by Gregory L. Evans -
Special to the SGN
Gregory L. Evans interviewed Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, on behalf of Seattle Gay News before Buttigieg's book tour appearance at Seattle Public Library on February 28, 2019.
SGN: What do you think is the biggest defect in the Democratic Party's strategy in opposing Trump?
PETE: Well, I think the biggest defect is that it's all about Trump. I think it being fundamentally about him is not going to be a winning strategy. We need to be talking about the country as it will be when he goes.
SGN: Why are people so attracted to Trump?
PETE: When there's something grotesque going on, it's very hard to look at anything else. And I think the scene, especially in Washington, DC, right now, is grotesque. So, you know, we're always mesmerized by horror shows like what we're seeing right now in our government. But it also calls on us not to get completely absorbed in it, but to start presenting an alternative.
SGN: Switching gears, there's a lot of conversation about legislation to control conversion therapy and other ultra right-wing practices, like 'pray the gay away.'
PETE: First of all, we need a federal equality act, just to make sure that we establish, as a matter of law, that everybody's equal across different sexual orientations and gender identities. I think that the problem with obviously these conversion therapy strategies is that they can be actively harmful. And so, I haven't reviewed the minutia of the competing proposals about how you do it legislatively, but I think it has to be a priority that we establish that this is something that is bad for your health.
SGN: Do you want to talk about intersectional and restorative justice?
PETE: Sure. I think we're learning. Look, I think about justice a lot, because I'm from a largely low-income, diverse community where I think a lot of our traditional or old-fashioned approaches have done more harm than good. Incarceration: retributive justice often perpetuates cycles of violence and harm. Restorative justice holds out the promise of actually making us safer. It's an example of the sort of thing I think will get more attention if, as I've been calling on us to do, we paid more attention to a generational outlook and asked about how the choices you make today impact the long run. So, if you're living in the moment, or you're thinking about retribution, you get the one account of how to deal with the wrong. If you're thinking about the future and especially the generation-upon-generation impact of what we do to respond to a wrong or a transgression, then it leads you to a different place. Restorative justice is showing a great deal of promise, not only in terms of redemption but also in terms of safety. But, you know, we're way behind in the U.S. in terms of our approach to these things.
SGN: What do you say to people who don't think we need another white man running for President, regardless of sexual orientation? We've had a lot of those as presidents.
PETE: Look, I mean, everybody comes into this with whatever they can bring to the table. And I'm thrilled by the diversity, not just in the 2020 field, but also of the people who've been stepping up, including many people that we've supported last year running for Congress. I think all any of us can do is bring to the table our own life experience. I definitely - from a diversity perspective - have the Maltese American, gay, millennial, veteran, mayor lane all to myself. And, you know, I think all of us have to simply bring together the sum of our life experience and hope that it makes us as compassionate and insightful about the big picture.
SGN: I'd love to hear a little bit about healthcare and where you stand on that.
PETE: I think 'Medicare for All' has to be our destination. I think anybody, who like me, says that that's a good policy needs to also explain how we're supposed to get there. And the approach I favor is one where you take some version or flavor of Medicare and you make it available on the exchange as a sort of public option. Sometimes it's been called 'Medicare extra.' And the thought here is that if people like me are right, that expanding access to Medicare ultimately leads to a more efficient system where less of our healthcare dollar goes to bureaucracy and more of it goes to patient care, then more and more people are going to buy into it and it will be a very natural glide path to a single-payer environment.
SGN: It's a refreshing perspective. Do you have any thoughts on how improving Medicare and education will, in turn, have long-term impacts on our economy?
PETE: Yeah. I mean, we need to invest in things that pay off. Investing in health pays off. Investing in education pays off. Investing in infrastructure pays off. And another generational concern I have is that the costs of the disinvestment in these things will make our whole generation worse off economically.
SGN: I can really see how you treat that by how you've affected the economy where you're from, South Bend, Indiana.
PETE: That's part of the idea.
SGN: Brilliant. Thank you.