantial progress has been made. Last year, a Gallup poll found nearly two-thirds of Americans support same-sex marriage. The same polling firm found a majority of Americans opposed it in 2011. Public opinion can change that fast when Americans are first, better educated on a topic, and second, get a chance to see the issue (or individuals involved) in action, preferably first hand.

Advertisement

In the case of the candidate often referred to simply as “Mayor Pete,” one sees a further shift in public attitudes. Just a decade ago, an openly gay candidate would surely have found himself constantly assailed by questions concerning his sexual orientation and the ramifications on policy, perhaps even on national security. Instead, Mr. Buttigieg — a 38-year-old, Harvard-educated, Afghanistan war veteran — stirred more criticism of his age, inexperience on the national stage, relatively centrist policies and lack of rapport with black voters than about his marriage to Chasten Buttiegieg (né Glezman).

Indeed, when right-wing shock-talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, easily the nation’s least deserving Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, recently made a crack about how the nation wasn’t ready to elect a man who would kiss his husband onstage, it landed with a thud. Mr. Buttigieg’s response, that he wasn’t “gonna take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh," and his reminder that he hadn’t paid any hush money to porn stars like President Donald Trump proved the more effective.

All the more remarkable about this level of widespread acceptance of a gay candidate is that it’s not exactly like the U.S. electorate is witnessing a time of genteel, polite and thoughtful reflection in its national politics. It’s rough and disreputable out there. Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed alone is something of a dumpster fire. He is the living counterpoint to Michelle Obama’s famous quote about going high when others go low. President Trump goes low and then goes low some more. And his most ardent followers to seem to relish the display. Mr. Buttigieg didn’t operate like that. He was more the straight-A student from the Midwest, the poised “yes, sir,” “no, sir” former Navy intelligence officer, and easily the candidate most in command of the English language.

Barack Obama will always be remembered as the nation’s first African American president. But it seems unlikely he would have achieved that status if not for the African American candidates who came before him including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chisholm. Mr. Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign may someday deserve a similar acknowledgement. Perhaps he will serve as his own trailblazer.

In the meantime, Marylanders will have to continue to sit on the sidelines and wait to see the results of Tuesday’s voting in 14 states as the campaign rolls on and whittles down, wondering all the while whether there will be much to be decided on the presidential front when they go to the polls on April 28. It’s frustrating to see major candidates’ political careers rise and then abruptly end before anyone in the Free State gets a chance to have any say about it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the social significance at least one of them represents.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement