A Mildly Sappy Post About Pete Buttigieg, From A Gay Who Thinks Pete Is Absolutely 'Gay Enough'
Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic primary on Sunday. It was the right time, and he did it for the right reasons. Earlier in the day, he and other Democratic candidates had traveled to Selma, Alabama, for the 55th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, one of the seminal events of the Civil Rights movement. We noticed how friendly Pete and Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren were all being, and wondered if something was up. We are, after all, at a certain point in the primary — it's time to winnow down, and it's time to get up and go if you don't have a path to the nomination. We have to keep our eye on the ball to beat Donald Trump in November, which is just eight months from now. Pete Buttigieg, the young whippersnapper mayor from South Bend, decided to recognize that and be the bigger person, to put the country before his ambitions, and go.
Tom Steyer technically did it first, but he never had anything remotely resembling a path. But for a minute there, it looked like Buttigieg might. He won the Iowa caucuses by the tiniest hair, and he came in a strong second in New Hampshire. For a moment, the delegate leader in the Democratic primary was a 38-year-old gay mayor who kissed his husband onstage. For millions of gay kids, and millions more gay adults who are still — as pretty much everybody is — the child they always were, cloaked in the veneer and trappings of maturity, that was a big deal, whether or not they were personally supporting Pete's candidacy. It mattered that he was there.
Mayor Pete's speech Sunday night was one of the most passionate he's ever delivered. He addressed the historic nature of his campaign, saying it "sent a message to every kid out there wondering if whatever marks them out as different means they are somehow destined to be less than." He noted that every kid like that out there has now seen a "leading American presidential candidate with his husband at his side."
A leading presidential candidate. And he was that.
Next time an openly gay presidential candidate kisses their husband or wife onstage, it won't be so novel.
Pete kinda came out of nowhere. Last year, we joked that his candidacy was dead on arrival, remarking that we are never ever going to have a president whose last name is "Buttgiggles." (Pete himself disarmed the jokes about how nobody could say his name early and often, by being in on the joke, and by making T-shirts with phonetic pronunciations. The phonetic pronunciation became one of his rally chants.) But we wonder if part of our joking, deep down, from our 39-year-old gay male perspective, was grounded in the idea that a 38-year-old gay dude just wasn't going to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.
If so, we were wrong about that. We are probably one day going to have a president named "Buttgiggles." It's just not going to be in 2020.
The interesting thing about the candidacy of Mayor Pete, a young gay dude married to another young gay dude, was how in some ways his gayness mattered, but in other ways it just didn't. There was the homophobia it brought out, but there was also the homophobia that never really materialized, that some of us were always waiting for. Some gay leftie types entertained themselves and nobody else with their online discussions of whether Pete is gay enough, because we guess it doesn't count unless he fellates his husband on the debate stage. He was too pure. He talked about his religion all the time like a common establishment patriarchy heteronormative person, ew yuck. Some gay lefty types are fucking insufferable.
Meanwhile, there was obviously homophobia from the right, but what was notable about that was how quaint it came across, just five years after the Supreme Court finally legalized marriage equality. Sure, Rush Limbaugh was out there rockin' a Viagra boner (allegedly!) as he talked about how Donald Trump would look like such a "Mister Man" next to Buttigieg. Pretty much every American man who doesn't have severe, barely concealed masculinity issues knows that Pete, a very smart veteran who's quick on his feet and really to be honest kinda vicious when it comes to delivering retorts, would have disposed handily of Trump on the debate stage.
Speaking of severe masculinity issues, there were extremely lesser right-wing pundits like "Coach" Dave Daubenmire, who had his own little meltdown when Pete talked to a nine-year-old boy at a rally, who asked Pete to help him be brave and come out. In response, Pete said that kid is already unbelievably brave for coming out in front of whole rally full of people, at age nine, again, we tell you, AGE NINE, which is something our own nine-year-old self certainly never would have imagined. He told that kid that his own courage that day would help other kids just like him. He was right.
And for anybody out there thinking "how can you know at age NINE," if you think that's weird, please pause to remember that kids develop crushes on the playground much younger than that. It's not weird. Some kids just know. Oh look at us, anticipating your misplaced homophobia and pre-butting your comments before you ever make them! Welcome to the life of an LGBTQ person. What were we just saying about how Pete's candidacy mattered?
The point of this was that "Coach" Dave's conniption was funny, for how hysterical it was. He said Pete should be ARRESTED, for "contributing to the delinquency of a minor!"
"Coach" Dave also called Pete "Mayor Buttplug." He is very clever with puns about butts.
Of course, Pete didn't put up with any of that shit, from Limbaugh or anybody else, and he was raring to have the fight over "family values" with Donald Trump. He was ready for the discussion, and he showed it at a CNN town hall a couple weeks ago:
Buttigieg first scorned "the idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values."
He added: "I mean, sorry, but one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse." Challenging the pair, Buttigieg also said, "If they want to debate family values, let's debate family values. I'm ready."
Oh yes he was.
So yes, Pete is out of the race. There are rumblings on some of the weird parts of Twitter that he did this when he did it in order to #rig the primary against Bernie, because it is a well-known fact that one of the best ways to #rig a primary is to realize you don't have a path to the nomination and get out of the way for people who do. Of course, who knows where his base of support goes? Average voters aren't as ideological as Extremely Online Twitter is. We'll see where things are after Super Tuesday, which is tomorrow.
Where Pete goes from here, we do not know, but we are 100 percent certain he's going to play a massive role in the Democratic Party going forward. He doesn't live in a state where a Senate or gubernatorial run makes much sense, considering how freaking red Indiana is, and getting redder, but he could always pull a Hillary Clinton and move if he wants to go that route. If Joe Biden gets the nomination and wins the presidency, he'd be an idiot not to find a prominent place for Pete in his Cabinet, possibly as secretary of State or UN ambassador or something. Bernie Sanders, likewise, would be an idiot not to harness Pete's talents, if he ends up with the nomination.
For now, we move into Super Tuesday, which will bring us one giant step closer to deciding who will face Trump in November. Pete said in last night's speech that no matter what, he will do everything he can to make sure the Democratic nominee kicks Trump's ass. We'd expect nothing less.
We could end this post with a trite "thank you," but a bunch of gay writers have already done that, so let us just say this of Pete Buttigieg's run instead: That happened.
And one day, it will happen again.
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