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‘Chaos in the rear view mirror’

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg rallies in Creston with a message of change and unity

Pete Buttigieg responds to a question from a Winterset high school student about mental health issues at Monday's town hall meeting at the Southern Prairie YMCA.
Pete Buttigieg responds to a question from a Winterset high school student about mental health issues at Monday's town hall meeting at the Southern Prairie YMCA.

Iowa Democratic presidential front runner Pete Buttigieg held a campaign rally Monday in the Southern Prairie YMCA gymnasium.

Before coming to Creston, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor led the most recent Des Moines Register poll with 25% of support in the state, 9% above Warren and 10% above Biden and Sanders.

During the event — which was attended by more than 300 people — Buttigieg shared a general message of partisan unity, touching on topics such as patriotism and American values while also detailing policies, including the reveal of his plan for Medicare’s long-term care program.

Jan. 20, 2021

One of the first topics Buttigieg covered was the potential of a Democratic victory in 2020 and the ramifications that will hold.

“Form a picture in your minds as specifically as you can of what it will be like in our country in that first day where the sun comes up over the United States and Donald Trump is not in the White House,” said Buttigieg. “It’s great for that day to have the chaos in the rear view mirror. But think about how challenging that day will be for our country. All of our problems are not going to go away.”

Buttigieg insists that change must come immediate with taking office and that removing the current administration on its own isn’t enough, as he believes the divisiveness of the nation won’t simply disappear.

“The issues that got us to this point, the crises in our economy, our community, our climate, those will be there waiting for the next president to deal with,” he said.

A Nation Divided

Buttigieg’s largest talking point was the central concept of American unity and “true freedom”, something the mayor believes should be one of the main goals of the president.

“We need a president who will unify, not divide, the American people” said Buttigieg. “That’s why I want to be the president to pick up the pieces.”

For Buttigieg, the key to accomplishing that goal is to gather the common values of the American people, but he says there is a difference between genuine patriotism and “cheap nationalism”.

“I want to have a love of country that starts with the recognition that our country is made of people. You can’t love your country if you hate half the people in it,” said Buttigieg. “We are all in this together.”

Buttigieg believes that values and faith can bring the nation closer and bridge the divide, but that both have been used as politically weapons.

“Values can bring us together but they are using them to pit us against each other and that’s what I’m worried about with faith, too. Faith could be something that brings us together,” said Buttigieg.

The Value of Democracy

Continuing the theme of American values, Buttigieg emphasizes the importance of fair election processes and his concerns over the current system of redistricting.

“The people believe in democracy, and not just the system, but its value: the belief that we are a better country when every vote is counted and every vote counts,” he said. “We should have districts that are drawn fairly instead of politicians picking out their voters ahead of election.”

Buttigieg also takes issue with the role of the electoral college, believing it to be against the very nature of a free election.

“We need to see to it that our democracy really is democratic. I’ve gone far enough to suggest that, in a democracy, we might consider picking our president the way we do every other election — by picking the person who got the most votes,” said Buttigieg.

A potential voter displayed their concern with the current state of checks and balances regarding the three branches of government, a concern shared with the mayor.

“A lot of it, as far as the White House is concerned, begins with having a president who respects the laws of the Constitution of the United States,” said Buttigieg.

Buttigieg discusses the necessity of reforming the Supreme Court to be less politically driven, stating that there are ideological firefights whenever there is a vacant seat.

“The court is to be an institution beyond and above politics,” said Buttigieg. “Judges used to just retire. Now you see justices plan their departure based around who the president is. This is no way to run the highest court of law.”

Buttigieg emphasizes that these systems are issues that predate the president, putting the responsibility for the matter on Congress.

The Mayor On Healthcare

Healthcare is considered one of the biggest factors in the 2020 election, with a handful of candidates standing behind the concept of Medicare For All — a taxpayer funded universal healthcare plan that puts healthcare in the hands of the government. The plan has been deemed controversial, both outside the Democratic Party and from within. Buttigieg has a different policy that functions similarly but with the option of keeping private insurance over the government plan.

“We have to do something about healthcare, because you’re not really free if you don’t have healthcare. That’s why I’m calling for Medicare For All Who Want It,” said Buttigieg. “We take a version of Medicare and make it available for everyone who wants it, but I trust you to have the freedom to decide whether you want it.”

Buttigieg says the nation needs to do better to address the problems of addiction and mental illness and work to erase the stigma in order to help those suffering.

“We should take addiction and mental health and talk about it as openly as we do physical health,” said Buttigieg. “If you had a relative that died from cancer you feel like you can talk about it. It’s hard, but you can talk about it. But when someone dies from suicide, we don’t, and it becomes this invisible problem.”

The big reveal yesterday was the mayor’s new plan for long-term care after retirement. The issue is a personal one for Buttigieg, as he had to grapple with scenario of putting his father on long-term care as Medicare doesn’t support it. Buttigieg recounted how.a social worker’s advice to his mother was to spend down her savings in order to qualify for Medicaid.

“This isn’t just about policy, this is about our relationship with those we love,” said Buttigieg. “We all want to know that those we love are being cared for.”

The set of proposals, dubbed “Dignity and Security in Retirement,” calls for a new national long-term care benefit program while strengthening the long-term care insurance market, preserving private insurance coverage similarly to Medicare For All Who Want It.

Other ideas Buttigieg plans on implementing include paid family leave and safety nets to medically support people who lose coverage while transitioning between jobs.

The Sense of Belonging

Buttigieg’s intends to cultivate a country that speaks to each citizen’s sense of feeling welcome in their home country— something he feels has always been in danger.

“We need to build on our sense of belonging in this country. Folks are being told they don’t belong because of how we look or who we love,” said Buttigieg. “We have to fix it and we can. This is the message of our campaign.”

Calling back to the theme of unity, Buttigieg takes pride in his campaign’s willingness and ability to reach potential voters from across the political spectrum.

“We are recruiting everybody. Progressives? Yes. Moderates? For sure. And I am seeing a lot of what I like to call ‘future former Republicans’ out there,” said Buttigieg. “If we can do that in this campaign, imagine what we can do with the presidency.”

Pete and Union County

Union County is a specific spot of interest given it’s election history. Union County voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but supported Trump in 2016. Iowa has more counties in this designation than any other state.

“One thing I’ve noticed in Union County, as well as back home in Indiana too, is that a lot of folks felt so frustrated by the way things were working. They were willing to vote for somebody they didn’t really like just to send a message. Now, the house is on fire and we have to do something better,” said Buttigieg.

Buttigieg says that there are Republican voters in these communities who feel displaced and deserve a president who can do better by them.

“There are a lot of Republicans and former Republicans that I’m meeting that can not be on board with the kinds of things being done in this White House and are looking to be invited to a movement that is going to build a different kind of future,” said Buttigieg.

Buttigieg believes he has a grasp on what it is the voters of Union County will have in mind when they head to the voting booths this election cycle.

“I think every voter asks this basic question: ‘How is my life going to become different if this person becomes president as opposed to somebody else?’ My answers had to do with assuring that everyone can thrive in our economy,” said Buttigieg. “What I’ve heard as I was meeting voters here today in Creston is real desire for solutions on issues from long-term care to making sure we get it right when it comes to issues around climate or energy or safety. These are the issues that are speaking to them.”

As Buttigieg continues on the campaign trail, he hopes to maintain his lead in Iowa, believing it to be important to the movement.

“We got a lot of work to do,” he said. “But I believe if Iowa supports me that could put us straight on a trajectory to the nomination and then the White House.”

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