Not exactly. Both are quite progressive but do well in red states and both have made a giant impression on the media and among those voters who know who they are. What’s the secret of their success? I’d argue they have important ingredients rarely found in a single politician.
First, both are crazy-smart. She’s a Yale Law School grad, he’s a Harvard grad and Rhodes scholar. They don’t simply have credentials, however. They have nimble, curious minds and are voracious readers. That makes them interesting to listen to and makes them sound somehow different, more serious than traditional politicians who rely on buzzwords and catchphrases.
Second, while quite young (he is 37, she is 45) they can be almost eerily calm and composed. They speak with deliberation and don’t stumble over words, fill in gaps with a series of ahs and uh-huhs. They rarely raise their voices yet command the room.
Third, they are very still when speaking. No arm gestures, no fidgeting, no nervous habits. That also helps convey a sense of command and purposefulness.
Fourth, they present progressive ideas as common sense solutions without inflammatory language and labels. They explain what voters need (e.g. Abrams on broadband and health care in rural areas, Buttigieg on economic development.) If Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) aims to define himself as a socialist, they embrace humane capitalism, and thereby don’t scare away more conservative voters.
Both talk about faith as a motivating force for their public lives. Abrams ran this ad in her Georgia race:
Buttigieg likewise explained his grounding in faith in an interview with columnist Kirsten Powers. “When I think about where most of Scripture points me, it is toward defending the poor, and the immigrant, and the stranger, and the prisoner, and the outcast, and those who are left behind by the way society works,” he said. "And what we have now is this exaltation of wealth and power, almost for its own sake, that in my reading of Scripture couldn’t be more contrary to the message of Christianity. So I think it’s really important to carry a message (to the public), knitting together a lot of groups that have already been on this path for some time, but giving them more visibility in the public sphere.”
In short they talk about faith without rancor, without parochialism and without boasting. One knows this is part of who they are.
Finally, both clearly identify inequality, in particular the wage and wealth gap that afflicts African Americans. They say this not to call out racists but to explain why when we invest in education or health care or housing we need to act “intentionally” to undo a history of discrimination, as Buttigieg said on Thursday at the National Action Network. “The idea that a rising tide lifts all boats just isn’t true. Not when some of those boats are still roped down on the ocean floor," he said. His solutions are additive however not a plan to pit one group against another. "
On Morning Joe, Abrams explained identity means “I see you. I see the barriers to your success”:
Whether or not you agree with the substance of what Buttigieg and Abrams are saying, they sure don’t sound like everyone else. Maybe less is more -- fewer histrionics, less hollering, less anger.